Hiroto Arai Wins Ballito Pro Wildcard

It was an all or nothing approach from the 32 surfers competing in the Ballito Trials pres. by O’Neill for the coveted wildcard entry into the Ballito Pro pres. by O’Neill World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 rated event. However, there could only be one, and it was Japanese surfer Hiroto Arai who sealed the deal.

After a fierce day of competition, Arai was up against Luke Dillon (GBR) and South Africans Luke Slijpen (Llandudno) and Chad du Toit (Durban).

“I’m so happy to make the trials, because I’ve flown 24 hours from Japan to be here. Hopefully I can make a couple of heats and get the points to make the Championship Tour (CT) at the end of the year,” said Arai.

The Japanese surfer stayed patient and waited for the best waves in the heat, while his opponents were going for riskier airs to improve their situation.

“My game plan was to sit on the left side and wait for the lefts, and I got a really good one in the first few minutes of the heat. I was so nervous with the last couple of waves, because everyone was going for airs and I didn’t know if they were making it or not. I checked my phone on the beach and saw I won, so I was stoked!”

Arai relied on the local knowledge passed down from his coach, South African Wade Sharp.

“He knows the break so well, so he told me when it gets high tide the wave will do this and that and it helps a lot.”

While Arai’s focus is making it onto the Dream Tour, the 24-year-old is excited for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where surfing will be included for the first time.

“I’m really looking forward to the Olympics in my home country. I want to join the guys like Kanoa Igarashi, Hiroto Ohara and Reo Inaba and represent Japan,” said Arai.

It was an exciting final that got off to a quick start with Dillon opening up the scoreboard. He quickly got a right-hander and completed three sharp maneuvers, going vertical to hit the lip for a good 7-point ride. He backed it up with a 4.75 and was leading for the majority of the heat, when Arai took the lead with four minutes to go.

Slijpen and Du Toit were going for big airs, but couldn’t seem to complete most of it for a decent score and they will have to wait another year for a chance to compete in the main event.

The trialists consisted of 16 international surfers and 12 local surfers. The South African surfers were determined by the WSL Africa Men and Junior rankings, Surfing South Africa (SSA), O’Neill and the winner of the Ballito O’Neill SMTH Shapes Pro Junior.

The Ballito Pro pres. by O’Neill features a 112-man entry field with 10,000 points and a prize pool of more than R3-million.

Ballito Trials pres. by O’Neill Final Results:

  1. Hiroto Arai 12.00
  2. Luke Dillon 11.75
  3. Luke Slijpen 11.35
  4. Chad du Toit 11.10

The call for the start of the Ballito Pro pres. by O’Neill is at 6:30AM for a 7AM start.