- WSL / Alan van Gysen

Go big or go home seemed to ring true on Day 3 at the Ballito Pro as surfers dropped excellent scores and others had to accept an early elimination.

The current CS rankings leader Caitlin Simmers got off to a good start with a heat win in challenging conditions to move into the second round. The Californian surfer from Oceanside actually qualified for the CT last year but declined her spot for 2022 to focus on improving her surfing and on school. With a win on the Gold Coast and a 5th place in Sydney, Simmers currently looks like the number one pick to join the elite tour next season.

Caitlin Simmers Caitlin Simmers - WSL / Pierre Tostee

"The traveling here has been a long one for sure and I've been battling jet lag for a few days," Simmers said. "We got a couple days of fun waves when we arrived, right now it's a little more difficult but it's been a good trip so far. I thought I'd get more waves in that heat, the ocean wasn't very generous with us but I'm glad I got those that counted and happy with the result."

As conditions started to improve on the outgoing tide, Australians Sophie McCulloch and Nikki Van Dijk extended the scoring scope with the first good numbers of the day. Van Dijk posted the first excellent 8.50 for an impressive combination of three backhand turns on a clean running left. A 7-year veteran on the CT, she's fighting to get back on tour and looks in fine form sitting in second position on the CS currently.

Nikki van Dijk Nikki van Dijk - WSL / Pierre Tostee

"I'm feeling great," said van Dijk. "It's similar conditions to what we surfed in Manly. I've never been to Ballito before and it's beautiful here. When we first arrived the waves were pumping so I know it can get really good, but it was tricky out there today. "

In the men's Round of 48, a win for the local crowd also meant a massive upset for a tour veteran. Slade Prestwich continued to find his rhythm in familiar waters as he dispatched Ezekiel Lau.

Ezekiel Lau Ezekiel Lau - WSL / Pierre Tostee

"I was watching the ocean before my heat and it was either the sets came or it was kind of flat," Prestwich reflected. "So as soon as that first set came I knew I had to take something left or right. They're such good waves but it's tough to decide if you wait or play busy, I chose to wait, I think it was better. I'm excited, I know I'm going to surf tomorrow and the forecast looks good. If the swell does pull through, I'm going to be stoked."

The Brazilian pair of Deivid Silva and Alejo Muniz put on an impressive effort in their heat to dispatch former World No.5 Morgan Cibilic and keep their Ballito campaign going. Quite surprisingly neither surfer went to the air, but instead charged their way on the rights and lefts with powerful and dynamic turns to build healthy totals and momentum into the Round of 24.

Deivid Silva Deivid Silva - WSL / Alan van Gysen

"I have good memories from winning here in Ballito in 2019," Silva said. "I'm really happy to be back, the vibe is always great at the beach and I'm happy to make through this heat. It was a tough one, Alejo (Muniz) is also a past winner here and Morgan (Cibilic) and Crosby (Colapinto) are always dangerous. I've trained a lot at home and am feeling good right now."

Local surfer Luke Thompson put on another possibly career-defining performance in a star-studded heat against Kei Kobayashi, Mateus Herdy and Santiago Muniz. The South African wasted no time to catch an excellent right and belt a bunch of strong turns for an 8.67, the day's highest single score at this point. He struggled to back it up with something substantial but managed to contain a late charge from his opponents to advance in second position behind Herdy into the Round of 24.

Luke Thompson Luke Thompson - WSL / Alan van Gysen

"I had a plan at the beginning and I saw some really good scores coming through from the top of the point," said Thompson. "I saw a big wave coming and I was nervous and excited at the same time. It just opened up and I tried to do the best surfing I could. After that wave I was so out of rhythm and couldn't find a backup score. I tried to control the heat at the end, they are all such good surfers and can get the number on any wave, so I'm lucky it went my way."

Eli Hanneman Eli Hanneman - WSL / Pierre Tostee

Hawaiian rising star Eli Hanneman was the first surfer to reach the 9-point range with an epic display above the lip on his backside. The Maui local managed to leapfrog his competitors in an otherwise super tense heat with a full rotation, perfectly landed on the flat part in front of the wave and was rewarded fittingly by the judging panel. After two deceiving first-round exit in the previous CS events, Hanneman is looking to post a good result in Ballito and turn his season around before the halfway mark.

"It was a slow heat, but I saw that wave coming and I knew what I wanted to do so I'm stoked it worked out in my favour," said Hanneman. "I didn't really know what the air was like, how high it was so I didn't know what to expect, but it felt good so I knew it was going to be my best wave for sure."

The next call is on Thursday 7 July at 6:05 a.m. (GMT+2) for a potentail 7:05 a.m. start.

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