The undisputed ‘big mama’ of surf events kicked off yesterday in style with the fourth stop of the Billabong Junior Series presented by All Aboard travel. From the 27th June to the 9th July, Willard Beach will host the top juniors, women and men from local beaches and around the globe for the 49th edition of the Ballito Pro.
Being the longest running professional surf event in the world, it was first called the Durban 500 (because the winner took home R500 bucks!) before it evolved into the Gunston 500, moved out of the city, became the Mr Price Pro for a few years before finally morphing into the Billabong sponsored mega surf and entertainment event that it is today. The Ballito Pro is the first QS 10 000 rated event of the 2017 season and has a healthy prize purse of R3.4 million on offer. Winning here, can catapult the QS hopeful within a whisker of qualifying for the dream tour, and all the competitors know it. But while the first week is strictly surfing (Juniors, Women and Trials), next week will see the after hours events kick off as the lifestyle elements of the festival take hold.
“It’s the first QS 10 000 of the year so it’s obviously very important for the guys trying to qualify and re-qualify, so it really attracts the best surfers,” said Chad D’Arcy, Billabong South Africa Marketing Manager. “Over the last few years we have added the Juniors contest, the Women’s QS 1000 and the trial for the main event to kind of get a full surf festival going. I think it’s a really great platform for the South Africans not to just get points but to gain that valuable international experience at home.”
Each year one or two more of the local guys seem to qualify for a spot in the Prime event. Coming off the back-end of a newly invigorated domestic City Surf Series, the Ballito Pro is the pinnacle of the South African surfing calendar because it gives so many Saffa surfing talents the chance to match their skills against the top internationals, with serious points and prize money on the line. After a busy competitive year, the level of amp amongst competitors is crackling coming into this contest.
“It’s always good coming back to KZN for the Junior event and the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong, I have been coming here for the past four years to compete in the Juniors and the trials,” said defending Pro Junior Champ, Adin Masencamp. “I’m super amped to win the Pro Junior again, and it would absolutely amazing to make it through the trial for a spot in the QS 10 000 as that was my goal for the year. But even if I don’t get in, it is so great to watch the top guys to see where the level is at and what I need to be working on.”
Day 1 of the Junior series saw some solid conditions with plenty of ramps and sections on offer. Check out the gallery of the the day’s action below, captured by Ryan ‘Cracker’ Janssens.