Jordy Smith Advances to Round 3 of Ballito Pro presented by Billabong
Defending Champion Connor O’Leary Eliminated in Tight Decision
Jordy Smith (ZAF) opened his campaign in the Ballito Pro pres. by Billabong with a workmanlike performance, advancing to Round 3 of the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 rated event when he finished runner-up to Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) in his first heat.
Smith, the top seed and current World No. 3, stayed very busy trying to find waves with scoring potential and eventually found a running right hander that he ended with an air-reverse that the judges rewarded with 7.73 points out of 10.
“Your strategy tends to change every minute, every second of the heat and you just keep reassessing things. I wanted to get the best waves out there, but that didn’t happened in the first five minutes and when others start off with big scores you’ve really got to go to backup strategies and backup waves,” Smith explained. “You couldn’t really tell if it was a good wave so I just figured if I keep getting waves and multiple opportunities one of them would be good.
“Obviously I love being in Ballito, this will always be the first real contest that I ever competed in on the international stage, so there’s a lot of history and it means a lot to me. Also, I get to hang out with my friends and family, there’s extremely good waves here, just 30 minutes north or south of Durban, so it’s a great opportunity for me to stay in tune.”
Second seed Connor O’Leary (AUS) was not as fortunate. The defending event winner, whose haul of 10,000 QS points at last year’s event saw him qualify among the elite Top 34 on the WSL Championship Tour (CT), struggled to find good waves in the freshening onshore breeze and he was eliminated after placing fourth in the next heat.
Organisers then put the event on hold for an hour, and then another hour, in the hopes that conditions would improve. But with the wind strengthening they called the action off for the day and will reconvene at 6.45am local time for a possible 7 am start.
Earlier on Day 2, 2016 Ballito runner-up Joan Duru (FRA), who also qualified for the CT last year, made good use of the clean early morning conditions to earn the joint highest heat total of the event to date, 16.50 out of 20, which left his three opponents in a combination situation and needing to replace both their counting rides for victory.
Miguel Pupo (BRA) posted a heat total of 15.10, the second highest of the day, and advanced through a heat at Ballito for the first time in four attempts.
“I wanted to get an early start, but I didn’t get one and Brett (Simpson) got a couple of nice waves. But then I got the 7.77, and right after that I got a 5 and another 7, so I got a good total in the middle of the heat,” Pupo commented.
“This is an important event for me, I’ve been here for four years and I haven’t made a heat yet, so I’m pretty happy to make this heat! It’s always good here, I’ve been on tour for a few years and it’s good to come back and see the kids and the young guys surf. That fires me up.”
Local wildcard David van Zyl (ZAF) showed the benefits of competing consistently in the expanded WSL Africa series of events this year by causing an upset when he and heat winner Keanu Asing (HAW) relegated the highly rated Davey Cathels (AUS) to third spot in their heat.
“Things change so quickly out there and you have to adapt, so I went out looking for the two best waves I could find. It ended up being a really slow heat, but luckily I got a nice little barrel and managed to back it up with a small score and that was enough for me to get through,” said van Zyl.
“Usually it’s quite nerve wracking because the Ballito Pro is the main QS event in South Africa. But now we’ve had four or five events to warm up and build up some points so it takes a bit of the nerves off. I’ve just been so stoked to be able to surf events around South Africa and now have a big one in my home region.”
When competition resumes Yago Dora (BRA) will be up against Tomas Hermes (BRA), Tom Whitaker (AUS) and Kiron Jabour (HAW) in Heat 14 of Round 2.
The Ballito Pro presented by Billabong is proudly supported by the KwaDukuza Municipality, Billabong, 5FM, Capitec Bank, Casio, North Coast Courier, Monster Energy, Zigzag Surfing Magazine, World Surf League (WSL) and Surfing South Africa (SSA).
More Info on Billito Pro Presented By Billabong – Jordy Smith Stays In Contention here: http://www.worldsurfleague.com