Sarah Baum Wins Ballito Women’s Pro pres. by O’Neill
South African Sarah Baum (Durban) was crowned the Ballito Pro pres. by O’Neill Women’s winner after a full day of surfing. The day started with trying and tricky conditions, but improved with a strong offshore and 0.5 – 1 metre (2-3ft) waves. The World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000 rated event was the last stop on the WSL Africa Tour.
Baum was the lone South African in the 4-women Final, with Leilani McGonagle (CRI), Anne dos Santos (BRA) and Rachel Presti (GER). It was an exciting final that saw the lead change between McGonagle and Baum, with a tight wave exchange right until the end. The judges took their time to compare the last waves, but in the end, Baum won with a total of 13 points out of 20, bumping McGonagle into second place. Presti was in third and Dos Santos in fourth.
“I’m on top of the world! I’m just so happy to be at home with friends and family, to have this event right here and everyone supporting me, I can’t wipe this smile off my face,” said Baum, who is the first South African woman to win this event since Nikita Robb in 2015.
“I was a bit slow in the beginning of the heat, just patiently waiting for those good ones. The waves died off and I had to make due with what I could, but in the end it paid off,” said Baum. With this result, Baum moves up to 39th on the WSL QS rankings.
In a funny twist of events, McGonagle predicted that she will be in the Final with Baum.
“I thought that was pretty funny. I knew all the girls in the competition were good surfers, but I had the names picked out even before it started so it’s funny how it worked out. I really wanted to win, but it’s alright. Next time!” said McGonagle.
Rachel Presti (GER) was off to a blistering start in the first Semifinal, opening her account with a 7.25 for two critical maneuvers on a beautiful right-hander. Presti backed it up quickly with a 5.25 to take the lead. The light and nimble Brazilian, Anne dos Santos, was chasing Presti with a 6.75 and 5.45. Goofy-footer Zoë Steyn (East London) was stuck in combination situation and couldn’t find any decent waves until the end, but it was a little too late. Presti and Dos Santos advanced to the Final, eliminating Steyn and Lucia Martino (ESP).
The second Semifinal featured two South Africans, Ceara Knight (Kommetjie) and Sarah Baum (Durban) up against Pacha Luque-Light (AUS) and Leilani McGonagle (CRI). Luque-Light was leading the heat with a 4.50 and a 2.75, but McGonagle came back strong to take the lead with a 6.00 and 5.00 with 5 minutes left on the clock. After a slow start, Baum jumped from fourth to first, going right and throwing two powerful hacks for 8.25 and then found a left-hander to take the win with a 6.35, for a total of 14.60. McGonagle was in second, sending Luque-Light and Knight home.
As the last stop on the WSL Africa Tour, this result determined the 2019 WSL Africa Title winners. It was a close battle between Steyn and Knight, with both being eliminated in equal 7th place in Ballito, but Steyn pipped Knight to the top.
Ballito Women’s Pro pres. by O’Neill Final Results:
1. Sarah Baum 13.00
2. Leilani McGonagle 12.20
3. Rachel Presti 9.90
4. Anne dos Santos 7.60