- WSL / Pierre Tostee

The battle in the third Challenger Series of 2022 is heating up after a stacked day of competition at the Ballito Pro presented by O'Neill. Competition resumed today in onshore three-to-four foot surf, and after two heats the action was moved to Bathers, the alternate break. It turned out to be the right call, as the high tide smothered the main break and surfers had more opportunities at Bathers.

Alyssa Spencer Alyssa Spencer - WSL / Alan van Gysen

The women's Round of 32 was first to hit the lineup bright and early with a mix of former CT athletes and hopeful qualifiers taking advantage of the small but clean surf on offer. Aussie powerhouseMacy Callaghan and American up-and-comer Alyssa Spencer put on a clinic and defeated the last two South Africans in contention on their way to the Round of 16. Bettylou Sakura Johnson was the other standout in the morning as she continued her bid to rejoin the Championship Tour.

Bettylou Sakura Johnson Bettylou Sakura Johnson - WSL / Alan van Gysen

Perennial threats Keely Andrew and Pauline Ado as well as Amuro Tsuzuki and Luana Silva were some of the biggest names failing to advance and eliminated early from competition.

On the men's side of the draw, local fans were pulling for their last two representatives, Slade Prestwich in the first heat of the Round of 24, and Luke Thompson in the third. Prestwich struggled to find scoring opportunities and bowed out in 17th place, his best result on the Challenger Series so far this year.

Giant-killer Thompson continued to dominate as he faced a major challenge against former World Junior Champion Vasco Ribeiro and Timothe Bisso. The young wildcard who earned his spot through the trials got up to a quick start to take an early lead he would keep all the way to the final buzzer. With a few minutes on the clock and pressure at an all-time high, Thompson destroyed a good-sized right and posted a solid 7.17 to solidify his first position.

"I'm so stoked, that heat was a huge one for me," Thompson said. "Coming in I was just swamped by the support crew and all the South Africans, it was overwhelming with happiness, it was just super cool. I don't feel any pressure in this contest, I'm just enjoying every moment and looking forward to fly the South African flag high."

Luke Thompson Luke Thompson - WSL / Pierre Tostee

Thompson, the highest-ranked male South African surfer on the Challenger Series rankings and highest-ranked male South African surfer on the Ballito Pro Challenger Series event, was awarded a wildcard for the Corona Open J-Bay set for 12-21 July 2022. John John Florence has withdrawn from the Corona Open J-Bay after following his doctor's advice to continue the healing process of his knee injury and Thompson accepted the replacement spot.

"I'm in disbelief that I'm going to surf my first Championship Tour event at J-Bay, my favourite wave in the world," an elated Thompson reacted. "I can't believe I'll be able to get at least two heats in J-Bay with just another guy out there, I'm still in shock!"

Rio Waida Rio Waida - WSL / Pierre Tostee

It was an air show between Mateus Herdy and Rio Waida as the two kept on pushing the bar for air reverses in the onshore wind. Herdy launched himself into first, ahead of Waida, sending John Mel packing.

"All respect to John Mel, but Rio and I are such good friends. We looked at each other and we're like it's on between you and me! It was such a fun heat," said Herdy. "He inspires me so much and he makes me work hard. He already has that CS win, now it's my turn! I haven't been home since the beginning of the year, I'm working so hard, and every wildcard opportunity I get I realize how much I want it. My surfing fits the tour, but the CT is the best in the world so you have to give 100% all the time."

Mateus Herdy Mateus Herdy - WSL / Pierre Tostee

Current CS rankings leader Leonardo Fioravanti and CT standout Frederico Morais took out the last two heats of the round to keep their Ballito campaign alive and well.

The next call will be at 6:30 a.m on Saturday for a potential 7:05 a.m start to likely resume the women's Round of 16.

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