1 July, 2024 1 July, 2024

Sally Fitzgibbons and Luke Thompson Wins Ballito Open presented by Flojos

Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) and Luke Thompson (RSA) won the World Surf League (WSL) Ballito Open presented by Flojos Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000 on Sunday 30 June in challenging one-to-two foot surf in Ballito. The swell might have dropped, but today’s finalists showed their mettle to advance through the competition to make it all the way to the podium.
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) being carried up the beach by Bella Kenworthy (USA) and Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN). © WSL / McGregor
Fitzgibbons Spars With New Generation, Inspired To Keep Pushing

It was a stacked women’s Final, with the experienced Sally Fitzgibbons(AUS) coming up against a dominating new generation in Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (EUK), Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN) and Bella Kenworthy (USA). 

Etxabarri posted the first score, while the rest of the field tried to find their spot in the lineup. Fitzgibbons kept moving up and down the lineup searching for opportunities. Halfway through the heat Fitzgibbons moved over to a different bank and found a good wave, getting two strong turns in for a 6.00 (out of a possible 10). Everything switched on and she found more fun sections and kept on improving her total score, applying the pressure on her competitors. No one could catch up and she adds another win to her trophy cabinet.

Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) flying in the Semifinals of the Ballito Open presented by Flojos © WSL / McGregor
“It was one of those finals where there was a flurry of waves before, but then it just started to go a bit sleepy and none of us could get a jump start,” Fitzgibbons said. “I thought to myself, how do I get into this heat and I just started moving that energy. Getting that 6 was really handy, but I knew I had to back it up. I found a chunky section off the end in front of the rocks and that felt really cool.”

“To come in and have the next generation cheer you up, I started this game when they were probably still in nappies so it was cool that they came down to support me!It was a really great day, sparring with each other and lifting our performances for the rest of the week.”

Fitzgibbons did a great job in the first Semifinals, staying low over her board to crack out a few snappy turns, she got the win ahead of Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (EUK). The second Semifinal was much slower which saw Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN) and Bella Kenworthy (USA) squeak through with small scores.

Luke Thompson (RSA) wins at home at the Ballito Open presented by Flojos  © WSL / McGregor
Thompson Wins In Front Of Home Crowd

In today’s conditions, any wave and any score, no matter how small, could mean you win or lose and Shion Crawford (HAW) didn’t want to sit around and wait. Crawford posted two quick scores, putting the pressure on his competitors. Luck swung in the direction of Luke Thompson (RSA) when he found a good-looking wave to whack two man-size turns into the face for 7.00 and then backed it up with a 4.50 to take the lead. 

Jackson Bunch (HAW) found the best wave of the heat, giving him a lot of wall to work with to unload three huge turns on his backhand, earning an excellent 8.83, the highest single wave score of the day. Thompson still had priority and found another great wave, slicing into the wave with everything he had. Crawford, Bunch and Rinta Oooto (JPN) all caught waves at the same time, and the seconds counted down as everyone waited for the scores to drop. The judges rewarded Thompson with a 7.33 and scored the highest heat total of the day with 14.33 (out of a possible 20).

Luke Thompson (RSA) determined to win the Ballito Open presented by Flojos © WSL / Tostee
“When Jackson (Bunch) dropped that 8.83 I was so stressed,” Thompson admitted. “Fortunately I had priority and there was still lots of time left, so I knew I just had to sit and wait and hope an opportunity comes my way. Then that wave came at the end and I knew it was my opportunity and everything aligned.”

“I felt so good out there, even at the start of the heat I was sitting in no man’s land and a wave just came to me, so it felt like everything was coming to me at the right time. I really wanted to get a win here at home in front of everyone. I have my friends here and my mom, so I’m just really grateful,” Thompson said.

In the first men’s Semifinal, Crawford pushed the level to excellent when he scored an 8.17 for his powerful surfing and booked his spot in the Finals alongside Bunch. The second Semifinal saw the last two remaining South Africans Thompson and Connor Slijpen (RSA) take on Oooto and Winter Vincent (AUS), in an exciting exchange of airs, but only Thompson and Oooto advanced.

The Ballito Open presented by Flojos is supported by Flojos, KwaDukuza Municipality, Surfing South Africa, The North Coast Courier, Monster Energy, SMG and Coca-Cola.

For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com

Ballito Open Presented by Flojos Women’s Final Results
HEAT 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.57 DEF. Bella Kenworthy (USA) 6.70, Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN) 6.63, Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (EUK) 5.00Ballito Open Presented by Flojos Men’s Finals Results
HEAT 1: Luke Thompson (RSA) 14.33 DEF. Jackson Bunch (HAW) 12.36, Rinta Oooto (JPN) 8.40, Shion Crawford (HAW) 7.00Ballito Open Presented by Flojos Women’s Semifinals Results
HEAT 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.66 DEF. Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (EUK) 10.20, Leilani McGonagle (CRC) 6.37, Nanaho Tsuzuki (JPN) 2.17
HEAT 2: Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN) 10.00 DEF. Bella Kenworthy (USA) 8.00, Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 7.47, Anon Matsuoka (JPN) 6.23Ballito Open Presented by Flojos Men’s Semifinals Results
HEAT 1: Shion Crawford (HAW) 13.34 DEF. Jackson Bunch (HAW) 13.16, Daniel Emslie (RSA) 7.47, Ryan Huckabee (USA) 2.43
HEAT 2: Luke Thompson (RSA) 13.60 DEF. Rinta Oooto (JPN) 10.44, Connor Slijpen (RSA) 10.10, Winter Vincent (AUS) 8.93

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