Port Alfred: Dylan Lightfoot from J-Bay is the 2019 Royal St Andrews Hotel Port Alfred Classic Men's QS 1,000 champion, while Spaniard Ariane Ochoa wins the Women's QS 1,000. Both surfed extremely well in the tricky conditions that prevailed on the final day of this WSL Africa Tour event, and thoroughly deserved their points and prize money.
First up however, were the Junior events. The Women's JQS final was an exciting affair, with the two South Africans dominating and showing their Japanese counterparts what they are capable of. In mixed up onshore conditions, with a little bit of mist still hanging around, Ceara Knight and Zoë Steyn went head-to-head for the win, leaving Shino Matsuda and Minami Nonaka fighting it out for the minor positions.
Steyn has had a great start to the City Surf Series and has been a dominant force in both the Women's QS 1,000 events as well as the Women's JQS tournaments. In this final however, it was the young Cape Town goofy-footer Knight who took control of the heat from the outset. Knight dropped a 7-point ride to start off the heat, and although Steyn fought back valiantly she eventually lost by a mere 0.1 of a point, allowing Knight to take the win by the narrowest of margins.
Darkhorse Thomas Lindhorst came into his own in the Men's JQS final, finding the bombs and racking up the best scores for an early lead. The two favourites in Eli Beukes and Luke Slijpen struggled to find the open faces out there, and Luke Thompson was right in the mix, but was also unable to find the high-scoring running waves.
Lindhorst displayed some power surfing, throwing enough serious spray on some of the bigger waves in order to impress the assembled judges. At the end of the final it was Lindhorst who came in ahead of Slijpen, while Thompson and Beukes filled up the minor slots.
Adopting a similar discreet approach as Lindhorst, it was the lone Spanish surfer Ariane Ochoa who quietly took control of the Women's QS 1,000 from the determined Japanese trio of Shino Matsuda, Julie Nishimoto and Ren Hashimoto. Picking up an incredible wave at the start of the heat, the young goofy-footed belted it on her backhand for the highest score of the heat at 8.50 points, and a very much unassailable lead.
Matsuda was chasing hard throughout the final, hungry for the win, and she fought back tenaciously in a bid for victory in Port Alfred. The Japanese seemed less comfortable in the washy low tide conditions while Ochoa looked comfortable and fast out there, bristling with confidence. The conditions remained challenging till the final siren, and despite a few attempts from the Japanese girls, none of them managed to pick up any really high-scoring waves, and victory went to the unassuming Spaniard.
"I always feel really good in this country and I'm super-stoked for the win," said Ochoa, on her second trip to South Africa. "The waves felt a bit like my home, and I like big waves and feel comfortable with them."
The Men's QS 1,000 final consisted of four very talented South African surfers, with all of them champing at the bit for a QS win. Chad Du Toit was looking like the most determined surfer in the water from the get-go, and he bounced into an early lead in the heat, with one cracker wave under the belt. Dedicated QS campaigner Dylan Lightfoot came into the final swinging however, and a fast inside wave with a perfectly executed air reverse saw him bank a 6.25 score and leapfrog into the lead.
Luke Slijpen and Slade Prestwich started off fairly slowly, both battling to find the open faces necessary to execute the high scoring moves. Slijpen picked up a few decent rides and was breathing down Lightfoot's neck as the heat opened up. The chase got really interesting when Slijpen pulled into the only tube ride of the day for a surprisingly clean little barrel in the onshore, coupled with a few great lip-bashes and a clean finish for a 6.60 score and a firmer hold on second place. Both Du Toit and Prestwich threw caution to the wind, but as the seconds ticked out, it was Lightfoot who hung onto the lead with Slijpen sliding into second place.
"It was my goal to get a QS win at some stage, just because it was something that I wanted to break past," said Lightfoot on the podium. "My focus going forward is on the QS 10,000 events. I managed to get into them from my seedings, and I'd like to just take this momentum forward."