Nelson Mandela Bay - After a few great days of surf in the Jeffreys Bay area, competitors in the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing pres by Hurley headed for Pollock Beach in Port Elizabeth for the start of this five-day event. With the Women's QS 3000 competition being the premier event, and with a fully stacked field, it was decided to start the day by sending out the Women's Round 1, followed immediately by Round 2.
It was a glorious morning at Pollock Beach, but the low tide made conditions challenging. The three-foot surf was breaking far out, making for some long paddles to backline. Eveline Hooft, the natural-footer from the Netherlands was the standout of the round, putting down two good scores for a heat total of 13.0 points, the highest score of the round. She won her heat comfortably, and advanced along with Anali Gomez from Peru. Other surfers looking confident in the first round were Tia Blanco from Puerto Rico, Mariana Assis from Portugal, the Japanese star Julie Nishimoto, Kirra-Belle Olsson from Australia and Nagisa Tashiro, also from Japan.
In the much-improved afternoon conditions, Round Two provided some excellent surfing, as the high tide filled in and revealed highly contestable left and right-breaking waves for the competitors. Event wild card Ceara Knight from Cape Town had an impressive heat, picking up the bombs and posting some good scores for a comfortable heat win.
Eveline Hooft continued her winning ways by dominating her second round heat as well. Sara Wakita from Japan went to town in her heat, with two great rides and a heat total of 14.20, but just behind her was young East London goofy-footer and second event wild card Zoë Steyn, who advanced with her after a great performance on her backhand.
In heat ten all eyes were on Bianca Buitendag, the former Championship Tour surfer from Victoria Bay. She was up against the accomplished young Hawaiian surfer Zoe McDougall, the much-vaunted Basque country surfer Ariane Ochoa and underdog Yolanda Hopkins from Portugal.
Buitendag started off strong, putting a 7-point ride on the scoreboard for a number of fast and snappy turns on an inside wave that impressed the judges. She backed it up with a smaller 2.90 score and went into the lead in the early part of the heat. Her fellow competitors were fighting back hard, with McDougall hot on her heels and looking for a gap to take the lead from the polished goofy-footer. Hopkins also surfed admirably, and snuck into second spot about mid-way through the heat. Buitendag is a seasoned competitor however, and soon found another nice little wedge, completing the ride for a very decent 7.17, putting her firmly in the lead.
At the siren it was a win for Buitendag with Hopkins in second, and Ochea and McDougall coming in third and fourth respectively.
The final few heats of the day continued through the afternoon, with strong performances from some of the best female surfers in the world. Competitors like Kirra Pinkerton, Mia McCarthy and Philippa Anderson all did well, advancing through to the third round, with Anderson getting the biggest heat score of the day with an excellent 16.50 heat total.
The forecast for the next four days looks promising, with a great swell around and favorable winds. Stand by for an early start tomorrow and a full day of high action surfing at Pollock Beach.