Connor O’Leary (AUS) won the Ballito Pro presented Billabong in epic 3-4 foot waves at Willard Beach in KwaDukuza today, defeating Joan Duru (FRA) in the final held in front of a packed beach basking in warm mid-winter sunshine and windless conditions.
In a high scoring final where the lead constantly changed hands, both surfers posted excellent rides on their backhand in the long right-handers before O’Leary etched his name on the winner’s trophy with an explosive ride punctuated by three vertical re-entries for a 9.20 and a 17.30 vs. 15.80 victory.
“It’s surreal. I feel like it hasn’t actually happened and it hasn’t hit me yet. I’m just over the moon,” said O’Leary.
“It’s one of my best results so far. To make the final I was beyond stoked and to take the win just tops it off.
Joan’s surfing has been amazing recently and he’s one of my favorite surfers on the QS, so to have a final with him was amazing.”
Victory in the first World Surf League (WSL) QS 10,000 rated event of the year earned O’Leary US $40 000 (about R600 000) and his haul of 10 000 points saw the 22 year-old move up 13 places to No. 2 in the rankings.
Beyrick de Vries (ZAF) produced the best performance by a South African and his fifth place finish saw his ranking jump from 98th to 12th, moving him into contention to qualify for the 2017 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour.
The uMhlanga local also collected an additional R 50 000 by winning both the Monster Energy ‘Wave of the Week’ video award and the Zigzag Expression Session to cap one of the best weeks of his career.
“It’s just been an awesome week, one of the best weeks in a long time, maybe in my life,” said de Vries.
“It’s just a crazy transition of emotions and the beach support was amazing. I feel like my best work is done when I’m having fun and I wanted to take a break from professional surfing and focusing on being a surfer again. And now this happens.”
Highlights from the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong can be found at www.worldsurfleague.com
Ballito Pro presented by Billabong Final Results
- Connor O’Leary (AUS) 17.30
- Joan Duru (FRA) 15.80
Ballito Pro presented by Billabong Semi-Final Results
Semi1. Joan Duru (FRA) 19.20 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 17.63
Semi2. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 16.74 def. Ezekiel Lau (AUS) 14.60
Ballito Pro presented by Billabong Quarter-Final Results
Quarter1. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.24 def. Krystian Kymerson (BRA) 13.17
Quarter2. Joan Duru (FRA) 18.67 def. Beyrick De Vries (ZAF) 16.34
Quarter3. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 15.83 def. Jack Freestone (AUS) 15.57
Quarter4. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 15.50 def. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 14.56
WSL Qualifying Series Rankings (After Ballito Pro)
1 Fioravanti,Leonardo ITA 17530
2 O’Leary,Connor AUS 14700
3 Duru,Joan FRA 13040
4 Silva,Deivid BRA 11530
5 Lau,Ezekiel HAW 10120
All eyes will now be firmly fixed on Jeffreys Bay where the JBay Open of Surfing will begin on Wednesday.
The JBay Open forms part of the annual JBay Winterfest, which is being held from 6 – 17 July this year.