Champions Crowned at Ballito O’Neill SMTH Shapes Pro Junior
Luke Thompson and Piper Harrison (AUS) won the inaugural Ballito O’Neill SMTH Shapes Pro Junior Men’s and Women’s World Surf League (WSL) Africa Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) 1,000 respectively on a beautiful day in Ballito. It was a completely different ocean at Willard Beach today with a cross-shore wind grooming the 1-1.5 metre (3-4ft) waves for fun, high performance surfing.
The top three men on the WSL Africa Junior rankings, Luke Slijpen (Llandudno), Luke Thompson (Durban) and Eli Beukes (Kommetjie) were fighting it out for top honours in the Men’s JQS 1,000 final, along with Japan’s Joh Azuchi.
It was a red-hot final, with Thompson and Beukes showing their intent right from the start. Thompson found an absolute gem of a wave that allowed him to fit in three critical turns before finishing right in front of the rocks. His commitment was awarded by the judges for a 7.25 and with a 5.00, he won with a total of 12.25. Beukes tried to improve his scores right up until the last second, but it wasn’t enough. Luke Slijpen and Joh Azuchi finished in third and fourth place respectively.
“I’m so happy. I’ve made almost every final this year and I just wanted to win one so badly. I felt really good before this contest started. The waves are super fun and I waited on the wider peak, where I got one under priority and that was my best score,” said Thomspon.
With Thompson now in the number one spot on the WSL Africa Junior rankings, Beukes said the race for the top spot has been fun. “We push each other a lot, staying together at events, we’re actually super close friends. We are all trying to build up to go to the WSL Junior Championships at the end of the year,” said Beukes.
It was a display of power surfing in the first Men’s Semifinal with Azuchi starting off the heat with an excellent 8-point ride on one of the bigger set waves. Slijpen got to work and quickly banked his top two scores for a 6.75 and 6.35 to take the win with 13.10. Azuchi could only get a 2.50 to back up his score, but fortunately it was enough to advance to the finals ahead of Max Elkington (Kommetjie) and Mitch du Preez (East London).
The second Semifinal was a stacked heat with Eli Beukes and Durbanites Luke Thompson, Tide-Lee Ireland and Karl Steen. Beukes kept busy to try and build a decent score and it worked in his favour for the win, bagging two mid-range scores for a total of 10.30. It was a close battle for second place between Thompson and Ireland, but it was Thompson who survived to advance to the final.
Australia’s Piper Harrison is on a roll in South Africa, winning her third consecutive JQS 1,000 after being in control for most of the Women’s Junior Final. “The conditions were really tough, the toughest that I’ve surfed in South Africa. The girls were ripping, so it was awesome. I think I put myself in the right place at the right time and I got lucky with a few, so I’m super stoked,” said Harrison, who will also compete in the Ballito Pro presented by O’Neill Women’s QS 1,000.
Defending event winner, Zoë Steyn (East London), had to work hard to catch up to the heat leaders. With a few seconds to go, Steyn squeezed in two quick maneuvers for a 4.90, but it wasn’t enough and she had to settle for second place. Rachel Presti (GER) was third and Pacha Luque-Light (AUS) in fourth.
“The waves were good, I got quite a nice first wave, but I just didn’t manage to back it up. Hopefully I can win the next few JQS events so I can defend the WSL Africa title,” said Steyn. Steyn was surfing circles around her fellow Women’s JQS 1,000 surfers in the first Seminfinal. The goofy-footer unleashed her backhand attack on the bigger set waves to put her opponents in a combination situation. Piper Harrison (AUS) was in second, eliminating Aimee du Preez (East London) and S’Nenhlanhla Makhubu (Durban).
In the second Semifinal, Rachel Presti (GER), who has been in South Africa for almost a month competing on the WSL Africa Tour, advanced to the final with Pacha Luque-Light (AUS) who knows the Ballito break all too well. Ending in third an fourth place respectively, was Brazil’s Anne dos Santos and local ripper Kayla Noguiera (Durban).
On Sunday, 30 June, the Ballito Pro Trials will take place to determine who will win the coveted wild card entry to the prestigious Ballito Pro presented by O’Neill QS10,000.