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Buitendag and Smith advance in Hawaii
- Updated: December 1, 2015
South Africans Bianca Buitendag and Jordy Smith progressed to Round 4 of their respective World Surf League (WSL) events at Honolua Bay on Maui and Sunset Beach on Oahu in Hawaii on Sunday.
Buitendag, ranked No6 on the Samsung Galaxy WSL Women’s Championship Tour (CT) going into the season ending Target Maui Pro, had a forgettable opening encounter in which she struggled to find the best waves and also suffered a broken leash that necessitated a time-consuming change of equipment.
However, the 22 year-old from Victoria Bay in the Southern Cape bounced back in Round 2, using her signature high-performance backhand repertoire to post a convincing victory over Laura Enever (AUS) in the inconsistent but pristine one to 1.5-metre waves.
After getting off to a great start in her Round 3 clash, Buitendag was overtaken by Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS). Her runner-up finish means Buitendag now faces a do-or-die clash against good friend Johanne Defay (FRA) for a place in the quarter-finals when competition resumes.
Smith, who has slipped to 29th on the men’s CT rankings after an injury-plagued season, gained some competitive momentum for the first time since the Margaret River event in April when he placed second in his opening heat in Round 3 of the QS10 000 Vans World Cup of Surfing.
Competing in windswept, unruly three-metre plus surf at Sunset, Smith’s powerful, carving manoeuvres on the double to triple-overhead waves earned the lanky 1.9 metre Durbanite a heat total of 13.10 out of 20 and a spot in Round 4 along with heat winner Frederico Marais (PRT).
Benji Brand, whose family have homes in Kommetjie and on the North Shore of Oahu and who competes as a WSL Hawaii member, showed the value of experience in the huge ‘playing field’ at Sunset Beach when he convincingly won both his Round 1 and 2 heats on Saturday. A former finalist in junior events at the break, the 19 year-old caught the best waves in his heats and eliminated a quartet of higher ranked opponents.
When competition in the Vans World Cup resumes, Brand will be in the first heat against WSL CT stars John John Florence (HAW) and Kolohe Andino (USA), as well as US Open of Surfing winner Hiroto Ohhara (JAP).
Beyrick de Vries (Umhlanga) was unlucky in his Round 2 encounter when he was wiped-out as he exited one of the biggest tube rides of the day, earning just 2.60 points out of 10 for what could have been a heat-winning ride. Out of rhythm for the rest of the heat, de Vries ended his 2015 campaign on the WSL Qualifying Series with an 81st place finish. He pocketed US $500 and 500 rankings points that will not factor into his overall ranking which currently stands at No50.
Michael February (Kommetjie) was eliminated in his Round 1 heat on Saturday. In his rookie season in the season ending Van Triple Crown of Surfing events in Hawaii, February produced excellent performances to advance through two rounds in the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa last week and will have gained plenty of experience for future campaigns in Hawaii.
Ranked 78th going into the final QS event of the year, February will be hoping that the tally of ranking points he has earned from his best five results during 2015 will be sufficient to ensure that he gains a coveted spot in the elite 96-man fields who will contest the QS10000 events next year.
Picture of Buitendag courtesy of WSL/Cestari