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Scintillating Performances at US Open Boost SA Surfing Community

August 1st, 2015
Bianca Buitendag caused a major upset by defeating current World No. 1 Carissa Moore (HAW) in the quarterfinals of the US Open of surfing on Thursday  Photos: WSL / Morris

Bianca Buitendag caused a major upset by defeating current World No. 1 Carissa Moore (HAW) in the quarterfinals of the US Open of surfing on Thursday Photos: WSL / Morris

Surfing Column for Independent on Saturday – 1 August 2015

By Paul Botha

Scintillating performances by the South African surfers competing in the Vans US Open of Surfing in California have boosted the morale of the local surfing community after what can only be described as a dismal showing during the SA Leg of the World Surf League during July.

Starting last Sunday at Huntington Beach, America’s official ‘Surf City’, the US Open is the showpiece of North American surfing and arguably the biggest surf festival / beach party on the planet. Featuring WSL events for men, women and Pro Junior (20-and-under) boys and girls, alongside longboard surfing, skateboarding, BMX, music and dozens of retail outlets, the eight-day beach extravaganza attracts tens of thousands of spectators.

The SA challenge got off to a great start when Michael February from Kommetjie posted the highest heat tally of Round 1 in an all-star 32-man trials field for the QS10,000 men’s event. February impressed again by winning his Round 2 heat but came up just short in the semis, missing out on the chance to earn one of the two trialists slots into the main event.

Dylan Lightfoot from Jeffreys Bay and Salt Rock’s Shane Sykes both shone while progressing through two heats each to reach the quarterfinals of the Pro Juniors while Beyrick de Vries from Umhlanga carved his way through the first two rounds of the men’s event, sidelining higher rated opponents along the way.

Meanwhile Bianca Buitendag, SA’s sole representative on the elite WSL Women’s Championship Tour, made world headlines on Thursday when she upset current World No. 1 and two-time World and event champion Carissa Moore (HAW) to reach the semifinals of the women’s event.

The lanky 21-year-old from Victoria Bay – at 1.85 metres she’s the tallest girl in the elite Top17 – won the US Open Pro Junior crown a couple of years back and faces close friend Johanne Defay from France in the semis on Sunday. Buitendag has already recorded her best US Open result and earned enough points to move into the Top 5 in the rankings even if she doesn’t reach the final.

These positive results provide some solace for the local showing in the Ballito Pro and the J-Bay Open last month where just one local surfer progressed through a single heat – David van Zyl from Glenashley who advanced to Round 2 in Ballito before being ousted.

Of the19 locals in the Ballito Pro Trials, the only standout was Matt McGillivray, 18, from Jeffreys Bay who won three consecutive heats before placing third in the final. Jordy Smith, Dale Staples, de Vries and February all stumbled at their first hurdle in the main event.

It was a similar story at J-Bay where an injured Smith, February (a last minute injury replacement) and trials winner Slade Prestwich from Scottburgh all went two for zero and finished equal 25th. Even in the WSL rated Billabong Junior Series, the small international contingent dominated with Lightfoot claiming second place at his home break.

The partisan SA surfing community will be hoping that their warriors have turned the corner at the US Open and will continue to post the results their talent deserves for the rest of 2015.

ENDS

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