The competitive hunger is real and South Africa's best junior surfers showed how starved they've been to wear that rash vest again.
It was an exciting opening day at the O'Neill SMITH Shapes Rookie Rippers despite some tricky bumps thrown in the way of the juniors due to the afternoon onshore winds. The women were up first and they soon showed that there are still plenty of scoring opportunities available.
Cape Town's Ceara Knight won the opening heat, but it was the South Coast's Louise Lepront who made an impression in her debut WSL JQS event. At 13-years-old she's one of the youngest competitors in the event. The goofy-footed Lepront used her backhand skills to earn a second place finish and move on to the next round.
Former event winner and fellow goofy-footer Zoë Steyn showed total commitment in her first WSL heat since 2019. She unleashed her powerful backhand attack to score an impressive 9.50 and 6.25 to put her competitors in a combination situation. Steyn earned the highest heat total of the day with 15.75, even beating the boys!
In the Men's Round of 16, the defending winner and nr.1 seed Luke Thompson stamped his authority on the opening heat with fast and powerful surfing, scoring an excellent ride of an 8.00 and 5.50 (for a total of 13.50). Up-and-coming youngster Jordan Boshoff (what are they feeding the kids on the KZN South Coast?) advanced in second place, upsetting one of the local favourites Ntokozo Maphumulo and Christian Venter.
As the tide started to drop, the action picked up in the last heat of the day. The ocean came alive in the last 5 minutes and the lead changed hands numerous times between Mitch Du Preez, Luke Van Wyk, Luc Lepront and Connor Slijpen. The guys traded wave for wave and almost everyone improved their scores. Slijpen launched himself into first place going into the air, while Lepront waited patiently for an opportunity to come his way, locking in his two best waves to finish in second place over Du Preez and Van Wyk.
The next call will be on Tuesday, 14 December at 7:30am local time for the Finals Day.
You can follow LIVE scoring during the entire event and catch up on results from previous heats at WorldSurfLeague.com.
The SMTH Shapes Rookie Rippers is scheduled from 12-14 December 2021 at Willard Beach, Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal. For all results, photos, video highlights and press releases, log on to WorldSurfLeague.com.