Rio Waida from Indonesia and Zoe Steyn from East London took the premier Pro Junior titles at the Billabong Junior Series which was completed in bumpy but contestable 3- 4 foot waves at Willard Beach in Ballito on Sunday.
Waida made the most of the shifty, onshore conditions at Willard Beach to defeat local favorite and event top seed, Luke Slijpen (Llandudno) in the final of the event that kicked off the 10-day Ballito Pro Surf Festival.
The Indonesian flowed effortlessly from section to section, surfing with visibly more speed than most of his competitors and posted an early 6.00 to take the lead and put the pressure on Slijpen.
Slijpen, who claimed his second JQS men’s title of the season in Port Elizabeth earlier in the week, kept busy hunting for good waves but was unable to post anything better than average range scores (4.0 — 5.9 points out of 10).
With 10 minutes remaining, Waida put the final nail in the coffin by dropping an excellent score of 9.25, the highest single wave score of the entire event, to leave Slijpen needing a perfect 10 to take the lead. And the situation stayed that way until the buzzer sounded to end the heat.
“I was thinking stay busy for the first five minutes and then I got a 6.0 on my first ride, which I thought that was pretty good in these conditions, so I decided I could start waiting for good ones,” Waida explained.
Slijpen extended his lead at the top of the WSL Africa Junior Men’s rankings and with just one event left on the2018 schedule, he is the champion elect and a shoe-in for the four man regional squad to represent WSL Africa at the World Junior Surfing Championship in Australia in January.
Zoë Steyn took the JQS women’s title in emphatic fashion, beating Kirsty McGillivray from Jeffreys Bay in the tricky onshore conditions that saw the two stay busy, each catching plenty of low-scorning waves.
Steyn eventually found rhythm towards the end of the heat and the East Londoner’s last two rides, a 4.75 and a 5.60, were the two that counted.
“It’s been my goal for a while to win a Pro Junior event so I’m really excited,” said Steyn. “It’s helped with my selection for the team to go the World Juniors in January, which was my ambition for this year, so that’s great.
I’m just going to keep on trying to get the best results I can for the rest of the year, and I really want to defend my title at the SA Champs in September.”
She consolidated her No. 2 ranking behind runaway leader Kai Woolf (Jeffreys Bay) who did not enter the Ballito event, moving ahead of her closest rival, Sophie Bell (Salt Rock) who was eliminated by McGillivray in the semi-finals.
The Billabong Junior Series is the opening event in the Ballito Pro Surf Festival that runs until Sunday 1 July at Willard Beach and surrounds.
The crown jewel in the festival, the Ballito Pro pres, by Billabong, is a R3.2 million, QS10,000 event that features 112 of the world’s best surfers and starts on Monday 25 June.
Then its all eyes on Jeffreys Bay for the Corona Open JBay, the only World Championship Tour event on the African continent.
The Corona Open forms parts of the annual JBay Winterfest, a multi sport event that includes cold water swimming, mountain biking, trial running and much more.