ASP World No. 16 Filipe Toledo (BRA) brought the best of elite, new-school surfing to the Qualifying Series' (QS) Prime-rated Mr Price Pro Ballito, putting together one of the best aerial performances of the year during the Round of 48.
An increase in swell size to 5 feet (1.5 metres), combined with a light onshore breeze, was the ideal backdrop for the Brazilian to post the event's first Perfect 10-point ride. Toledo landed a huge, full-rotation aerial reverse, leaving both the crowd and his fellow competitors speechless.
With an appetite for perfection, Toledo discarded an array of excellent scores. He completed his performance with a 9.83 aerial to advance into the Round of 24 with the highest heat total of this year's competition, a near-perfect 19.83 (out of a possible 20.00).
"The conditions were pretty challenging with a lot of bump, but these are the perfect conditions for airs," said Toledo. "I saw Yadin Nicol's huge 9.50 aerial this morning and I thought, if I can land a big one like that, I can get a 10.â€
Yadin Nicol (AUS) got the ball rolling for a day of aerial surfing, landing a slob grab aerial maneuver, to score a 9.50 during the Round of 96. Threading through a throaty barrel with a smooth transition into two vertical hacks, Nicol was rewarded with a 9.60, tallying the day's second-highest heat total, a 19.10.
"I was just lucky on the 9.50, it had a big dumpy section at the end and the wind held me up for a bit longer than expected," Nicol said. "It was definitely tricky out there and it's easy to get out of rhythm, the other guys were just unlucky."
Heitor Alves (BRA) kept his dream of re-qualifying for the WCT alive, with a last-minute victory with his near perfect 9.50 ride.
Alves, currently rated No. 14 on the QS, advanced into the Round of 24 along with second-place finisher Tiago Pires (PRT). The pair eliminated South Africans Travis Logie and David Van Zyl from the event.
"Thank God for that wave," Alves said. "I made that heat off my last wave and I'm so happy because I'm looking for a result to qualify for next year."
Monday's standouts included Brazilians Caio Ibelli and Tomas Hermes, who continued in good form to advance to the Round of 24. Ibelli secured an early lead with a 9.00 and a 7.33. Hermes came from behind, landing an aggressive air reverse to bump WCT surfer Aritz Aranburu (ESP) from second place to third, despite the Spaniard's near perfect 9.43 score.
"It feels good to make it through another round," Ibelli said. "I have been watching the waves all day and when I saw who I was up against, I knew it would be a high-scoring heat."
The Australians also looked razor-sharp during the Round of 96. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) produced a critical combination of backhand turns to take the win with a solid 15.90 heat total. Former ASP World Junior Champion Jack Freestone (AUS) will also advance. Freestone jumped from third to second in the dying seconds, landing a controlled aerial reverse for an 8.87. The score knocked Kiron Jabour (HAW) into third place, and out of contention.
"It's been a slow start to the year for me, so a big result here is good for points and it would be a confidence-booster going into the WCT event in J-Bay,â€ Wilkinson said. â€œI hope I can keep going and find myself in a Final."
Ryan Callinan (AUS) was the in-form surfer of his Round of 48, in a nail-biter of a heat. His patience paid off when he paddled into two of the best waves of the Round, advancing alongside a hungry Mitch Coleborn (AUS), while Conner Coffin (USA) was eliminated.
Surfing with the precision of a WCT veteran, Adrian Buchan (AUS) left the rest of his heat in combination situations. With a flawless backhand attack, he secured the win with a 15.00 heat total over Moroccan surfer Ramzi Boukhiam. The pair ousted former Mr Price Pro Champion Glen Hall (IRL) from the competition.
The day's biggest upset, though, saw top seed and former Mr Price Pro Champion Jordy Smith (ZAF) eliminated in the Round of 24.
Smith suffered an uncharacteristically slow start, failing to post more than a 3.70 until the final minute. He came back with a full-rotation aerial reverse, scoring a remarkable 9.20. But his total was not enough to take him out of the combination situation set by Tim Reyes (USA) and Torrey Meister (HAW), who advanced in first and second, respectively.
It was a sad day for the South African contingent with the remaining five of their countrymen eliminated. Dylan Lightfoot and Slade Prestwich were knocked out in the Round of 96, while Logie, Van Zyl, and Smith faltered in the Round of 48.
The remaining heats of the Round of 48 and onward will be webcast LIVE at www.mrpricepro.com.