The scene is set for a memorable finale to the 50th edition of the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong on Saturday after the 20 remaining competitors were on Friday reduced to the eight, who will contest the quarter-finalists.
Competitors in first World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 rated event of the season were greeted with punchy 1.0 to 1.5-metre waves and light winds.
They took full advantage of the ideal conditions for aerial manoeuvres, boosting themselves high into the air and performing skateboard-inspired tricks in mid-air before landing.
Krystian Kymerson is one of the world’s best exponents of boosting and he became the first competitor on the QS this year to be awarded a ‘perfect’ 10 out 10 by all five judges on the panel with an outrageous aerial today.
Described as a ‘tweaked-out, full-rotation backhand aerial’, the packed beach erupted as the Brazilian landed perfectly and emerged from under the spray with his arms held aloft in triumph.
The score changed the situation in his heat against fellow Brazilian and equally famous aerialist Yago Dora, who was the star of Thursday’s airborne attack on the waves at Willard Beach.
Kymerson took the lead and then added a 7.17 for some committed rail surfing that saw Dora become one of the four elite Championship Tour (CT) surfers to be eliminated on the day.
The other three eliminated were longstanding CT member Jeremy Flores of France, third-year standout Japanese surfer Kanoa Igarashi and Brazilian Jesse Mendes.
Only two CT surfers are still in the draw, Wade Carmichael (Australia), whose full-bore power surfing has carried him through his heats against the ‘fly-boys’, and rookie sensation Griffin Colapinto (US), who has the full package of aerials and rail surfing along with uncanny tube-riding skills for a 19-year-old.
They will come up against each other in the first of the quarter-finals.
The second quarter will be a duel between two of the taller surfers on tour in Ricardo Christie (New Zealand) and Jack Freestone (Australia), both of whom have had a taste of competing on the elite Dream Tour with its exotic venues, great waves and huge audiences, but failed to re-qualify at the end of their respective rookie years.
Christie has charged through the early rounds, winning every heat, including a three-man match-up in round four where he finished ahead of Freestone, which will give the New Zealander a slight psychological advantage.
By contrast, quarter-final three features Kymerson and Seth Moniz (Hawaii), both slightly built, but with lightning fast reflexes and repertoires filled with sharp changes of direction. The Brazilian is favoured by many of the pundits thanks to his already well-documented aerial skills.
And the final duo battling for a spot in the semi-finals will be an all-Brazilian clash between former prodigy Peterson Crisanto who, like Colapinto, has the complete package of contest manoeuvres, and Thiago Camarao, a 10-year veteran of the QS whose confidence is sky-high after winning some tricky match-ups earlier this week.
With a potential career-changing 10,000 points on offer – the biggest points haul available on the Qualifying Series so far this year – the action promises to be fast and exciting as these eight highly ranked competitors go toe-to-toe in one-on-one clashes with the winner progressing to the semis.
Organisers were due to meet at first light and make a call on when the event will get under way. It is anticipated that the seven remaining heats will be wrapped up around midday with the historic 50th champion crowned at the venue soon after the final is completed.
Photo: Brazil’s Kymerson in Ballito action, by WSL/Cestari