If the opening few days of the 50th edition of the QS Men's Event: Ballito Pro pres. by Billabong were all about rail turns, then Thursday was a festival of progression. Heat winners all took to the air in controlled, stylish abandon, putting on an airshow for the the faithful crowd who came down to the beach in what has been the worst day - beach condition wise - of the entire week down on the southern tip of Africa.
The undeniable standout performance came in Heat 7 of Round Three, when Yago Dora, current No. 27 on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) put on an aerial schooling. The 22-year-old Brazilian went to the air on every wave and put together the highest two-wave heat total of 19.17 courtesy of a near-perfect 9.77 and a 9.40, each out of a possible 10. The goofyfooter caught 13 waves in total (by some margin the most by any surfer so far) and one of his throw-away scores was also in the excellent range at 8.93. In fact, that throwaway was the fourth highest wave score of the event so far.
And yet he played it down rather philosophically. "That was a good heat for me. Everything worked out - my strategy going into it was to go left. I knew everyone else would be going for big turns on the right, so I watched the left all morning and just wanted to take to the air," he said on the beach after the heat.
Dora will be in the first heat when competition resumes for Round 4.
Into the Round of 16
Four, three-man heats of Round 4 were indeed completed as the first QS 10,000 of the year spiralled towards the business end. The most exciting of these saw two other youngsters take their cues from Dora.
In the first heat of Round 4, Soli Bailey who is currently languishing way down in No. 104 on the QS rankings, out-gunned his more favoured rivals in the form of Mikey Wright and Mikey Wright. With scant time left on the clock, Bailey found a left and laid it all on the line with a big backhand rotation. The progressive aerial was duly awarded with an excellent-ranged 8.50 by the judging panel, catapulting him into the heat lead and ultimately all the way to the Round of 16, by far his best result of the year to date. "It's not very often you get the wave and the opportunity for that, right at the end of a heat. I'm stoked!" He said afterward.
Griffin Colapinto, at 19 the youngest of the 2018 CT rookie class, wasn't to be outdone by Dora, his fellow CT newcomer. And, in the final few minutes of his encounter with Wade Carmichael and Jacob Willcox he also went above the lip. Way above. Colapinto was trailing, much like Bailey, but held his nerve and also found a left on which he punted a flawless full rotation backhand off the closeout section to bag an 8.00. This, combined with his earlier 4.07 gave him a heat total of 12.07 which was good enough for the heat win and a berth in the next round.