Pollock Beach, Port Elizabeth - Japanese surfer Minami Nonaka was the standout surfer on the final day at the Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro, winning both the Women's and the Junior Women's events with some exceptional surfing in the blustery conditions. Her performance in the JQS final was excellent, but she had saved the best for last, and her surfing in the QS 1,000 final was some of the finest and most polished surfing of the whole day. Nonaka's two victories will give the teenager a massive boost of confidence on the respective tours, and will hold her in good stead for the rest of the year.
The arrival of a powerful offshore wind made it somewhat tricky for the surfers to perform the high scoring moves, with competitors at times getting blown off the back of waves. The blustery conditions dictated open-face carves and similar moves as opposed to off-the-lip maneuvers, with surfers adapting their approaches in order to get the higher scores.
In the Junior Women's final, young South African Ceara Knight was up against a foreign contingent including Julia Camargo (BRA) and the two Japanese girls, Nonaka and Julie Nishimoto. Nonaka was showing great form from the get-go, sticking to the lefts on her backhand for the best scoring ride earlier on. Knight was trailing for much of the heat, but sneaked into a last-minute right-hander and jumped up into second place, where she remained until the final siren.
The Junior Men's final started off with a nice pulse of waves, and both Luke Thompson and Karl Steen posted early scores. Eli Beukes followed up with a cracker of an opening ride, and it was game on. Ntando Nqdala took a long time to open up his account, but he eventually got on the scoreboard, and by then it was all about chasing Beukes as the tide started pushing. In the end Eli had banked a 9-point ride and a 6-point ride and satisfied his hunger for victory by taking the win from Thompson, with Steen and Nqdala filling in the minor slots.
The Women's final was an all-Japanese affair comprising Julie Nishimoto, Shino Matsuda,Ren Hashimoto and Minami Nonaka. Having already won the junior title, Nonaka opened up confidently with a massive eight-point ride and locked a firm hold onto the lead. Nishimoto put in a solid affort, but Nonaka picked up a second bomb and managed to score a 7.25 for it, giving her the two highest scoring rides of the final and an unassailable lead.
It was a very pumped up Joshe Faulkner who took control of the Men's Qs 1,000 final and really opened up in the much-improved conditions later in the day, finding all the best waves. His second left-hander scored a solid 6.75 and put the young goofy-footer in the lead at the mid-way point of the heat, ahead of veteran competitor Chad Du Toit. Dylan Moffat from Australia and Koby Oberholzer (ZAR) were struggling to find any good waves, and even a massive attempt to pull off a fully inverted Club Sandwich move by Moffat was no match for the J-Bay goofy-footer Faulkner.
As the minutes ticked out for end of the first City Surf Series event of the year, Du Toit picked up the best wave of the final, a reeling left-hander, and he belted it on his backhand all the way to the sand for an excellent score of 8.25 out of a possible 10 points to jump into the lead. Faulkner however, stroked into a good-looking right-hander immediately thereafter, and carved it all the way through to the inside with multiple turns on his backhand, just managing to get the required score and reclaim the lead. It was an amazing performance from Faulkner, and the first QS win of his career.
"This is the best thing ever," said an emotional Faulkner on the podium. "Throughout the years I sometimes make the semis and then the next event I get knocked out in the first round, so I am super-stoked to have my first QS win under the belt."
The next event on the WSL Africa Tour and Stop No. 2 on the City Surf Series, the Royal St Andrews Hotel Port Alfred Classic, starts on Monday 22 April at Port Alfred.
Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro results:
- Minami Nonaka
- Ceara Knight
- Julia Camargo
- Julie Nishimoto
- Eli Beukes
- Luke Thompson
- Karl Steen
- Ntando Nqdala
Women QS 1,000
- Minami Nonaka
- Julie Nishimoto
- Ren Hashimoto
- Shino Matsudaa
Men QS 1,000
- Joshe Faulkner
- Chad du Toit
- Dylan Moffat
- Koby Oberholzer.