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SA duo part of victorious World team in California

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The World team, captained by South Africa’s Jordy Smith and including SA’s Bianca Buitendag, made history by winning the inaugural World Surf League (WSL) Founders’ Cup of Surfing in California on Sunday.

The first ever official event at the WSL Surf Ranch, presented by Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold, in front of a sellout crowd, was a showcase of incredible surfing and competition as the world’s best female and male surfers battled in teams for their home countries.

Highlighting how globally strong the sport of surfing is, it was the combined World team who took an incredibly tight win ahead of Brazil in second, USA in third, Australia in fourth and Europe in fifth.

The World team was spearheaded by South African pair Smith (team captain) and Buitendag and superbly backed up by Michel Bourez (Tahiti), Paige Hareb (New Zealand) and Kanoa Igarashi (Japan).

Heading into the last heat of the final, Brazil held the lead and the World team needed a big performance from Smith on his last wave as he came up against USA team captain Kelly Slater and Filipe Toledo of the Brazil team. Under pressure, Smith delivered a phenomenal final ride to earn the required score for the team’s victory at the Founders’ Cup of Surfing.

‘It’s an incredible feeling to win as a team,’ said Smith. ‘That was a wild few days and this just leaves room for bigger and better things to come. We’ve been talking about it as a team all weekend, and you can’t leave anything on the table when it comes to finals day. You just let it all hang out and enjoy it, and if you can pull that off, you’ll walk away with a win. I think all week long we’ve been the underdogs and determination got us through it.

‘Collectively, we just held our confidence up the whole time and supported each other all the way.’

The stunning World team’s victory saw all five surfers perform amazing feats in the final against the star-studded USA and Brazil teams.

In the qualifying rounds, the World team finished in equal third place with Australia, which then forced a surf-off in order to advance. The sudden-death match-up against Australia saw Hareb clinch the win to qualify her team for the final that eventually opened the door for their first-place result.

‘The last two days have been so surreal and it’s still sinking in,’ Hareb said. ‘The win came from nowhere. I feel like it’s the perfect ending to such a fun week. I am so proud to represent this team alongside Jordy [Smith], Bianca [Buitendag], Michel [Bourez], and Kanoa [Igarashi].’

The Brazil team finished second, fractionally ahead of USA and Australia. Captain Gabriel Medina opened their final with an amazing 9.67 ride, the highest score in the final. Toledo, Silvana Lima, Adriano de Souza, and Taina Hinckel pushed progression to new heights with miraculous tube-rides and imaginative aerial manoeuvres.

‘The team vibe was great and everyone was just pushing each other to do better,’ Medina said. ‘I’m really happy with how we performed, even though it’s disappointing to come up short. We surfed really good as a team and it was a really fun event to show what we could do. It’s good to share this moment and have everyone talking to each other, especially with Taina [Hinckel] being so young. We’re so used to all the pressure, but it’s all new for her and we showed her a lot of support so hopefully, when she gets here in the future, she’ll be ready for this amazing atmosphere.’

Despite coming in second, the Brazil team acquired the event’s highest single-wave scores and broke new ground at the WSL Surf Ranch. Toledo earned a Perfect 10 for his team, which also earned him the Jeep Best Ride Award for having the top-scoring wave of the contest. Toledo will drive out of Lemoore in the award’s prize, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler.

Jeep Leaderboard:
1 World team
2 Brazil team
3 USA team
4 Australia team
5 Europe team

Photo: Smith and Buitendag celebrating victory, by @WSL/Cestari


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