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SA’s Smith and De Vries into last 24 at Ballito Pro
- Updated: July 1, 2016
A rising swell that produced solid overhead waves, allied with variable winds, tested the ability of the top contenders in the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong as they progressed to the last 24 at Willard Beach, KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday.
Pristine early morning offshore conditions enabled the world’s best pulling into the deep tubes that the KwaDukuza region is famous for and, as the onshore wind freshened, they used that to stick huge aerial manoeuvres when they boosted above the lip of the waves.
The remaining eight heats of the Round of 96 saw the likes of Jack Freestone and fellow Australians Davey Cathels and Connor O’Leary, South Africa’s Matthew McGillivray (Jeffreys Bay) and Brazilian Luel Felipe rack up high scoring heat wins.
O’Leary was particularly impressive, posting rides of 9.47 and 9.0 for a heat total of 18.47, the highest of the day, and leaving all three of his opponents in a combination situation where they needed to improve on both their scores for the heat victory.
The Round of 48 brought additional pressure as the level of competition increased. The first three heats were dominated by Brazilians with Deivid Silva, Michael Rodrigues and Krystian Kymerson all using their air game to good effect.
South Africa’s Beyrick de Vries, who has grown up in the region, used his local knowledge to take flight. Landing a huge alley-oop and then an air-reverse that the judges rewarded with scores of 8.17 and 6.67, De Vries cruised into the last 24.
‘It was a slow start for me but I found a good air section and I went for broke and got an 8.17. That put the Q20 on the wheels and it started flowing from there,’ said de Vries. ‘I just focus on the now and try to get the waves and adapt to the different conditions. I’m pleased with what I’ve done now, but I just can’t wait to get out there tomorrow.’
After a really close heat where Ryan Callinan squeaked to victory after all four surfers were within 1.5 points of each other at the final siren, top seed Jordy Smith took to the surf and showed his class. The current WSL No. 10 ranked surfer toyed with the conditions, landing aerials and carving powerful turns on his way to the heat win.
‘I’m stoked that myself and Beyrick made it through, so that’s pretty cool for South Africa, hopefully we can keep it going,’ said Smith. ‘The conditions are really tricky and you’ve got to take every heat as it comes. You go out there with an open mind and can’t sit for too long and wait for good waves as there’s a lot of opportunity.’
Hawaiian Ezekiel Lau was pleased to advance by scoring a massive 9.10 on his final wave after a slow start.
‘I’m pretty stoked. Coming a long way from Hawaii, you just want to make as many heats as you can,’ said Lau. ‘You have to select the right waves and I started off a little slow but I found my rhythm through the heat. It’s just me and mother nature and I just try to focus on my game plan and what the waves are doing.’
Jack Freestone (AUS) was another who posted a last minute, heat winning ride, jumping from third to first place in his encounter thanks to an impressive aerial that he landed in the flat water, but managed to ride out successfully.
‘It was little bit nerve-wrecking. Everyone had really good scores up until the last five minutes and I didn’t have anything. I basically surfed a five minute heat,’ said Freestone. ‘It’s always good to get through those first two rounds. So I’m really excited to get through that one and to be in the round of 24. I just want to keep the momentum flowing.’
Picture of De Vries in Thursday’s action courtesy of WSL/Cestari