The 112 man field in the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong was whittled down to the last 16 in fickle one-metre waves and warm sunshine that drew a huge crowd to Willard Beach in KwaDukuza to watch the world’s best surfers in action on Friday.
The first of just five QS10,000 rated events in 2016, The Ballito Pro offers the maximum rankings points to those competing on the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) and the results will play a decisive role in the make-up of the top 10 QS surfers who will qualify for the elite 2017 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour (CT).
After completing the last two heats in the Round of 48, the three man heats in the Round of 24 started with experienced CT campaigner Jeremy Flores (FRA) claiming the victory and advancing to the man-on-man heats in the Round of 16, along with heat runner-up Deivid Silva (BRA).
‘I made it, it wasn’t pretty, but I made it,’ said Flores. ‘All of these Brazilian guys and just everyone on the QS are so used to these kind of waves, it’s hard to beat them. I need the points as I’ve been getting pretty bad results on the CT this year. So I’ve got to make as many heats as I can in any events that I’m in. Right now I’m kind of in survivor mode, but I’d like to open up in the next few heats.’
Flores will be up against another QS standout in Michael Rodrigues in the next round. The high-flying Brazilian whose aerial manoeuvres have earned him the second highest single ride score and the second highest heat total of the event to date, finished runner-up to compatriot Deivid Silva in an all Brazilian match-up.
The partisan local crowd were in raptures when Beyrick de Vries from nearby uMhlanga won his heat ahead of Joan Duru (FRA) as the pair eliminated dangerman Ryan Callinan (AUS).
And when top seed Jordy Smith finished second to Cooper Chapman (AUS) in the next heat, it set up an all South African last 16 clash between de Vries and Smith, with the winner progressing to the quarter-finals.