The inaugural Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro presented by Billabong wrapped up three days of high-performance surfing action on Sunday with Michael February (Kommetjie) and Crystal Hulett (St Francis Bay) taking the men’s and women’s titles respectively. Jake Elkington (Kommetjie) and Kayla Nogueira (Durban) clinched the junior men’s and women’s crowns.
The first internationally rated World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) events to be staged in Port Elizabeth enjoyed contestable but testing surf, and great weather for the three days, featuring 128 competitors, including South Africa’s top exponents and entrants from the USA and Australia.
February demonstrated why he is the country’s highest ranked QS surfer by dominating throughout the QS1,000 rated men’s event, including the final. Surfing with unparalleled speed, power and flow, the 23-year-old Capetonian effortlessly connected long rides all the way to the beach, cruising over flat sections and performing powerful manoeuvres whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Fellow QS campaigner Dylan Lightfoot (Jeffreys Bay) kept pace for the first half of the 25-minute final, but an excellent 8.67 by February late in the heat left Lightfoot, third placed Jarred Veldhuis (Kommetjie) and fourth placed Beyrick de Vries, the 2016 WSL Africa champion, all requiring 16.01 points for victory.
‘I’m super happy with that result. I haven’t won an event for a couple of years, and that’s my first QS1,000 event title,’ said February. ‘The final was tricky, the waves were really far out and you couldn’t hear what the situation was, but after I’d had two decent rides I stayed close to Dylan (Lightfoot) and Jarred (Veldhuis) and used my priority to keep them off the good ones.
‘It’s good to be home, pick up the maximum points available and to move up the rankings. I’m feeling positive and motivated for the rest of the events here and to wearing the rankings leader’s jersey next week.’
February pocketed R10,000 and 1,000 coveted rankings points, which will see him vault from 91st into the top 40 on the QS leaderboard. And he takes the early lead in the race for the WSL Africa title, which means he will wear the Skullcandy zebra-striped ranking leader’s vest at the next event on the City Surf Series in East London next weekend.
Hulett scraped into the women’s final after losing half of one of her scores when she incurred an interference penalty in her semi-final match-up. But the youngest competitor in the last four went on to defeat her more experienced rivals, posting the highest score of the encounter, a 7.67 out of 10, before adding a mid-range 4.27 to clinch her first WSL QS event title.
‘That’s my first big win and it’s kind of a weird feeling,’ said Hulett. ‘To compete against my idols and people I look up to, like Faye (Zoetmulder), and to match them is amazing. I’ve done the hardest training ever and this win has given me so much confidence. I’m really pleased about the amount of local support for women’s surfing – it’s wonderful.’
The junior men’s final was dominated by the Elkington brothers from Kommetjie, with younger brother Max leading until the last minute, when older sibling Jake rode the highest scoring wave of the 25 minute clash to grab the victory.
‘I got that 7.23 in the last 30 seconds and I was really stoked to overtake Max and get my first WSL Junior title,’ said Jake. ‘It gives me the early lead in the WSL Africa junior rankings and will hopefully help me to secure a place in the squad for the WSL World Junior Championships in Australia in January. This win has really given me confidence and I’m looking forward to East London next weekend.
Nogueira has been on roll for the past three weeks with the 13-year-old Durbanite surfing to victories, winning both the U14 and U16 titles on successive weekends before capturing the18-and-under title on Sunday. She stuck to her strategy and made sure that she caught waves that gave her the opportunity to score a pair of five-point rides.
‘My first JQS win felt really good, and hopefully I’ll be able to do it again,’ said Nogueira. ‘I don’t feel intimidated by the older girls, I’ve surfed against them a couple of times before, but this a real boost to my confidence and it feels really great.’
The winners were presented with their trophies and cheques by Athol Trollip, the Mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, who also presented special commemorative trophies to the 2016 WSL Africa champions Beyrick de Vries (uMhlanga), Faye Zoetmulder (Cape St Francis), Adin Masencamp (Strand) and Sophie Bell (Salt Rock).
More than 50 excited youngsters had the time of their lives at the event as part of a Surfing South Africa Outreach initiative that saw them participate in a Tag Team surfing event and a coaching clinic, as well as relay races and an Easter egg hunt on the beach.
Run by SSA Development Officer Danielle Johnson and SSA Event coordinator Shirley Fairall, the participants came from Missionvale, Motherwell and Jeffreys Bay, and the programme was supported by Volkswagen and the National Lotteries Commission.
Picture of February in action courtesy of Ian Thurtell
Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro presented by Billabong Men’s Final
1 Michael February (Kommetjie) 1,000 pts
2 Dylan Lightfoot (Jeffreys Bay) 750 pts
3 Jarred Veldhuis (Kommetjie) 560 pts
4 Beyrick de Vries (uMhlanga) 525 pts
1 Crystal Hulett (St Francis Bay) 1,000 pts
2 Emma Smith (Jeffreys Bay) 750 pts
3 Nicole Pallet (La Lucia) 560 pts
4 Tayla Hanak (Australia) 525 pts
Junior Men’s Final
1Jake Elkington (Kommetjie) 1,000 pts
2 Max Elkington (Kommetjie) 750 pts
3 Luke Slijpen (Cape Town) 560 pts
4 Calvin Goor (Salt Rock) 525 pts
Junior Women’s Final
1 Kayla Nogueira (Durban) 1,000 pts
2 Sophie Bell (Salt Rock) 750 pts
3 Julia Ploughman (Cape Town) 560 pts
4 Kirsty McGillivray (Jeffreys Bay) 525 pts
The Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro presented by Billabong is supported by Volkswagen, Corona, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Yesman, Tsogo Sun, Skullcandy, El Jimador and Accelerate Sport.
The second event on the 2017 WSL Africa calendar, the Buffalo City Surf Pro at Nahoon Reef in East London, runs from Saturday to Monday, 15-17 April, and features QS1,000 rated events for Men and Women and JQS1,000 rated events for Junior Men & Women.