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Buitendag leads the way as SA surfers shine on global circuit
- Updated: November 27, 2014
South African surfers have posted dazzling performances on opposite sides of International Date Line in the past 24 hours with Bianca Buitendag recording the highest score for a single ride on the opening day of the Target Maui Pro in Hawaii while Dylan Lightfoot progressed to Round Four of the Hainan Classic in China.
After three successive lay-days waiting for waves at the fabled Honolua Bay for the season-ending event on the 2014 ASP Women’s World Championship Tour (WCT), Buitendag took to the surf in Heat Six of Round One. Starting slowly, the 21-year-old from George in the Southern Cape rapidly built momentum in the excellent one-to-1.5 metre surf and belted a near-perfect 9.80 out of 10 points for a series of vertical backhand blasts on her final ride.
‘I’ve been here for the last 10 days and every time the swell gets bigger than three feet there’s so many people out here, so to share that with just two other girls is very enjoyable,’ said Buitendag, pictured above. ‘This is just the start of a long race. We have two more rounds before the quarter-finals start so it’s important to get a good start.’
Buitendag, No7 on the ASP Women’s WCT rankings coming into the event, won her heat and advanced directly to Round Three of the event along with Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons and Tyler Wright, the three Australians who are in contention for the 2014 ASP Women’s World Title.
The Target Maui Pro runs until 6 December.
Meanwhile at the same time that Buitendag was shredding the legendary waves of Honolua Bay, on the other side of the dateline Lightfoot was demonstrating his ability in tiny waves at Riyue Bay on Hainan Island in China on Tuesday afternoon.
Seeded into Round Two of the four-star rated ASP Qualification Series event, the Jeffreys Bay resident squeaked through his first heat, narrowly avoiding the ignominy of being eliminated by 15-year-old Leilani McGonagle (CRI), the only girl in event. Awarded 4.53 points for his last scoring ride, Lightfoot clinched second place just three-hundredths of a point ahead of McGonagle.
Lightfoot made better use of the miniscule knee-to-waist high waves on offer in Round Three, employing both his backhand and forehand attack to secure a solid heat win and moving to within one heat of a quarter-final berth.
‘That was hard work out there,’ Lightfoot said. ‘That’s what it takes to be a professional surfer, you sometimes get to surf perfect waves, but you also have to be on point in small surf. I’m happy that I’m still in the event and I’m hoping we get some fun surf later in the week.’
Lightfoot is the last remaining South African in the event and will take on Miguel Tudela (Peru) and Australians Harrison Mann and Kai Hing in the next heat when competition resumes. The top two finishers there will advance to the Quarterfinals, where the event format changes from four man heats to man-on-man competition until a winner is crowned..
SA’s Michael February (Kommetjie) was eliminated in Round Three, placing third in the heat before Lightfoot’s, and finished equal 17th overall with earnings of US $1 250 (approx. R13 750) and 237 rankings points. Both David Brand (Kommetjie) and Casey Grant (Scottburgh) were ousted in Round Two.
The Hainan Classic runs until 28 November.
Back in Hawaii, and Tuesday also saw the Vans World Cup of Surfing – stage two of the Vans Triple Crown series and the penultimate Prime rated event for 2014 – commence at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu in stormy three-to-five metre surf.
The 16 heats in Round One were completed with Hawaiians dominating the results in the difficult conditions. Beyrick de Vries (Umhlanga) will be the first South African to compete in the event when he faces defending champion Ezekiel Lau (HAW), Stu Kennedy (AUS) and Chris Ward (USA) in Heat Four of Round Two.
De Vries famously scored a perfect 10-point ride in the corresponding event at Sunset Beach last year after pulling into and exiting cleanly from what many knowledgeable commentators are calling the biggest tube ride seen in a contest at the venue in nearly 50 years (since the late 1960’s!).
ASP World No7 Jordy Smith and fellow ASP WCT campaigner Travis Logie are scheduled to start their campaigns in Round Three. Logie will be competing in the event for the last time after announcing his retirement from professional surfing following next month’s Billabong Pipeline Masters. Logie was crowned the ISA World Champion in 2002 and has spent the last 10 years competing at the highest levels of the sport.
The Vans World Cup of Surfing has a waiting period that runs until 6 December.