An overnight storm producing windswept 2-2.5-metre waves tested the ability of last 16 surfers in the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong at Willard Beach on Saturday and set up a quartet of classic quarter-final clashes to start the final day on Sunday.
Experience and youthful enthusiasm triumphed in equal measure as the first QS10,000 rated event of the year reached the business end, pitting battle hardened campaigners against rising stars with coveted ranking points and a US $40,000 (about R600,000) winner’s paycheque at stake.
The highly anticipated clash between South Africans Jordy Smith, the event top seed and world No10, and hometown hero Beyrick de Vries, lived up to expectations with a high-scoring display of power surfing that had the packed gallery hooting.
Smith struck the opening blow with a mid-range score, but de Vries answered with an outstanding ride on one of the biggest waves of the day, earning the highest single ride score of the event, a near-perfect 9.67 out of 10. Not to be outdone, Smith swooped into a set wave, carved off the top and then pulled into, and emerged from, a deep tube ride and finished with critical re-entry to post a 9.63, the third highest score of the event.
Displaying steely nerves and great wave selection, de Vries added another excellent range score of 8.0 on his next ride, leaving South Africa’s only CT campaigner needing an 8.11 to advance. And Smith came really close with his next ride, but only received 7.60 from the judges and de Vries saw out the rest of the heat and moved into the last eight.
‘It was just really fun and this board that I’ve got from Hurricane ended up doing really well,’ said de Vries.
‘I saw Jordy’s wave and saw it barrelling and I thought he had me, but I’m stoked he didn’t. And then after my second one he needed an 8.1 and he can do that easily. I held priority for the last 5 minutes so I surfed the heat I wanted to surf and got the scores I wanted to get.’
In the quarters De Vries will be up against Joan Duru (FRA) who produced a superlative performance to oust exciting young Australian Cooper Chapman from the event.
The consistent Frenchman counted a 9.67 and an 8.33 for a heat total of 18.0 out of 20, throwing away a pair of seven point rides to move into the quarters.
Picture of De Vries courtesy of WSL/Cestari