A stellar lineup of the world’s best current and emerging surfers has been confirmed for the prestigious 2015 Ballito Pro presented by Billabong which runs from June 29 to 5 July at Willard Beach in Ballito on the KwaDukuza Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.
When entries for the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 rated event closed last week more than 140 surfers from every corner of the globe had applied for a spot in the elite 96-man field for the third of only 11 events that will carry the highest QS ranking in 2015.
The lineup is headed by current QS rankings leader Jeremy Flores (FRA) who will be joined by 17 of the world’s top 32 ranked Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour (CT) competitors and seven of the top 10 on the QS in the battle for a share of the R3 million prize-purse and priceless rankings points in the spectacular mid-winter waves in Ballito.
Flores is one of 2015’s standout surfers, having posted three wins over CT stalwart Taj Burrow (AUS) along with victories over John John Florence (HAW) and Michel Bourez (PYF) this year. The 27 year-old from Reunion Island also finished runner-up in QS 10,000 rated events at Trestles in California and Saquarema in Brazil and will be determined to clinch his first event win at the Ballito Pro.
Jordy Smith, the current world No. 14 and 2010 Ballito champion, loves competing in his home surf and will employ his exciting repertoire of power turns and aerial manoeuvres as he attempts to become the first multiple winner of the event since Brad Gerlach (USA) clinched his second title in 1991 and just the fifth in the 47 year history of the world’s longest running pro surfing contest.
Tim Reyes (USA) will be back to defend his 2014 title, as will runner-up Matt Wilkinson (AUS) who at No.11 is the equal highest ranked CT surfer with dangerous rookie Italo Ferreira (BRA), who has already upset a host of the world’s best competitors this year.
Other former Ballito champions in contention again this year include Ricky Basnett from the Bluff (2006), the Gudauskas brothers, Tanner and Patrick, from America who won in 2009 and 2011 respectively and Ireland’s Glenn Hall (2012).
With Willard Beach capable of producing perfect ramps for above-the-lip moves, the likes of new-school rippers Kolohe Andino (USA), Jack Freestone and fellow Australian Matt Banting, Caio Ibelli (BRA), rising star Noe Mar McGonagle (CRI) and South Africa’s Beyrick de Vries from nearby Umhlanga will all be challenging the established campaigners.
While Smith and de Vries are the only South Africans to qualify for the 96-man field on the strength of their 2014 rankings, Michael February (Kommetjie) and Dale Staples (St Francis Bay) are the next highest ranked QS locals, at Nos. 58 and 92 respectively, and have been allocated the two WSL Africa regional wildcards
The two sponsor’s wildcards selected by Billabong are Joshua Moniz (HAW) and Australian phenom Jack Robinson while the WSL wildcards, picked by newly appointed WSL QS Commissioner Travis Logie (Durban), are Evan Geiselman (USA) and Ryan Callinan (AUS).
The final two spots in the main event will go to the top finishers in the 32-man Ballito Pro Trials presented by Billabong which will be run at Willard Beach on Sunday 28 June. The lineup for the Trials will comprise the 16 next highest ranked entrants on the QS rankings, then the 12 next highest ranked South Africans plus two Billabong wildcards and two selected by Surfing South Africa (SSA), the country’s national controlling body for surfing.
The 16-strong field for the QS 1,000 rated Ballito Women’s Pro presented by Billabong, the first internationally rated women’s event to be staged in SA since 2009, is currently headed by Tanika Hoffman (Hout Bay) and Teal Hogg (Umhlanga). They will be up against veteran campaigner Heather Clark (Port Shepstone), who in 2000 became the only SA surfer, male or female, to claim the prestigious Triple Crown title in Hawaii and also earned ISA World Women’s Masters titles in 2008 and 2010.
The Ballito Women’s Pro presented by Billabong will run in conjunction with the Trials on Sunday 28 June. Entries close on 16 June.
The competitors in the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong will also be competing for valuable specialty prizes in the Monster Energy Expression Session presented by Zigzag and the Monster Energy Wave of the Week presented by Zigzag which will reward the respective winners with R20 000 and R25 000 each.
While the surfers ride the waves, the Ballito Pro Festival is set to turn up the heat in KwaDukuza by offering the best in beach, music and extreme sports entertainment. Locals and holiday-makers will be spoilt for choice with the week-long festival featuring an
extreme sports programme, the Coastal Living Bru Food & Wine Festival and an exciting retail area while Big Night Out and 5FM bring some of South Africa’s most talented music acts to the stage in Salt Rock.
The Ballito Pro presented by Billabong is proudly supported by the KwaDukuza Municipality, Billabong, 5FM, Monster Energy, Zigzag Surfing Magazine, World Surf League (WSL) and Surfing South Africa (SSA).