Samuel Pupo of Brazil and Zoe McDougall of Hawaii surfed to victory in the Billabong Junior Series pres. by All Aboard Travel in Ballito on Thursday, claiming the premier WSL JQS1,000 rated men’s and women’s titles respectively.
The opening event in the 13-day Ballito Pro Surf Festival featured the country’s best 18-and-under surfers alongside a contingent of highly rated international competitors as they battled for trophies, prize money and points on the World Surf League (WSL) Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) and SA Surf Tour (SAST) rankings lists.
Pupo, 17, was the standout performer throughout the three day event, consistently delivering the highest scores in each round and demonstrating an outstanding ability to perform gravity-defying manoeuvres high in the air above the waves.
He faced his toughest test in the final when his opponent, former South African U16 champion Ethan Fletcher of Kommetjie, took the lead at the halfway point of the 25 minute encounter with a ride the length of Willard Beach that earned 7.83. But with an excellent 8.67 in his score-line for a huge air-reverse, the Brazilian needed just 5.80 for victory and posted a 6.30 at the five minute mark to establish a lead that Fletcher ultimately could not match.
“My strategy really worked for me. Five minutes into the heat I had two scores already and that made me comfortable for the rest of the heat and I’m super-happy to have this win,” said Pupo. “I’ve been trying airs my whole life so now I’m doing them in heats and I can get a nine, or I can get a two, but it worked for me in this final. This win for me is so important as I’ve been in a couple of Junior finals but I’ve never had a win. I’ve turned 17, so I’m really happy to have my first win.”
The JQS1,000 women’s final was an all international encounter between McDougall and Pacha Luque-Light of Australia that see-sawed back and forth with the lead changing hands after virtually every ride.
McDougall, winner of the corresponding event last year and four more JQS and QS events in South Africa this year, took an early lead with a 7.33 on her first ride. But she was overtaken by Luque-Light’s 7.50 before clinching victory with an excellent 8.87 for a ride that ticked all the judging criteria of commitment, speed, power, flow and variety of manoeuvres.
‘It was fun and I guess it went according to plan, although I didn’t catch many waves and I’d like to catch more waves,” said McDougall. “I’ve only surfed against Pacha here in South Africa, but we became friends at the ISA Worlds and she’s super-sweet, super-cool and fun to hang out with, so it was just good vibes in the water.
“The points in this event only count for the South Africans so I was just trying to learn more about the break. It’s pretty tricky and has changed quite a bit since last year, so I’m just trying to spend as much time as possible in the water as a warm up for the QS1,000 event on the weekend where the points count on the world rankings.”
Luque-Light was elated to reach the final and the ebullient No. 17 on the Australian junior women rankings has had a great time in the month she has spent competing in four events in South Africa.
“I’ve being going into the events here with a positive mindset, catching waves and being smiley, having fun and enjoying the experience. So out there it was so much fun to surf with just one other girl out and go on any wave you want with the priority system,” said Luque-Light. “Zoe is awesome and such a good surfer so it was perfect to surf against her. It’s been an amazing month here in South Africa, meeting new people and surfing so many new breaks that are going to the venues for the QS and Junior events for the next couple of years. It’s been awesome.”
The SA Surf Tour events for U16, U14 and U12 boys and girls produced some epic duels with Mitch du Preez (East London) delivering an astounding performance in the U14 boys final, posting the only perfect 10 point ride of the entire event and backing that up with an 8.50 for a heat tally of 18.50 out of 20.
The U16 boys final saw Luke Slijpen (Hout Bay) earn a well deserved victory when he outpointed Saxton Randall (Durban), Angelo Faulkner and York van Jaarsveldt in a hard fought battle.
Kayla Noguera (uMhlanga) racked up another event title with a last minute ride that earned a 9.0 to overtake Tayla de Coning (East London) who had led the U16 girls final from the outset. S’Nenhlanhla Makhubu (Durban) hung onto third place, narrowly ahead of Summer Sutton (Kommetjie).
Du Preez left his three opponents all needing to replace their top two scoring rides in the U14 boys, with fellow East Londoner Daniel Emslie, last year’s U12 champ, coming the closest followed by Nate Spalding (Durban) and newcomer Jordan Boshoff (St Michaels on Sea).
Ceara Knight (Cape Town) and Zoe Steyn (East London) were the contenders during the U14 girl’s final, with the Capetonian getting the nod as the pair relegated Lhea Johnston (East London) and Caroline Brown (Cape Town) to third and fourth spots respectively.
The U12 boys, the youngest competitors in the series, delivered an exciting final in what were double-overhead waves for most of them. Kyra Bennie (Vredehoek) showed tremendous courage and commitment to clinch the title with an excellent heat total of 15.17. Kai Hall (Durban) charged the biggest waves to grab second place ahead of C Jay Posthumus (Port Elizabeth) and Ben Ribbink (Durban).
Full results from the WSL U18 events can be found at www.worldsurfleague.com. The U16, U14 and U12 results are available at www.surfingsouthafrica.co.za.
The Billabong Junior Series is supported by All Aboard Travel, BOS, VonZipper and Zigzag.
Billabong Junior Series Pres. by All Aboard Travel
1 Samuel Pupo (BRA) R8 000
2 Ethan Fletcher (Kommetjie) R4 000
=3 Angelo Faulkner (Jeffreys Bay) R2 500
=3 Adin Masencamp (Strand) R2 500
1 Zoe McDougall (HAW) R4 000
2 Pacha Luque-Light (AUS) R2 000
=3 S’Nenhlanhla Makhubu (Durban) R1 000
=3 Zoe Steyn (East London) R1 000
1 Luke Slijpen (Hout Bay) R2 000
2 Saxton Randall (Durban) R900
3 Angelo Faulkner (Jeffreys Bay) R600
4 York Van Jaarsveld (Kommetjie) R500
1 Kayla Nogueira (Durban) R2 000
2 Tayla de Coning (East London) R900
3 S’Nenhlanhla Makhubu (Durban) R600
4 Summer Sutton (Kommetjie) R500
1 Mitch du Preez (East London) R2 000
2 Daniel Emslie (East London) R900
3 Nate Spalding (Durban) R600
4 Jordan Boshoff (St Michaels on Sea) R500
1 Ceara Knight (Cape Town) R2 000
2 Zoe Steyn (East London) R900
3 Lhea Johnston (East London) R600
4 Caroline Brown (Cape Town)R500
1 Kyra Bennie (Vredehoek) R1 000
2 Kai Hall (Durban) R450
3 C Jay Posthumus (Port Elizabeth) R300
4 Ben Ribbink (Durban North) R250
VonZipper Expression Session – R2 000
Calvin Goor (Salt Rock)
The U18 events are sanctioned by the World Surf League (WSL) with the U16, U14 and U12 events sanctioned by Surfing South Africa (SSA), the governing body for the sport of surfing in South Africa.
The 20th edition of the Billabong Junior Series pres. by All Aboard travel is the opening event in the Ballito Pro Surf Festival that runs until 9 July and includes the SSA Ballito Trials pres. by Billabong, the QS1,000 Ballito Women’s Pro pres. by Billabong and the QS10,000 Ballito Pro pres. by Billabong.