Walking past the very first stall as you make your way down to the Mr Price Pro Ballito you’ll notice some bongs, a couple of hookahs, as well as a pile of other smoking paraphernalia – clearly it’s holiday season on the festive north coast, and the school holidays ensured that the beach was thoroughly packed. There seemed to be just enough space to lay down a towel and strike up a conversation with a fellow surf fan watching the action (or a holiday maker simply taking in the scene).
The first few heats had already run their course before Zag found a spot on the beach, and then we watched the locals tumble. First Matt Bromley, then Davey Brand, who was then followed by Travis Logie and Chad du Toit in the following heat. Davey van Zyl went down next, before up to the plate stepped Beyrick de Vries – more focussed than we’ve ever seen him.
The Umhlanga local’s knee was strapped up loosely – the hinge still not in perfect order after an injury that saw him dry-docked for a lengthy spell a month or so back. He’d surfed through the pain in Mexico just over a week prior to grab the runner-up spot in the 6 Star Los Cabos Open of Surf, which saw him jump to 41st in the WQS rankings. Despite the fears of coach Quintin Jones, Beyrick managed to touch down smoothly on the end of a closeout bash on his first wave. Zag’s knees went a little weak. Two waves later Beyrick stomped down a controlled alley-oop as QJ gritted his teeth.
Despite not being a runaway victory, Beyrick’s win was the first and only Saffa heat win for for the day, and that was good enough for the patriotic holiday makers who cheered and barely noticed that Dale Staples went out in the same heat.
Zag were confident things would change for the South African surfers, and they did following Jordy’s first wave. Bang! an air reverse stomped down in the flats. Take that Ballito! Jordy didn’t register much after that besides a layback gouge that took place over about 20 meters of the Ballito lineup, but that was enough to see him through in second place. Unfortunately we also lost wildcard Slade Prestwich in that heat.
J-Bay’s Dylan Lightfoot got another one back for the Saffas by surfing hard and smart to claim second spot in the heat after Jordy’s, before the local fans lost another favourite in Mikey February in Heat 16. Steven Sawyer couldn’t get his backhand working in the second last heat of the day, and was also relegated to leave a bittersweet taste in the local supporters mouths.
You’ll notice that we are yet to mention what the waves were like. Well, that’s of course because they weren’t worth mentioning. An onshore pressure thankfully saw the swell start filling in, but it also meant that lips were crashing everywhere, and surfers found it difficult – just ask Dream Tour surfer Matt Wilkinson, who’d flown all the way to deepest darkest Africa to lose in the very first heat of the event.
The Round of 96 is yet to conclude, after action was called for the day following heat 18. Day 2 should bring some good conditions in the morning, and another local surfer Shaun Joubert will be up in the fourth heat of the day (Heat 22). World Masters champ Greg ‘The Foot’ Emslie then follows in the last heat of the round, and Zag’s holding thumbs that the second day holds more promise for the South African shredders.
Check out the LIVE action, as well as the results, highlights and photos from the Mr Price Pro by visiting www.mrpricepro.com
Official press release below.
CHALLENGING WAVES AND HIGH SCORES ON DAY 1
The ASP Prime Mr Price Pro Ballito set off to an exciting start with high scores and big upsets, on the opening day of the R2.5 Million event.
Event No. 3 of 8 on the ASP Prime Tour saw swell build from half to one-meter waves throughout the day, providing increased opportunity and scoring potential for the world’s best surfers.
Australian Stu Kennedy punctuated the morning’s competition completing a forehand air rotation to earn one of the day’s top scores a 9.07 (out of a possible ten points). Kennedy consolidated his lead with an impressive variety of maneuvers advancing into round 2 in first place.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit in trying to figure out what board to ride since I got here so I was surprised to come away with the win,” Kennedy said. “The waves were really fast and I thought if you found the section you just had to go for it.”
Former World Junior Champion Maxime Huscenot of Reunion Island, produced controlled, critical surfing, winning his round one heat over World No. 4 Jordy Smith and former WCT campaigner Nate Yeomans (USA).
“It was a tough heat because for me Jordy is the best surfer at the moment,” Huscenot said. “Ballito is a powerful wave, and I enjoy doing big turns and throwing big airs but it was tricky to control the board with the bump. I knew with those surfers anything could happen, so I put the pressure on early.”
Smith, the highest ranked surfer in this year’s event and firm local favourite, looked set to take the win with his excellent 8.00-point opener but without a second high scoring ride, was forced to settle for second.
“There are some really fun waves and sections if you get them but Maxine was a wave magnet out there and I was just stoked to get some waves,” Smith said. “I guess for anyone who surfs at home it builds confidence and that is what this is for me. It’s a fun wave and a chance to relax halfway through the year.”
Hawaii’s Ezekial Lau overcame a tough heat against stylish Australian Mitch Coleborn. Lau built momentum after a shaky start, taking a narrow victory over Coleborn who advanced in second, the pair finishing neck and neck with 15.57 to 15.17 (both out of 20.00) scores.
“The whole heat I was having a rough one, I had to keep catching waves to find my own rhythm,” Lau said. “We have a lot of waves like this at home, its bumpy but I felt good and I’m glad I got through.”
Local surfer and the highest ranked non-WCT South African surfer in the event, World No. 41 Beyrick De Vries (Umhlanga), secured the only heat win from the South African camp. De Vries produced a series of solid turns on two of the bigger set waves, proving a dangerous and unstoppable opponent as he advanced in first place.
“Ballito is just up the road from where I surf everyday, so I feel at home,” De Vries said. “Last year I got a wildcard into this event and it really helped me get into the Primes this year. I’m taking it heat by heat because you can’t win if you’re not in the final.”
ASP World No. 31 Brazilian Alejo Muniz overcame all odds surfing on borrowed equipment after breaking all of his boards at the previous event in Indonesia. Lifting his aerial game by besting a crucial last minute exchange over Matt Banting (AUS) and Evan Geiselman, Muniz earned his place into Round 2.
“It’s tough to surf against this new generation in these conditions because they go to the air so easily,” Muniz said. “The waves were really nice but I had a slow start and I don’t have my own boards so I haven’t had a lot of time to practice.”
The only other South African surfer to advance was Dylan Lightfoot (Jeffrey’s Bay) who put on an inspired performance against ASP World No. 11 Julian Wilson. Sitting neck and neck for the first half of the heat, it was the commitment and control from Wilson that earned him the win. Lightfoot advanced in second keeping South Africa’s hopes alive.
“Its pretty tricky and scrappy in the four man heats,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of jockying for position but that’s how it goes and you’ve got to learn to adjust quickly coming from man-on-man heat’s on the WCT.”
While Star Tour campaigners had no problems battling for position, it was the WCT surfers who took time to adjust with numerous big names eliminated in the early stages.
The day’s biggest upset saw South African World No. 21 Travis Logie (Dbn) narrowly edged out by Dave Cathels (AUS), tipping the South African from second down to third, in the dying minutes of the heat.
ASP World No. 19 Matt Wilkinson (AUS) simply struggled to find his position in the lineup and was eliminated in fourth place, while ASP World No. 27 Willian Cardoso (BRA) was ousted with only four point rides.
Eighteen heats of Round 1 were completed with the top two surfers advancing into Round 2. The next call will take place at 7:00am tomorrow morning for a possible 7:15am start.
The forecast looks promising for tomorrow with solid one to one-meter waves and offshore W- NW winds.