The competitors in the U18 division of Billabong Junior Series pres. by BOS were whittled down to the last eight in both the men’s and women’s divisions on Day 2 of the event which was run in peaky one metre waves and variable winds at Willard Beach in Ballito today (Saturday).
The record extending 21st edition of the worlds’ longest running series of events for surfers aged 18-and-under features World Surf League (WSL) Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) 1,000 rated events for men and women with the champions to be crowned on Sunday afternoon.
The men were first up with the top eight seeds taking on the eight qualifiers from Friday’s opening round in pristine early morning conditions. And it was the underdogs who dominated as highly rated surfers Koby Oberholzer (Warner Beach), Eli Beukes (Cape Town), Dillon Hendricks (Jeffreys Bay) and Bryce du Preez (East London) were all eliminated in surprising results.
Brazilian Mateus Herdy was the standout on the day, staying really busy and earning scores of a near-perfect 9.0 out of 10 plus a 6.75 for a heat total of 15.75, both the highest of day, which left his three opponents needing to replace both their counting rides for victory.
Herdy was joined in the first of tomorrow’s semi-finals by Salt Rock local Calvin Goor, Tide-Lee Ireland (Durban) and current WSL Africa rankings leader Luke Slijpen (Hout Bay). The Capetonian is set to put further distance between himself and the chasing pack after the elimination of Beukes and Hendricks.
The second semi will feature Rio Waida from Indonesia and the under-rated Aya Gericke (Wilderness), who squeaked through his heat yesterday with a last minute ride, but put on a more assured display today as he relegated the consistent Max Elkington to the runner-up spot in their encounter
Elkington also advanced to the final day of the event, along with Angelo Faulkner (Jeffreys Bay) who was runner-up to Waida.
The women took to the waves for the first time in light onshore conditions later in the day and in contrast to the men, it was the top ranked surfers who justified their seeding as KwaDukuza locals Sophie Bell (Salt Rock) and Kayla Nogueira (uMhlanga) won their heats, as did Kirsty McGillivray (Jeffreys Bay) and Zoe Steyn (East London), the current No2 on the regional junior women’s rankings.
“I was just trying to get a quick start and then stay busy and build on my scores,” Steyn explained. “This event is really cool, it’s probably one of my favourites. I’d really like to make the team to Australia so I’m aiming for a big result in the U18’s here as I’d really like to qualify”
Steyn and Bell are battling for the second spot in the WSL Africa squad behind runaway ranking leader Kai Woolf (Jeffreys Bay) who has already won four events but is not in Ballito. Steyn holds a slender 310 point lead over Bell with just one event left this season so their results in Ballito will be crucial..
The top four will be joined by Aimee du Preez (East London), Gabriella Lailvaux (Durban), Ceara Knight (Cape Town) and Advah Bart Sade from Israel who is the only non-South Africans to reach the last eight.
The Billabong Junior Series pres. by BOS is the opening event in the Ballito Pro Surf Festival that runs until Sunday 1 July at Willard Beach and surrounds. The crown jewel in the festival, Ballito Pro pres, by Billabong, is a the R3.2 million, QS10,000 event that features 112 of the world’s best surfers and starts on Monday 25 June.
Full results, along with news, video footage and images can be found on www.worldsurfleague.com