South Africa’s top surfers, young and old, are excited about competing in the Ballito Women’s Pro presented by Billabong, the first internationally rated women’s surfing event to be staged in the country since 2009.

A World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000 event, the Ballito Women’s Pro will be run at Willard Beach in KwaDukuza on Sunday June 28 with a total prize-purse of R30 000 and invaluable QS rankings points on offer.

Tanika Hoffman from Hout Bay, the highest QS ranked surfer amongst the 18 women entered, has already competed in four events in China, Australia and New Zealand this year and is enthusiastic about competing in her home country.

“I love to compete locally and even though I’m not from Durban I am familiar with the waves in Ballito,” Hoffman said. “It’s great that all of South Africa’s top best surfers have entered and the event is going to tightly contested. Hopefully the Ballito Women’s Pro will be a stepping stone towards more and bigger QS events for women being run here.”

Tanika Hoffman (Hout Bay) will be one of the top seeds in the Ballito Women’s Pro presented by Billabong next Sunday (June 28)  Photo: Claire Butler
Tanika Hoffman (Hout Bay) will be one of the top seeds in the Ballito Women’s Pro presented by Billabong next Sunday (June 28)
Photo: Claire Butler

Heather Clark from Port Shepstone, the most experienced competitor in the lineup, was the undisputed ‘Queen of SA surfing’ while competing at the highest international levels of the sport from the 1990’s until the mid 2000’s. She is the only entrant who participated in the last QS event held in South Africa and cannot wait to get back into a competition vest.

“I’m actually so excited to be competing again and even though many of the other girls will be half my age, surfing against younger girls makes me really up my game,” Clark said.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time in the water so my fitness levels are right up there and my goal is to finish better than the equal 9th place result I got when the event had to be called off in 2009 because the surf was dangerously big. I can’t wait and hope that the waves will be good for the event.”

Another competitor who reached the top echelons of surfing is Nikita Robb from East London, who qualified among the world’s top 17 women on the elite Championship Tour (CT) in 2010 and now works as a surf tour guide.

“I’m physically ready as I’ve been doing lots of surfing and training,” Robb said. “There is a good variety of surfers in the event, from very experienced to rookies. I think the local girls will have the upper-hand because of their local wave knowledge so I’ll be going to Ballito early to get used to the waves at the contest venue.”

Locals will be cheering for Sophie Bell and Jade Mets from Salt Rock along with Teal Hogg from Umhlanga. Others in contention for a podium finish include former QS campaigner Faye Zoetmulder (Port Elizabeth), Heidi Palmboom (Bluff), the Smith sisters, Emma and Gina from Jeffreys Bay, and Chrystal Hulett (St Francis Bay). Promising young Durban talent Samukeliswe Cele will be making her first appearance in an internationally rated event.

The format for the Ballito Women’s Pro sees a four-person trials heat where the top two finishers will advance to the Quarterfinals of the main event.

The Ballito Pro Trials presented by Billabong will be run on the same day as the women’s event with a field of 32 men. The top two finishers in the trials will qualify for the elite 96-man field in the R3 million Ballito Pro presented by Billabong, a QS 10,000 rated contest that runs from June 29 to July 5 at Willard Beach.

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).