- WSL / Cally Taylor

BUFFALO CITY, East London, Eastern Cape (Sunday, 26 March 2023) - Luke Thompson and Jessie Van Niekerk won the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000 2023 Buffalo City Nahoon Pro today in pumping three-to-four foot waves at Nahoon Reef, East London. In the Junior division, Daniel Emslie and Zoë Steyn won the men's and women's titles respectively. The surfers had to dig deep to paddle into the waves fighting against a strong westerly wind, but thanks to a building swell there were some great rides on offer.

Last Minute Heroics Earns Luke Thompson The Win

East London's Daniel Emslie was a standout performer at this event, knocking down the front-runners on the regional rankings as well as eliminating the defending event winner to earn a place in the Men's QS and Junior Men's Final. Surfing the Junior and QS final back-to-back, the local star had just a few minutes to catch his breath before taking on Cape Town's Luke Thompson.

Emslie posted the first score on the board with a quick hit under the lip and finished with a strong layback turn for 6.00 (out of a possible 10). His work rate in the lineup was impressive, considering this was his fourth heat of the day. Thompson waited a long time for a decent set wave, and finally found one to unleash a powerful carve to start, and two big wrapping turns for a 7.50 to up the ante in the last five minutes. Suddenly, it was game on. Thompson found another great wave to throw down three big turns and surfed it all the way to the inside for a 6.67 and a total of 14.17 (out of a possible 20). With that, he ended Emslie's dream run who looked set to take out both titles.

Thompson solidified his spot at the top of the regional rankings with this result, securing his spot in the 2022/2023 Challenger Series. He'll be joined by Daniel Emslie who jumped three places up the rankings after the early elimination of front-runners Adin Masencamp, Connor Slijpen and Joshe Faulkner earlier in the event. Masencamp and Slijpen, second and third on the rankings, also qualified for the Challenger Series.

Earlier today, Luke Thompson put on a great display of powerful and fast surfing in the first Semi-final to eliminate Max Elkington. In a battle of the East London locals, an in-form Daniel Emslie held off Thomas Lindhorst to book his spot in the Final.

Jessie van Niekerk at the 2023 Buffalo City Nahoon Pro Jessie van Niekerk - WSL / Louis Wulff

Jessie van Niekerk Wins First-ever Qualifying Series Title

Jessie Van Niekerk and Kira Hofmeyr, both surfing in their first Women's QS Final, took down the biggest names in the competition to earn their career-best results. In the Final, Van Niekerk was quick to her feet to get two small scores on the board and put Hofmeyr under pressure. Hofmeyr was looking for a mid-range score, but as time ran out, Van Niekerk weaved a couple of turns together with a strong finishing maneuver in the closeout section to increase her total and take out the win.

"It's really fun, there were heaps of waves all weekend so it was so sick," said an elated Van Niekerk, who jumped into second on the rankings to qualify for the 2022/2023 Challenger Series.

The day produced a few surprises after Jessie van Niekerk eliminated two of the local favourites in the Women's Quarterfinals and Semi-finals. Van Niekerk first dispatched the defending event winner Zoë Steyn and then went on to eliminate Gemma Hanafey.

Kira Hofmeyr was trailing Natasha Van Greunen in their Semi-final clash until the last minute when the youngster got the required score to advance to her first-ever QS final. Van Greunen showed her determination to requalify for the Challenger Series and secured her spot at number one on the rankings after this result at Nahoon Reef.

Zoë Steyn at the 2023 Buffalo City Nahoon Pro Zoë Steyn - WSL / Louis Wulff

Zoë Steyn and Daniel Emslie Win 2023 Buffalo City Nahoon Pro Junior

Daniel Emslie didn't waste time and banked two scoring rides early in the Nahoon Pro Junior Men's Final against Cape Town's Connor Slijpen. While Slijpen made a few errors, Emslie's ability to read the waves and pick off the best ones helped him increase his lead. He scored a 7.00 for a couple of tight turns on a big open face wave and it was enough to close out the heat for the win.

Zoë Steyn and Gemma Hanafey pushed the reset button after losing out in the Women's QS and used their experience at Nahoon Reef to book themselves into the Nahoon Pro Junior Women's Final, making the town of East London very proud. Halfway through the heat, Steyn found a wave under priority to fit in a strong two-turn combination for a 7.33. With only 0.90 as a backup score, the door was wide open for Hanafey to change the situation, but she could never find a wave that would rival Steyn's score.

Women's Africa Regional Rankings Following The 2023 Buffalo City Nahoon Pro

  1. Natasha Van Greunen -1,446
  2. Jessie Van Niekerk - 1,400
  3. Zoë Steyn - 900
  4. Kira Hofmeyr - 800
  5. Gemma Hanafey - 650

Men's Africa Regional Rankings Following The 2023 Buffalo City Nahoon Pro

  1. Luke Thompson - 2,825
  2. Adin Masencamp - 1,773
  3. Connor Slijpen - 1,718
  4. Daniel Emslie - 1,000
  5. Joshe Faulkner - 980
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