- WSL / Kelly Cestari

The top Qualifying Series (QS) surfers and many Championship Tour (CT) surfers are planning to return to KwaDukuza for the seventh successive year of the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong. The QS 10,000-rated event runs from June 29 to July 5, 2015.

The third of nine events that carry the highest point-earnings on this year's QS, the Ballito Pro offers a $250,000 (approx. R3 million) prize purse and 10,000 QS rankings points. The event will feature a 96-man field of the world's best surfers from every corner of the planet, striving to secure a spot on next year's elite Tour.

Continuing its 46-year legacy as the world's longest running professional surfing event -- Port Elizabeth teenager Gavin Rudolph won the Gunston 500 in 1969 -- all aspects of the Ballito Pro will be bigger and better this year with the support of global apparel and equipment giant Billabong, which has come onboard as presenting sponsor for the main event and the trials.

Jordy Smith (ZAF) South African CT surfer Jordy Smith at the 2014 event in Ballito. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

With more than a month to go until the entry list is solidified, a dozen CT surfers have already signed up, headed by local Tour vet Jordy Smith, in addition to another 40 highly rated competitors from 15 countries. Smith, the 2010 event winner and 2013 runner-up, grew up in Durban and is always happy to compete in his home surf.

"I'm super excited to come back home and compete," said Smith from his new home in California. "It's my favorite time of year in KZN, so hopefully we get great waves!"

The event also provides local WSL Africa surfers an incredible opportunity to earn prize money and highly coveted rankings points with the advantage of competing in their home surf.

Prize Giving Tim Reyes and Matt Wilkinson topped the 2014 podium. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

"Ballito has become a truly world class surfing destination and I look forward to seeing 96 of the world's best surfers put on an spectacular display of high performance surfing in Africa again this year," said WSL Africa Operations Manager Colin Fitch.

Willard Beach will also host the Ballito Pro Trials presented by Billabong June 28, giving up to 32 men the chance to clinch the two coveted trials slots in the 96-man field of the main event. The field for the trials is made up of the next 16 highest placed surfers on the QS rankings who missed the cut, the 12 highest-ranked WSL Africa members, two Billabong wildcards and two surfers to be selected by Surfing South Africa (SSA). This gives local surfers an opportunity to earn rankings points that will enable them to qualify for higher-rated events internationally. The recipients of the two trials slots are guaranteed a minimum of 550 points from the main event.

Morning Lineup Morning lineup at the Ballito contest site. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

The Ballito Pro Festival, which will run in conjunction with the main event, will offer plenty of action and entertainment outside the water. The action-packed program for the week-long festival includes daily doses of beach soccer and volleyball, stage performances by local dancers, singers and performers and an exciting retail area.

In addition to this, an extreme sports program is guaranteed to thrill, with Freestyle Motocross displays by Monster Le Riche brothers, a Monster Surf Expression Session powered by Zig Zag and a Monster Beach Surf Movie Night. Another crowd pleaser, the Coastal Living Bru Food & Wine Festival returns to La Montagne for a 'flavorsome' few nights, hosting an artisan food market, a wine and coffee showcase and the return of the popular cooking competitions.

Music lovers won't be disappointed either with 5FM taking over the music reigns, bringing some of South Africa's most talented music acts to the stage with Crush Night Club after-parties continuing the celebrations late into the night.

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