- WSL / Kelly Cestari

A stellar lineup of the world's best current and emerging surfers has been confirmed for the prestigious 2015 Ballito Pro presented by Billabong, which runs from June 29 to July 5 at Willard Beach in Ballito on the KwaDukuza Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

When entries for the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 rated event closed, more than 140 surfers from every corner of the globe had applied for a spot in the elite 96-man field for the third of only 11 events that will carry the highest QS ranking in 2015.

The lineup is headed by current QS rankings leader Jeremy Flores (FRA) who will be joined by 17 Championship Tour (CT) competitors and seven of the top 10 surfers on the QS in the battle for a share of the R3 million prize-purse and valuable rankings points in the spectacular mid-winter waves in Ballito.

Flores is one of 2015's standout surfers, having posted three wins over CT stalwart Taj Burrow (AUS) along with victories over John John Florence (HAW) and Michel Bourez (PYF) this year. The 27-year-old from Reunion Island also finished runner-up in QS 10,000 events at Trestles in California and Saquarema in Brazil.

Jordy Smith (ZAF), the currently No. 14 on the elite Tour rankings and 2010 Ballito champion, loves competing in his home surf and will employ his exciting repertoire of power turns and aerial maneuvers as he attempts to become the first multiple winner of the event since Brad Gerlach (USA) clinched his second title in 1991 and just the fifth in the 47 year history of the world's longest running pro surfing contest.

Tim Reyes (USA) will be back to defend his 2014 title, as will runner-up Matt Wilkinson (AUS). Wilkinson along with Tour rookie Italo Ferreira (BRA) are the highest-ranked CT surfers confirmed for the event (both are ranked No. 11).

Other former Ballito champions in contention again this year include the Gudauskas brothers, Tanner (2009) and Patrick (2011), from America and Ireland's Glenn Hall, who won in 2012.

With Willard Beach capable of producing perfect ramps for above-the-lip moves, the likes of new-school rippers Kolohe Andino (USA), Jack Freestone and fellow Australian Matt Banting, Caio Ibelli (BRA), rising star Noe Mar McGonagle (CRI) and South Africa's Beyrick de Vries from nearby Umhlanga will all be challenging the established campaigners.

While Smith and de Vries are the only South Africans to qualify for the 96-man field on the strength of their 2014 rankings, Michael February (Kommetjie) and Dale Staples (St. Francis Bay) are the next highest-ranked QS locals, at Nos. 58 and 92 respectively, and have been allocated the two WSL Africa regional wildcards.

The two event wildcards selected by Billabong are Joshua Moniz (HAW) and Australian phenom Jack Robinson. The WSL wildcards are Evan Geiselman (USA) and Ryan Callinan (AUS).

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