Reigning world champion Adriano de Souza (BRA) heads a potent line-up of elite surfers for the 2016 Ballito Pro presented by Billabong that runs from June 27 – 3 July at Willard Beach in KwaDukuza.
Entries for the first World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series QS10,000 rated event to be staged in 2016 closed on Thursday with more than 150 local and international surfers applying for a start in the 112 man-field who will contest the 48th edition of the world’s longest running professional surfing event.
De Souza, who clinched the 2015 WSL title when he became the first Brazilian to win the iconic Pipeline Masters in Hawaii in December, will be joined by three more of the world’s top 10 ranked surfers, namely Sebastian Zietz (HAW), winner of the recent Margaret River pro; Caio Ibelli (BRA), who leads the 2016 Rookie of the Year standings; and South Africa’s own Jordy Smith, currently ranked No. 7 and the 2010 Ballito champion and 2013 runner-up.
“I feel a bit of extra pressure at Ballito but I always want to win so badly in front of everyone at home,” Smith said. “Now that I live abroad people don’t get to see me surf as much, and the support is always so crazy, so I’ll be trying extra hard.”
A total of 15 of the elite top 34 ranked competitors on the WSL Championship Tour (CT) will be in the mix at Ballito with exciting talents like Jack Freestone (AUS), the runner-up in the last CT event at Rio de Janeiro; perennial standout Jeremy Flores (FRA), who was forced to withdraw from last year’s event due to injury; and defending Ballito Pro champion Alejo Muniz (BRA) all lighting up the waves.
With a total prize-purse of US $260 000 (about R4 million) is on offer, of which US $40 000 and a massive 10,000 points on the QS leaderboard goes to the winner, the event has also attracted entries from all of the top 10 QS ranked surfers, including Italian prodigy Leonardo Fioravanti, Dion Atkinson (AUS) and American brothers Tanner and Patrick Gudauskas who won at Ballito in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
In addition to Smith, the South African challenge for the title will come from Beyrick de Vries from nearby uMhlanga and Michael February (Kommetjie), who at No. 36 is the highest ranked local. Jeffreys Bay residents Dylan Lightfoot and Matt McGillivray have been awarded the wildcards that go to the country’s two highest ranked QS surfers who do not automatically qualify for the event.
The two wildcards awarded by the WSL and two from sponsors Billabong have not yet been named. They will be joined in the main event by the winner of the all South African, 32-man Ballito Pro Trials, which will be run on Sunday June 26 at Willard Beach.
The QS1,000 rated Ballito Women’s Pro will start on Sunday and run in conjunction with the men’s event. The Billabong Junior Series, featuring JQS1,000 events for under-18 boys and girls, will be run from June 22-25.
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 sports entertainment. Locals and holiday-makers will be spoilt for choice with the week-long festival featuring the ‘Fire Up Your Stoke: AA Night of Food & Wine’, an extreme sports programme and an exciting retail area, while the Ballito Pro Music Concerts powered by 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).