Australian Skye Burgess today won the Ballito Women’s Pro presented by Billabong at Willard Beach in KwaDukuza, collecting her first World Surf League (WSL) event title in her first appearance in a Qualifying Series (QS) final.

Competing in tricky one metre, wind affected waves, Burgess was in control throughout the 30 minute final encounter and went on to comfortably outpoint close friend and travelling partner Sarah Baum.

“I was so excited just to make the final and I was in a really good mood,” said Burgess. “I thought Sarah would have had me for sure. We surf together all the time and I know she absolutely rips so I love just watching her surf. I just super excited, we just had fun.”

Selecting the waves that enabled her to utilize her full repertoire of manoeuvres to impress the judges, the winner posted scores of 7.17 and 6.33 in the opening half of the heat and went on to improve her total with a 6.57 to complete a 13.74 vs. 8.0 point victory.

Burgess earned R8 000 and 1,000 points which saw her jump 104 spots up the WSL Women’s QS rankings to No. 97.

Baum, who hails from Athlone Park in Durban but now lives with Burgess in Wollongong, was the form surfer throughout the event, winning every heat she contested up to the final.

“It was really tough out there, I guess whoever got the waves got the scores,’ said Baum. “I was a little too behind on most of them, but I’m super stoked for Skye. She and I travel together and I just came home for a holiday to see my family. We are making a movie while we’re here so an extra few points and money is always good.”

Former WSL Championship Tour (CT) surfer Nikita Robb of East London, the defending Ballito Women’s Pro champion, finished equal third this year after she lost to Baum in their semi-final match-up.

“What can you do? It was still a fight, which is always good, but Sarah is such an amazing surfer. When you free surf with her you get so inspired,” said Robb. “It’s been awesome having the girls down here and really pushing the level of women’s surfing. I’m upset, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. But, I knew it was going to be a hard heat. I didn’t catch the best waves and that’s where I fell short.”

Local spectators were right behind uMhlanga’s Teal Hogg (18) who advanced to the semi-finals before being eliminated by Burgess.
“I was definitely aiming for a first overall but in that heat I started really slow and Skye got some really good waves,” said Hogg. “She’s been surfing well the whole event and she deserved to go through. I guess I’ve just got to push harder next time, but I’m stoked with my result..”

Faye Zoetmulder (Port Elizabeth) moved to the top of the WSL Africa Women’s ranking after finishing equal fifth in the Ballito Women’s Pro. Robb jumped one spot to No. 2, ahead of Tanika Hoffman (Hout Bay) with Hogg moving up three places to No. 4.

The QS10,000 rated Ballito Pro presented by Billabong was called off for the day and a officials will meet tomorrow morning (Wednesday) at 7am local time to make a decision on when competition will resume.

Ballito Women’s Pro presented by Billabong Final Results
1. Skye Burgess (AUS) 13.74
2. Sarah Baum (ZAF) 8.00

Ballito Women’s Pro presented by Billabong Semi-Final Results
Semi 1. Sarah Baum (ZAF) 13.67, Nikita Robb (ZAF) 10.34
Semi 2. Skye Burgess (AUS) 11.34, Teal Hogg (ZAF) 7.03

WSL Africa Women’s Rankings (after Ballito Women’s Pro)
1. Faye Zoetmulder 1,170pts
2. Nikita Robb 1,120 pts
3. Tanika Hoffman (Hout Bay) 1,000 pts
4. Teal Hogg (uMhlanga) 955 pts
5. Tarryn Chudleigh (Kommetjie) 860 pts

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: Night of food & wine’, an extreme sports programme and an exciting retail area, while the Five Star Ballito Pro Free Music Concerts powered by 5FM bring some of South Africa’s most talented music acts to the stage in Salt Rock.