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.
The bottom half of the draw was dominated by Australians with Stu Kennedy, CT rookie Jack Freestone, last year’s Ballito Pro runner-up Davey Cathels and rising star Ethan Ewing all winning their heats.
That quartet will face off with Ezekiel Lau (HAW), Bino Lopes (BRA), Connor O’Leary (AUS) and Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) respectively.
Fioravanti, who broke his back at Pipeline in Hawaii in January last year, currently leads the QS rankings and has a victory over 11 time world champion Kelly Slater (USA) on his CV. The Italian prodigy has had a low profile run through the event so far, not winning any of his three heats, but he will need to beat Ewing to if he is to stay in contention for the Ballito title.
Organisers will meet will meet at 7.30am local time on Saturday. With strong winds and large waves expected, they will make the decision on when to get the event started.
Highlights from today’s action will be found at www.worldsurfleague.com
Ballito Pro presented by Billabong Upcoming Round of 16 Heats
Heat1. Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat2. Krystian Kymerson (BRA) vs. Deivid Silva (BRA)
Heat3. Beyrick de Vries (ZAF, uMhlanga) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF, Durban)
Heat4. Cooper Chapman (AUS) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat5. Stu Kennedy (AUS) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat6. Jack Freestone (AUS) vs. Bino Lopes (BRA)
Heat7. Davey Cathels (AUS) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)
Heat8. Ethan Ewing (AUS) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Ballito Pro presented by Billabong Round of 24 Results
Heat1. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.63, Deivid Silva (BRA) 9.90, Messias Felix (BRA) 9.87
Heat2. Krystian Kymerson (BRA) 15.00, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 13.43, David do Carmo (BRA) 7.94
Heat3. Beyrick de Vries (ZAF) 14.03, Joan Duru (FRA) 12.07, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 11.30
Heat4. Cooper Chapman (AUS) 14.66, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.70, Kai Hing (AUS) 10.74
Heat5. Stu Kennedy (AUS) 13.36, Bino Lopez (BRA) 12.43, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 11.40
Heat6. Jack Freestone (AUS) 17.16, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 15.00, Nathan Hedge (AUS) 10.40
Heat7. Davey Cathels (AUS) 14.00, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 13.93, Dusty Payne (HAW) 11.97
Heat8. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 13.96, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.40, Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 10.23
Ballito Pro presented by Billabong Round of 48 Results
Heat11.Dusty Payne (HAW) 14.33, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.96, Matt Banting (AUS) 11.50, Mateia Hiquily (PYF) 10.14
Heat12. Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 11.53, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 11.50, Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.00, Luel Felipe (BRA) 9.54