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Fairytale Finish as Fanning Claims J-Bay Open Title at Jeffreys Bay

July 16th, 2016 No comments
Mick Fanning (AUS) on his way to victory in the J-Bay Open on Saturday  Image: WSL / Cestari

Mick Fanning (AUS) on his way to victory in the J-Bay Open on Saturday  Image: WSL / Cestari

– 3 x WSL Champion Takes Record Equaling 4th Win at Jeffreys Bay
– Runner-up John John Florence Moves to 2nd Place on WSL Jeep Leaderboard

JEFFREYS BAY, South Africa (Saturday 16 July, 2016) – Mick Fanning (AUS) produced a fairytale finish by winning the J-Bay Open, Stop No. 6 on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), on his return to Jeffreys Bay a year after encountering a shark in the highly publicised 2015 final.

Fanning defeated John John Florence (HAW) in a tense 35 minute final held in clean 1m to 1.3 metre (3 to 4 foot) waves in front of a packed audience lining the beach and the amphitheatre created by the dunes overlooking Supertubes.

“It’s definitely a very different feeling this win,” said Fanning. “There was a real emotional build up coming back here this year. I’m stoked that I got to come back and right the wrongs that happened last year. I’ve done that now so I can move on.”

Today’s win is Fanning’s 22nd Championship Tour victory and his fourth at the J-Bay Open, equaling Kelly Slater’s record of event wins at Jeffreys Bay. Fanning defeated Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Julian Wilson (AUS) en route to the Final today.

“That Semifinal with Julian was really special and it was wonderful to have a heat with him again. Definitely some emotions went into it paddling out and it was just really special having a surf with him out there and both of us coming in safe.”

Fanning, who is taking a personal year in 2016, only competing in select events this season, leaps up from 16th to 5th place on the WSL Jeep Leaderboard.

“It’s awesome to be in 5th place but I don’t really care about results this year,” said Fanning. “I just want to thank everyone who has supported me over the past year, I’ve had so much support, and I’m looking forward to celebrating. For me this year feels a lot lighter not going for a world title so I’m really enjoying my surfing and having a lot of fun. I’ll be surfing at Trestles and I think that might be my last event of the year. World titles aren’t the biggest thing for me at the moment – I’m all about enjoying my surfing.”

Today’s runner-up finish for Florence sees him move up to second place on the Jeep Leaderboard for the first time in his career and close the gap on ratings leader Matt Wilkinson (AUS) heading into the next event on the CT, the Billabong Pro Tahiti.

Florence, who was absent from the J-Bay Open in 2015 due to an ankle injury, defeated local favourite Jordy Smith (ZAF) in the Quarterfinals and Josh Kerr (AUS) in the Semifinals before facing Fanning in the Final and earning his best ever result at Jeffreys Bay.

“I’m really stoked to be back here this year and to be in the Final surfing against Mick,” Florence said. “I wasn’t here last here when everything went down so just to see Mick win it is pretty inspiring coming back after that.”

Josh Kerr (AUS) took on runner-up Florence in the opening Semifinal match-up and both surfers took to the air. Florence took the lead and although Kerr got to his feet before the final buzzer, he didn’t get the score required. Today’s result is Kerr’s best of the season and also his best ever at Jeffreys Bay. Kerr leaps up ten places to 17th on the Jeep Leaderboard.

“I’ve really enjoyed the event and it’s been a good result for me,” Kerr said. “Tahiti coming up is one of my favorite locations so I’m looking forward to that.”

A rematch of last year’s dramatic final between Fanning and compatriot Julian Wilson (AUS) played out in the second Semifinal bout. Both surfers opened strong but it was Wilson who had the edge. A strategic and selective Fanning used his priority to best advantage to take the wave of the heat and unleash his typical speed and power, posting a decisive 9.10 to win the heat. Wilson goes home in third place and moves to 9th place on the Jeep Leaderboard.

“It’s a great result for me,” said Wilson. “It’s really got my year back on track. I’m so pleased I got have that Semifinal with Mick. I just wish I could have found an opportunity and the right wave to have a real chance at winning.”

11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA) was defeated in the Quarterfinals by Kerr, finishing the event in 5th place and moving from 26th to 19th place on the Jeep Leaderboard.

“I got here about 5 minutes later than I wanted to be this morning,” Slater said. “I was trying to turn it around during the heat but I wasn’t as patient as I could have been. It really came down to priority in the end and I didn’t quite get the score I needed.”

2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) was eliminated in 5th place by Wilson in Quarterfinal 3 and drops down one place to third on the Jeep Leaderboard.

“Everyone is hard to beat and everyone wants to win,” said Medina. “John John and Filipe, all these guys want to win. I’m lucky I got my first title just two years ago. Hopefully we can all keep battling — that’s what makes it exciting. It’s good to see John and Wilko doing well because I think it will be really exciting at the end of the year.”

Filipe Toledo (BRA) battled Fanning in a thrilling and high scoring Quarterfinal duel in which the lead changed hands several time before Fanning wrapped up the win with a 9.27 and an 8.37. The Brazilian was given an opportunity in the final minute but fell on his last manoeuvre and leaves the event in 5th place, his best ever result at the J-Bay Open, and moves to 13th on the Jeep Leaderboard.

“Definitely it’s a really good result for me,” said Toledo. “I’m really happy to make a really good heat against Mick. It’s always exciting to surf against him. Now I’m just training harder, looking forward and looking for good results.”

Highlights from the J-Bay Open are available at WorldSurfLeague.com as well as the WSL app.

The next stop on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour will be the Vans US Open of Surfing, which will see the world’s best female surfers resume this season’s title race from July 25 – 31.

J-Bay Open Final Results:
1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.70
2: John John Florence (HAW) 17.13

J-Bay Open Semifinal Results:
SF 1: John John Florence (HAW) 16.50 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 14.43
SF 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.10 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.17

J-Bay Open Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: John John Florence (HAW) 10.70 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 10.50
QF 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.94 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 11.97
QF 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.33 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 11.93
QF 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.64 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.40

WSL Jeep Leaderboard Top 5 (after J-Bay Open):
1. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 34,250 pts
2. John John Florence (HAW) 31,900 pts
3. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 29,200 pts
4. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 24,400 pts
5. Mick Fanning (AUS) 23,450 pts

7. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 21,200 pts

ENDS

NOTE: High resolution images will be available for media outlets

About the World Surf League

The World Surf League (WSL), formerly the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), is dedicated to celebrating the world’s best surfing on the world’s best waves through a variety of best-in-class audience platforms. The League, headquartered in Santa Monica, is a truly global sport with regional offices in Australasia, Africa, North America, South America, Hawaii, Japan and Europe.

The WSL has been championing the world’s best surfing since 1976, running global events across the Samsung Galaxy Men’s and Women’s Championship Tours, the Big Wave Tour, Qualifying Series, Junior and Longboard Championships, as well as the WSL Big Wave Awards. The League possesses a deep appreciation for the sport’s rich heritage while promoting progression, innovation and performance at the highest levels.

Showcasing the world’s best surfing on its digital platform at WorldSurfLeague.com as well as the free WSL app, the WSL has a passionate global fan base with millions tuning in to see world-class athletes like Mick Fanning, John John Florence, Stephanie Gilmore, Greg Long, Gabriel Medina, Carissa Moore, Makua Rothman, Kelly Slater, Adriano de Souza and more battle on the most unpredictable and dynamic field of play of any sport in the world.
Issued on behalf of:

WSL Africa
Contact: Colin Fitch – Operations Manager
Tel: 021 534 5738
Email: cfitch@worldsurfleague.com

Compiled & Distributed by:

Life’s a Beach Communications
PO Box 48272, Kommetjie 7976, South Africa
Tel: +27 (0) 21 783 4965
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 423 1964
Email: lifesabeach@mweb.co.za

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Australia’s Connor O’Leary wins Ballito Pro :: Moves to No. 2 on QS Rankings

July 3rd, 2016 No comments
Connor O’Leary (AUS) in winning form during the Ballito Pro where he defeated Joan Duru (FRA) in the final in pristine waves at Willard Beach on Sunday Photo: WSL / Cestari

Connor O’Leary (AUS) in winning form during the Ballito Pro where he defeated Joan Duru (FRA) in the final in pristine waves at Willard Beach on Sunday
Photo: WSL / Cestari

Connor O’Leary (AUS) won the Ballito Pro presented Billabong in epic 1m – 1.5 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.

Duru, ranked No. 8 on the QS coming into the Ballito Pro, franked that form by racking up several of the highest single ride and heat scores during the event.

“That final was close and it was the guy that got the best wavs that was going to win. I got one good one and then I lost priority,’ said Duru. “It’s one of best results in my career so far. Every year I get good results but never as good as this one, so I’m really happy with second place. You surf against some of the best guys in the world, so if you lose one heat it’s okay.”

The Frenchman used his lethal backhand to eliminate local favourite Beyrick de Vries (ZAF) in the quarters and his runner-up finish elevated him to No. 3 on the QS rankings.

Ezekiel Lau (HAW) finished equal third in the Ballito Pro after an outstanding run that saw him oust elite Championship Tour (CT) competitors Stu Kennedy and Jack Freestone, both from Australia, before losing to O’Leary in their semi-final clash.

“For sure it’s my best result on the road and the furthest I’ve been I a QS 10 000, so I’m happy with the result,” said Lau. “I’m disappointed because I wanted to make the final really badly but that’s just how it goes. Connor has been surfing well, with some of the highest scores of the event, and I decided to go for the airs, but I came unstuck.”

Jeremy Flores (FRA), in his tenth year at the highest echelons of competition surfing, narrowly lost out in a see-saw, high scoring semi-final duel with compatriot Duru. Flores delivered two excellent scores of 8.93 and 8.70, but ultimately could not match Duru’s 9.30 and near-perfect 9.90 (the highest single ride score of the event), and had to settle for equal third place.

“Before coming here, if someone had told me that I would be in the semi-finals I would have taken it. It’s definitely a good result and hopefully I keep building from now on,’ said Flores. “I haven’t had any of the results that I wanted in the CT and now I have to back it up with some QS, which is definitely not easy at all because the QS is so hard. This semi-final result is definitely a keeper for me and a good confidence boost.”

The 6 500 points Flores collected for third place in his first QS event of the year resulted in him leapfrogging straight into 14th place on the rankings, underlining the value the Ballito Pro provides on the world stage.

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 R50 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
1. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 17.30
2. 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

South Africans (Top 100)
12 De Vries,Beyrick ZAF 7130
48 Smith,Jordy ZAF 3700
53 February,Michael ZAF 3610
57 McGillivray,Matthew ZAF 3395
96 Lightfoot,Dylan ZAF 2345

While the surfers ride the waves, the Ballito Pro Festival is set to turn up the heat in KwaDukuza by offering the best in beach, music and sports entertainment. Locals and holiday-makers will be spoilt for choice with the week-long festival featuring the ‘Fire up your stoke: Night of food & wine’, an extreme sports programme and an exciting retail area, while the Five Star Ballito Pro Free Music Concerts powered by 5FM bring some of South Africa’s most talented music acts to the stage in Salt Rock.

See more information at www.theballitopro.co.za

The Ballito Pro presented by Billabong is proudly supported by the KwaDukuza Municipality, Billabong, 5FM, Monster Energy, Zigzag Surfing Magazine, World Surf League (WSL) and Surfing South Africa (SSA).

ENDS

NB: High resolution images are available on demand for media outlets

About the World Surf League
The World Surf League (WSL), formerly the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), is dedicated to celebrating the world’s best surfing on the world’s best waves through a variety of best-in-class audience platforms. The League, headquartered in Santa Monica, is a truly global sport with regional offices in Australasia, Africa, North America, South America, Hawaii, Japan and Europe.

The WSL has been championing the world’s best surfing since 1976, running global events across the Samsung Galaxy Men’s and Women’s Championship Tours, the Big Wave Tour, Qualifying Series, Junior and Longboard Championships, as well as the WSL Big Wave Awards. The League possesses a deep appreciation for the sport’s rich heritage while promoting progression, innovation and performance at the highest levels.

Showcasing the world’s best surfing on its digital platform at WorldSurfLeague.com as well as the free WSL app, the WSL has a passionate global fan base with millions tuning in to see world-class athletes like Mick Fanning, John John Florence, Stephanie Gilmore, Greg Long, Gabriel Medina, Carissa Moore, Makua Rothman, Kelly Slater, Adriano de Souza and more battle on the most unpredictable and dynamic field of play of any sport in the world.

Surfing South Africa
The Ballito Pro, Ballito Women’s Pro, SSA Trials and Billabong Junior Series are registered with Surfing South Africa, recognised by the Dept. of Sport and Recreation as the national controlling body for the sport and a member of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).

Issued on behalf of:

WSL Africa
Contact: Colin Fitch – Operations Manager
Tel: 082 699 4493
Email: cfitch@worldsurfleague.com

Compiled & Distributed by:

Life’s a Beach Communications
Tel: +27 (0) 21 783 4965
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 423 1964
Email: lifesabeach@mweb.co.za

KwaDukuza Municipality and Organiser of the Ballito Pro Festival
Contact: Collette Bundy
Mobile: 072 287 9839
Email: collettebundy0@gmail.com

For more information about the beach and food festivals plus the music concerts please contact:

Olivia Jones Communications
Cell: 083 653 1720
Work: 031 303 9341
Email: media@oliviajones.co.za

#labcomm