Lightfoot has been a Qualification Series (QS) competitor since 2012 and each year has improved his standing -- he ended 2012 in 593rd place, 2013 in 140th, and currently sits at No. 122, due in a large part to a 17th place finish at the 3-Star Rip Curl Pro Stamina in April. Now, courtesy of the JBU Supertrial presented by RVCA, Lightfoot has earned a place among the world's best at Supertubes.
"I'm feeling relaxed, maybe a bit nervous that I'm going up against the odds with the best surfers in the world," Lightfoot said. "Maybe I'm a bit anxious knowing it will be my home crowd."
Anxiety aside, Lightfoot has a lot working in his favor. The 19-year-old grew up footsteps from the break at Jeffreys.
"I've been surfing here since I was 10 years old. Supertubes is a walk from my house and I would ride whenever it's breaking," Lightfoot recalled. "I'm just going to stick to what I know. I think a combination of carves and variation of maneuvers will make a big difference. It's what I've been doing since I was a grom."
Will that local knowledge translate to a having an edge?
"Just positioning and knowing the waves I can say I might have an advantage, but it is the top guys in the world. Guys like Jordy (Smith) and Kelly (Slater) have lots of years of experience out there."
Lightfoot has had mixed results this year. He won the opening Billabong Junior Series event at Mossel Bay in April, but faltered in the QS events in Los Cabos and Ballito. The latter was a real stinger; Mr Price Pro is a Prime-rated event in his native South Africa that leads up to the J-Bay Open.
Competing as an ASP Africa wildcard at the Mr Price Pro Ballito, Lightfoot found himself in a first-round draw with Adrian Buchan (AUS), Glenn Hall (IRL) and Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR), all of whom have WCT experience. Lightfoot was eliminated out of the gates. He topped Hall with an 8.30 but was 0.34 shy of second place.
"It was a tough wave for me and it wasn't the result I wanted," Lightfoot said. "It made me a little more fired up for this event. I'm angry I lost by such a small margin."
So with the home break, the home crowd, and a little fire, Lightfoot sets out for his first venture into the WCT arena. At this point, though, he's not the only one there. The Top 34 have already descended on Jeffreys Bay, and the wildcard has been scouting the competition.
"I was watching [Jordy Smith] the other day and he was ripping," Lightfoot said of his fellow South African. "He says he hasn't surfed J-Bay in two years, but he's not surfing like it." As for his potential Round 1 opponents: "I just think it's an honor surfing with them. [Gabriel] Medina is absolutely shredding and he'll be dangerous out there. Kelly [Slater] has so much knowledge from surfing J-Bay for many years. Those guys could win the event."
Lightfoot knows he's got a daunting lineup to deal with. He mentions his favorite surfers, Mick Fanning (AUS) and Joel Parkinson (AUS) as tough draws as well. Still, it's an event he's happy to have back in his hometown, wildcard status or not.
"I really look forward to this time of year in Jeffreys Bay. It's a good vibe and I'd go to the event even if I wasn't competing in it."
Not that competing isn't a big deal.
"I've always dreamt of going out to Supers with just two other guys and working off local support. That's what I'm looking forward to the most."