World class professional surfing returns to East London for the first time in a decade when the inaugural Buffalo City Surf Pro presented by Reef Wetsuits runs from Saturday to Easter Monday in the challenging waves of Nahoon Reef.
More than 120 South African and international surfers will battle for titles, a share of the R80,000 prize-purse and points on the regional and international rankings in the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) rated events for Men and Women and Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) events for 18-and-under Men and Women.
The Buffalo City Surf Pro is the second of five events in the City Surf Series, an exciting new tour that started in Port Elizabeth last weekend and after East London will also visit Durban and Cape Town.
Michael February (Kommetjie), current QS No. 35, is the top seed for QS1,000 rated Men's event this weekend, and will be going all out to capitalise on his confidence boosting victory at the last stop to climb higher even higher on the international rankings and extend his early lead in the chase for 2017 WSL Africa Men's title.
Among the 64 men standing in his way are last week's runner-up Dylan Lightfoot (Jeffreys Bay), 2016 WSL Africa champion Beyrick de Vries (uMhlanga), Americans Nate Dorman and Austin Neumann, Kelly Norris (AUS) and vastly experienced hometown hero and Nahoon Reef expert, Greg Emslie (East London).
Australian Tayla Hanak heads the line-up for the QS1,000 Women's event and in her first visit to East London faces strong opposition from former CT competitor Nikita Robb (East London), whose knowledge of the waves of Nahoon Reef is unsurpassed in the 24 strong entry.
Emma Smith (Jeffreys Bay), Nicole Pallet (La Lucia) and Teal Hogg (uMhlanga) will all be determined to pocket as many points as possible so they can qualify for higher rate QS events internationally, while the effervescent Crystal Hulett (St Francis Bay) will be hoping to repeat her title winning achievement last weekend and hold onto the Skullcandy striped vest worn by the rankings leader.
With points on offer that will determine the WSL Africa squad for the World Junior Championships in Australia next January, the JQS1,000 men's and Women's events will be fiercely contested.
Jake Elkington (Kommetjie), reigning WSL Africa junior champ Adin Masencamp (Strand), Sebastian Williams (Durban) and Luke Slijpen (Cape Town) are the favourites in junior men's, but local standouts Bryce du Preez and Luke Malherbe hold the aces in their home surf.
Sophie Bell (Salt Rock) will be fully committed to re-establishing her dominance of the junior women's rankings but 13 year-old Durban phenom Kayla Nogueira has been on a roll, taking out last weekend's event to take the early rankings lead. Kirsty McGillivray (Jeffreys Bay) and Taghiti Gericke (Wilderness) complete the top four seeds.
Organisers will meet at Nahoon Reef early on Saturday morning and the decision on when to get the contest underway will be made at 7.30 am. The 16 heats in the Men's event will be first up, followed by the eight heats in Round 1 of the Junior Men. Round 1 of the Women's event is on standby for a possible start later in the day. The event champions will be crowned on Monday afternoon.
The Buffalo City Surf Pro is supported by Reef Wetsuits, Volkswagen, Corona, the Buffalo City Municipality, Yesman, Tsogo Sun, Skullcandy, El Jimador and Accelerate Sport.