The Ballito Pro pres. By Billabong started today in South Africa. Waves were average, but the excitement was there among the surfers themselves, the event staff and spectators on the beach. With 10,000 points on the line, there isn't one surfer not super-amped to perform in this event.
From Local Series to the Big Stage
Michael February has been absolutely dominating the South African series with three wins and a second place, which will probably win him a first-ever regional title down the line. However, his biggest challenge to date awaits this week in Ballito, where he'll be expected to step up and find the same magic against some of the world's best surfers to continue his move up the QS ranks.
"In those QS10,000 every heat is gnarly, but that's cool cause you can just focus on your own surfing," he said. "It's been cool to have a real leg here in South Africa with smaller events to warm up, and I was lucky to get some nice results. Now my focus is definitely on the bigger events and to have this first one at home is really cool, I'm happy."
Good Things Come in Threes
While most of the winning scores had been set on two-turn combos, Mikey Wright found the magic ride, a slightly longer righthander opening up for one more turn. Mikey isn't the kind to look away and he destroyed the bonus section, just like he did the first two, to score the highest single-wave score of the day, an incredible 9.23.
"There's fun waves out there, I was lucky to find one which had a little more wall on it," he said. "It's my first time competing here and I've been in the country for a few weeks now, surfing J-Bay and other waves, I like the weather and the waves it's been great. I'm back competing full time after my injury last year and so far it's been going ok. I lost some heats cause I couldn't find a decent back up so making this one in second with a 9 is better than nothing."
CT Bubble Surfers on the Hunt
A common thread over the next few days will be that of Championship Tour surfers starting early to put points on their QS accounts as well, ideally to avoid the added pressure of trying to double-qualify in Hawaii, at the end of the year. The big events like Ballito are also a great way to build momentum before the next CT, in this case J-Bay next week.
Jeremy Flores, though currently mid-rankings in 17th, knows the CT can go either way pretty quickly. He has been a regular in Ballito for years and has a great track record here, finishing 3rd last year. He advanced quite easily through to the third round.
"I have been nursing a few injuries, but I thought it's only a 30-minute heat and I could probably get two waves and get the job done," he said. "I love this place so I'm happy to be back again. It's really close to Reunion Island and I feel comfortable, I also have some family that I enjoy visiting when I'm here."
Plenty more Top 34 athletes will join the fun in the remaining heats of Round Two when the event resumes.
Local Kidd Makes Home Crowd Proud
Twenty-year-old Richard Kidd is the localest of locals in the Ballito lineup, and when he won the trials last Friday he earned the right to represent his crew in the main event. In the day's opening heat, it's often hard to figure out conditions and know where points will be scored; that is unless you spend the better half of your time in the very spot and know conditions perfectly. Richard scoured the lineup and found the right opportunities to advance into Round Two. Unfortunately he couldn't repeat the feat and was defeated by QS leader Jesse Mendes later on.
"I'm super happy to have made that first heat today, we have a nice right bank and I got a couple of fun waves," he said. "It's a learning year for me, I'm gaining experience in each event and this one will definitely help for sure. I had my family and friends down on the beach this morning, my girlfriend as well, keeping me focused and strong mentally."
Find out more about all the results, check out photos and highlights right here.