The stage has been set for a massive final day at the 50th Ballito Pro presented by Billabong at Willard Beach in Ballito, South Africa. Friday proved a day of big action and high drama as the first World Surf League (WSL), Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 of the year got to the business end.
One could sense the urgency among the competitors as the pressure of the valuable QS points on offer started telling. The stakes were indeed high as 16 of the world's best battled it out for a spot in the Quarterfinals.
The early morning spring low tide saw classic KwaZulu-Natal winter conditions with clean walls groomed by a brisk offshore. This lasted for a few heats only, and saw a number of tubes come into play on the judges' score sheets. And, causing much excitement among the crowd on the beach
Yet Another Day of Airs
It was however the light onshore - which picked up around mid morning on the turn of the tide -which really saw the action (and the wave scores) heat up.
While the previous day's much-storied airs by the likes of Yago Dora, Soli Bailey and Griffin Colapinto all came on lefts, Friday was a day of rights. Ironically both Bailey and Dora fell short on the day, unable to advance to the Quarterfinals.
Bailey was beaten purely by power, rail surfing. "You see, no matter how much surfing changes, power will always remain important," said the revered Shaun Tomson on the webcast after Wade Carmichael stitched together a smooth combination of wave-face manoeuvres to bag an excellent-range 8.17 (out of a possible 10), and advance over Bailey with a total heat score of 14.50 (out of a possible 20).
Unanimous for Kymerson
Dora was beaten at his own game in the most spectacular of fashions however, when compatriot Krystian Kymerson scored the first perfect 10 (he received a 10 from each of the five judges on the panel) of the 2018 QS. And it came thanks to a single air.
The Brazillian's tweaked-out, full-rotation backhand aerial came at a time in the day when there was much speculation whether competition should go on hold. The lip of the chunky right-hander had already started to throw over, yet the goofyfooter somehow managed to project up and over the mush and throw his tail high. No grab was needed as he completed the spin while airborne to land perfectly in control in the flats.
He then proceeded to back it up with a 7.17 which came courtesy of top-to-bottom rail surfing, by way of some statement to show that he is the full package, for a heat total of 17.17 (out of a possible 20) by some margin the highest of the round.
The Top Guns Falter
Big names to bow out in the Round of 16 on Friday, included Championship Tour (CT) surfers Jeremy Flores, Kanoa Igarashi and Jesse Mendes, former CT campaigner Nat Young as well as Mickey Wright who is currently No.3 on the QS. Wright fell to Colapinto, who joins Carmichael as the only two CT surfers remaining in the draw.
A champion will most likely be crowned tomorrow and there is bound to be a big shake-up in the QS ratings.