Lamberts Bay - A monstrous swell that engulfed the West Coast forced contest organisers to relocate the Vans Surf Pro Classic to a new venue.
This new venue, just down the beach from the original venue of Yoyos, found shelter from the huge surf within the Lamberts Bay harbour wall, at a break called Billa's Beach. The contestants were still faced with daunting four to six-foot surf, but took on the challenge with gusto.
In the men's round of 64, Durban surfer Beyrick De Vries showed his international competitive experience by charging hard and banked the highest scoring rides of his heat for the assembled judges. Natural-footed De Vries found both left and right-hand waves during his heat to display some power surfing, with polished closing moves, to advance through to the next round with relative ease.
Another top-rated surfer David Van Zyl also impressed judges and spectators with a virtuoso display of tight turns in the solid surf, and also won through to the next round. Van Zyl is currently second on the WSL Africa 2018 Men's Qualifying Series rankings, and another good result at this event will do him well. The incentive in this event is the fact that local men's wildcards for the Ballito Pro pres by Billabong will be based on WSL Africa members QS rankings after the Jordy Smith Cape Town Surf Pro pres by O'Neill, so the 1,500 points at stake in this event will be a boost for those surfers wishing to grab one of the three wildcard spots available.
Top South African competitor Matthew McGillivray showed how much his hard-earned international experience is actually worth by putting on a dynamic display of high-performance surfing that saw him rewarded with the only ten-point ride of the day. Together with a second counting wave score of eight points, young Matt racked up a very satisfying eighteen point total and the heat win.
Shock elimination from the Men's Round of 64 was that of Jordy Maree from Cape Town who is currently leading the domestic QS tour, and who was bundled out of the competition after failing to find the required waves and scores to advance. Maree has had a stellar run in the local series thus far and the goofy-footer's departure opens up the top cluster on the ratings board.
Australian goofy-footer Jordan Lawler has been impressing all and sundry throughout his South African campaign, and has banked a number of great results thus far, including a runner up position at the recent Royal St Andrews Hotel Port Alfred Classic, where he lost out on the top spot to the previously mentioned Maree. The Australian also managed a ninth place finish at the VW Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro pres by Billabong to add to his total points tally.
Japanese surfer Kenta Ishikawa was another who relished in the tough conditions, and made short work of the powerful shore break in his performance, doing enough in his opening heat to advance through to the next round. Ishikawa is another international surfer who has been utilizing the South African circuit to win points towards qualification in the larger QS events, set to take place later in the year.
The competition started off with strong onshore winds, but as the day progressed the winds backed off slightly and swing more to a cross-offshore flow, allowing for a marked improvement in the conditions. The swell appeared to peak sometime in the morning, and the ocean gradually became more clean and lined-up as the Women's Round of 24 took to the water in the afternoon.
Undaunted by the still-large conditions, the ladies hit the surf with intent, and there were many excellent performances from the assembled competitors, with both local and international surfers putting on dazzling performances in the challenging conditions. Reunion surfer Cannelle Bulard surfed with flair to advance through to the quarterfinals, while other standouts in this division included Natasha Van Greunen, Tayla De Coning and Sophie Bell