Team captain Llewellyn Whittaker led Team South African to a great start on the opening day of the annual 2011 Billabong ISA World Surfing Games which got underway in tricky 3 foot waves at Playa Venao on the Pacific Ocean coast of Panama on Sunday.
Whittaker posted the highest heat tally in the Open Men’s division as all eight team members finished either first or second in their respective opening encounters to advance to Round 2 of the Qualifying stream in the double-elimination format used at the event.
Only Australia, Brazil and New Zealand from the 27 countries contesting the event matched SA’s clean sweep on a day when 173 registered surfers in the Open Men, Women and Longboard divisions competed in a full day of action at two surfing venues located 250 metres apart.
Whittaker, from Southern Cape, registered scores of 7.17 and an excellent 8.67, both out of 10, for a heat total of 15.84 out 0f 20, leaving his three opponents, including multiple South America champion Magnum Martinez (VEN), needing to improve on both their counting rides to overtake him.
“Our team arrived five days before the contest, and we had a lot of time to practice on these waves,” said Whittaker. “We are feeling very comfortable surfing here in Playa Venao. The level of competition is extremely high – you have the best surfers from every country at this event – but for those 20 minutes you have to believe you will get through your heat.”
The balance of SA’s men’s Open Men’s squad each finished second to Venezuelan opponents in their Round 1 match-ups with Gavin Roberts (SKZN) just four hundredths of a point behind Francisco Bellorin, Matt Bromley (WP) less than half a point short of Rafael Pereira and Klee Strachan (SKZN) just over a point adrift of Justin Mujica.
Former World Tour campaigner Nikita Robb (Border) posted the second highest heat tally – 14.67 – of the Open Women’s division to easily win her match-up and progress to Round 2 while teammate Tanika Hoffman (WP) was less than a point behind heat winner Dominic Barona from Ecuador and over four points ahead of the third placed competitor.