Challenger Series Heads To Africa For Ballito Pro pres. by O'Neill

BALLITO, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (Friday, 3 June 2022) – The Ballito Pro pres. by O’Neill, the world’s longest running professional surfing event, in its 53rd edition will celebrate the return of international surfing to South African shores, this time as a World Surf League (WSL) Challenger Series (CS) for men and women.

The Challenger Series is the ultimate battleground for surfers fighting to qualify for a spot on the 2023 Championship Tour (CT). Across the eight international events, the fields of 96 men and 64 women battle for one of the 10 men’s and 5 women’s coveted spots at the top level of the sport.

The Ballito Pro pres. by O’Neill will be the third stop on the Challenger Series and will see more than 15 countries represented across the board.

The men’s field is stacked with former Ballito Pro champions and local favourites Adin Masencamp (Cape Town) and Jordy Smith (Durban), Alejo Muniz (ARG) and Deivid Silva (BRA). It also features Championship Tour surfers such as Conner Coffin (USA) and Ezekiel Lau (HAW), and up-and-coming rookies like Rio Waida (IDN) who won the previous CS event, the Sydney Surf Pro.

In the women’s draw, former Ballito Pro champions Zoe Steyn (East London) and Sarah Baum (Durban) will come up against some fierce international competition. The winner of the second CS at the Sydney Surf Pro, Teresa Bonvalot (PRT) will hope to ride the momentum into Ballito – but don’t underestimate CT surfers Johanne Defay (FRA), Molly Picklum (AUS), Bronte Macaulay (AUS); the exciting Hawaiian crew of Luana Silva (HAW), Bettylou Sakura-Johnson (HAW) and the queen of pipeline, Moana Jones-Wong (HAW).

With such an impressive field of competitors in Ballito, it’s an opportunity unlike any other for South Africa’s best junior surfers to watch and learn what it takes to compete at the elite level. These junior men and women will get their chance to prove themselves in the O’Neill SMTH Shapes Pro Junior WSL Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) 1,000 event taking place 2-3 July 2022 before the start of the Challenger Series.

The top local men and women surfers, who did not qualify for the Challenger Series, will get another chance to earn a spot in the main competition with the Ballito Pro pres. by O’Neill Trials. The winners will claim the WSL wildcard entry into the Ballito Pro pres. by O’Neill Challenger Series.

“WSL Africa is excited to be hosting one of the blue-ribbon events on the Challenger Series. The opportunity to see the best women surfers alongside the men makes this such a unique event for Africa. Our sincere thanks to the KwaDukuza Municipality, O’Neill South Africa, event management and the many sponsors for making this the premier event for Africa. I am positive, like always, that many of these surfers will go on to become household names in the world of surfing over the next few years,” said WSL Africa Operations Manager Colin Fitch.

Robin de Kock, General Manager, Surfing South Africa, commented: “Surfing South Africa is pleased that our U12 to U18 boys and girls will get an opportunity to compete in the O’Neill SMTH Shapes Pro Junior in Ballito once again. Rated as a Prime Event on the SA Junior Surf Tour, the O’Neill SMTH Shapes Pro Junior gives the up-and-coming South African surfers to be part of the Ballito Pro. Not only do they get to compete for rating points and a share of the generous prize purse on offer, but they will also be able to watch some of the world’s best surfers in action in the Ballito Pro itself. Our thanks to the KwaDukuza Municipality, O’Neill and SMTH Shapes for including our juniors in the event.”

Paul Canning, Brand Manager of Sector Group (O’Neill), said: “On behalf of O’Neill, we are extremely honoured and proud to be involved in the Ballito Pro again this year and would like to thank the KwaDukuza Municipality for all their support in surfing and raising the event to the elite Challenger Series status.”

Commenting on the upcoming event, mayor of KwaDukuza Municipality, Cllr Lindi Nhaca, said: “We emerge from one of the most testing global challenges of our times where we have been plagued by a pandemic, social unrests, flooding and subsequent devastations. KwaDukuza Municipality is renewing its economic and tourism strategies toward economic recovery, particularly in tourism. We are looking forward to, once again, welcoming all the international athletes and their families and teams to our shores.

“We are especially excited to host the first Men’s & Woman’s Challenger Series for the region and Africa. It is in this sense that we thank the World Surf League, Surfing South Africa, our presenting sponsors and all stakeholders who have partnered with us as we look forward to an exciting, action-packed sporting and lifestyle event.”

The Ballito Pro pres. by O’Neill 2022 will continue to host developmental surf contests and the KZN High Schools contests. The surfing competitions will be supported by an exciting festival programme featuring music, arts, recreational beach activities, and extreme sports – all the while showcasing the best tourism and hospitality experiences the region has to offer.

All applicable COVID-19 related government guidelines and restrictions will be adhered to.