It was a gnarly start to the inaugural Ballito O'Neill SMTH Shapes Pro Junior with 5-6ft waves providing a real challenge for the youngsters in the Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) 1,000. The junior event is the curtain raiser for the Ballito Pro pres by O'Neill, the first QS 10,000 of the year.
Tide-Lee Ireland didn't allow Mother Nature to steal his thunder, bagging the highest heat score of the day with 15.25 out of 20. Ireland scored an excellent 8.50 and secured the win with a second ride that earned 6.75 from the judges.
Advancing alongside him was Frenchman Justin Becret, who showed his small wave prowess with a strong performance in his opening heat of the event. Ireland will face a confident Eli Beukes in the Quarterfinals, with Beukes having won two JQS events in South Africa this year.
The current WSL Africa Junior rankings leader, Luke Slijpen will be up in the first Quarterfinal heat on Saturday and will hope to keep his number 1 spot in the rankings, with Beukes and Luke Thompson hot on his heels.
The competitors in the Women's JQS 1,000 had a tough day at the office, with the highest heat total going to goofy-footer, Zoë Steyn. Steyn, the defending event champion, will take the provisional lead on the WSL Africa Junior Women's rankings after Ceara Knight suffered an early loss at the hands of Pacha Luque-Light and Rachel Presti.
The inaugural Ballito O'Neill SMTH Shapes Pro Junior Men's and Women's winners will be crowned on Saturday 29 June and the results will determine the 2019 WSL Africa Junior Series champions and the four men and two women who will represent the region at the WSL World Junior Championships in Taiwan later this year.