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A Brazilian Storm about to hit South Africa’s waves

June 27th, 2015 No comments
JJordy Smith demonstrates the form that propelled him to back-to-back victories at Supertubes in Jeffreys Bay in 2010 and 2011  Photo: WSL / Cestari

Jordy Smith demonstrates the form that propelled him to back-to-back victories at Supertubes in Jeffreys Bay in 2010 and 2011 Photo: WSL / Cestari

Surfing Column for Independent On Saturday – Saturday 27 June 2015

By Paul Botha

A Brazilian Storm is about to hit South Africa’s waves in the form of a powerful contingent of the South American country’s top surfers who make up nearly a quarter of the competitors and top the seeding in both the World Surf League (WSL) contests that will be staged at Ballito and Jeffreys Bay over the next three weeks.

The term Brazilian Storm was coined last year when that country was gripped by surfing mania during 21-year-old Gabriel Medina’s sensational run to the world title.

It has gained even more credence in 2015 with Filipe Toledo winning the opening event on the elite Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour (CT) on Australia’s Gold Coast followed by Adriano de Souza’s victory in Western Australia.

Toledo then caused mass hysteria among the 10 000 patriotic fans on the beach and the hundreds of thousands watching live on TV and the internet when he won his second event in Rio de Janeiro.

Not surprisingly the pair head the current CT rankings after five events, with de Souza the top seed and Toledo at No. 3 for the next stop, the R6.5 million J-Bay Open which has a 12-day window period from 8 – 19 July in the fabled waves at Supertubes.

Brazilians also provide the top seed, rookie standout Italo Ferreira, the current World No. 8, and another two of the top four seeds, in the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong, a R3 million, QS 10 000 rated event that runs from Monday until 5 July at Willard Beach in KwaDukuza.

With nearly 100 of the world’s best competitive surfers in South Africa for the two events, including all of the WSL Top 34, it is going to be fascinating watching whether the Latin Americans can maintain their charge towards global domination of the sport.

That aim faces a serious challenge from the likes of three-time world champ and defending and three-time Jeffreys Bay winner Mick Fanning from Australia and a host of others such as the legendary Kelly Slater (USA), Taj Burrow and fellow Australian Joel Parkinson and of course South Africa’s own two-time J-Bay champ Jordy Smith, who have dominated Supertubes for the last decade.

With 27 competitors in the Ballito Pro, at least half of whom are capable of clinching the title, the Brazilian contingent hold a strong hand. But last year’s runner-up Matt Wilkinson (AUS), the second seed, and another couple of dozen competitors from virtually every corner of the globe are just as capable of snatching the nearly R500 000 winner’s paycheque and the invaluable 10 000 rankings points.

The eyes of the surfing world will be firmly fixed on South Africa for the next three weeks. If you cannot get to Ballito or Jeffreys Bay to experience the drama, all the action from the events will be covered by live webcast at www.worldsurfleague.com.

ENDS

IOS – Owen Wright Posts Two Perfect 20-Point Heats On His Way to Victory in Fiji Pro

June 19th, 2015 No comments
Owen Wright (AUS) deep inside the barrel at Cloudbreak on the first of the two perfect 10 point rides that saw him win the Fiji Pro  Image: WSL / Kirstin

Owen Wright (AUS) deep inside the barrel at Cloudbreak on the first of the two perfect 10 point rides that saw him win the Fiji Pro Image: WSL / Kirstin

Surfing Column for Independent On Saturday – Saturday 20 June 2015

By Paul Botha

Owen Wright etched his name in the annals of surfing history when he became the first competitor to post two perfect 20-point heats in the same event on his way to victory in the Fiji Pro on Tuesday.

Competing in pumping three metre waves at Cloudbreak, the lanky, blond haired Australian joined an exclusive list of just six other surfers who had recorded two flawless 10-point rides in a Championship Tour heat when he eliminated compatriot Adam Melling in round five to advance to the quarterfinals.

After dispatching 2012 world champion Joel Parkinson there and then Frenchman Jeremy Flores in the semis, he repeated the extremely rare feat in the final against another Australian, Julian Wilson, to make history and also claim the second elite tour win of his career.

“Yesterday was a dream come true and today is even better,” Wright commented after the final. “To finish with two 10’s is really special. I was watching the ocean before the final and I knew it would turn on. I knew I just had to be in that rhythm and the waves came and I took them. I’m stoked to be back up on the podium and wouldn’t be here without all the support back home.”

The victory saw Wright leapfrog from sixth to third in the rankings, just behind Jeep rankings leader Adriano de Souza and fellow Brazilian Filipe Toledo, and after five events is now a serious contender for the 2015 world title.

The next event on the elite WSL championship tour schedule is the J-Bay Open at Supertubes in Jeffreys Bay which runs from July 8-19. Wright finished runner-up in last year’s event in a sensational come-back after an injury plagued 2013 season.

Slade Prestwich from Scottburgh secured a coveted wildcard into the event when he won the JBU Supertrial presented by RVCA in excellent surf at Supertubes last weekend. Prestwich was pushed all the way by Kommetjie’s Michael February who received the Surfer of the Contest award.

Prestwich will be matched up with one of the top seeds in the first round but is looking forward to the experience and stands to pocket a minimum of R100 000 even if he is eliminated at the first hurdle.

“I have nothing to lose and will give everything I have in the J-Bay Open,” said Prestwich, who is hoping to compete against the legendary Kelly Slater. “I love surfing at Supertubes and to get another chance to surf Supers with just one or two other guys in the water is going to be really cool.”

The Ballito Pro presented by Billabong gets underway next weekend when the Women’s QS 1,000 event and the Pro Trials are held at Willard Beach in KwaDukuza on Sunday. The R3 million, QS 10,000 main event starts on Monday and runs until Sunday July 5 with the 96-man field headed by current world No. 8 Jeremy Flores.

ENDS

IOS – Anticipation Rises as World’s Best Surfers Head for South Africa

June 13th, 2015 No comments
Alejo Muniz (Brazil) floats along the lip of a wave at Cloudbreak on his way to a Round 1 win in the Fiji Pro on Friday  Photo: WSL / Kirstin

Alejo Muniz (Brazil) floats along the lip of a wave at Cloudbreak on his way to a Round 1 win in the Fiji Pro on Friday Photo: WSL / Kirstin

Surfing Column for Independent On Saturday – Saturday 13 June 2015

By Paul Botha

Anticipation is rising as the world’s best competition surfers get ready for their annual mid-year pilgrimage to the wave-rich coastline of South Africa and lucrative contests in Ballito and Jeffreys Bay during July.

More than half of the elite top 34 surfers on the Samsung Galaxy World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) have elected to compete in the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong, the world’s longest running professional surfing event, that takes place at Willard Beach in KwaDukuza from June 29 to July 5.

Rated QS 10,000, the highest rating on the WSL Qualifying Series (QS), the 96-man event attracted a massive 140 entries from every corner of the globe, 32 of whom will compete in the Ballito Pro Trials presented by Billabong on Sunday June 28 where the top two earn entry into the R3 million main event.

That Sunday also sees the return of internationally rated women’s surfing to the country’s shores for the first time since 2009. The Ballito Women’s Pro presented by Billabong is a QS 1,000 that the features a field of 16 girls with R30 000 at stake, along with priceless international rankings points.

The tour then moves to the Eastern Cape for the J-Bay Open, the sixth of 11 stops on 2015 WSL CT that takes place in the fabled waves of Supertubes in Jeffreys Bay. With a 12-day waiting period from July 8-20, the organisers will be able to choose the best waves and conditions for the four days of competition that showcases surfing’s elite performers.

The fourth event on the CT, the Fiji Pro, got underway at Cloudbreak earlier today. After five consecutive lay days, the mediocre 1.0 to 1.5 metre waves on offer led to a plethora of upsets with just four of the top 12 seeds winning their Round 1 heats and progressing directly to Round 3.

Reigning World Champion and defending event winner Gabriel Medina was the standout, producing both highest scoring ride of day, 9.23 out of 10, and the top heat total, 17.13 out of 20, as he led his ‘Brazilian Storm’ compatriots to victory in five of the 12 heats. Medina, 21, who is languishing in a lowly 19th place in the rankings after the opening four events of the season, was back to his lightening fast best and is the early favourite to repeat his 2014 win in Fiji.

Others to post heat wins and skip the cutthroat Round 2 elimination heats include three-time World Champion Mick Fanning and fellow Australians Kai Otton, Adrian Buchan and Taj Burrow; Brazilians Alejo Muniz, Wiggolly Dantas, Jadson Andre and Italo Ferreira; Sebastian Zietz and Keanu Asing from Hawaii and last year’s runner-up Nat Young from California.

Jordy Smith withdrew from the Fiji Pro due a leg injury sustained in the event in Rio de Janeiro in April, but hopes to be back in action in Ballito and Jeffreys Bay.

Wade Sharp, one of Durban’s favourite surfing sons from the 1990’s, made global headlines last weekend when he coached underdogs Costa Rica to victory at the ISA World Surfing Games in Nicaragua. Competing against teams from 25 nations, including powerhouses USA, Australia and Hawaii, Sharp expertly guided the surfers from the tiny Central American country to a fairy tale victory.

Ends

IOS – Bianca Buitendag flies the SA flag in Fiji

June 6th, 2015 No comments
Bianca Buitendag carves a cutback at Cloudbreak on her way to second place in the Fiji Women’s Pro  Photo: WSL / Kirstin

Bianca Buitendag carves a cutback at Cloudbreak on her way to second place in the Fiji Women’s Pro Photo: WSL / Kirstin

Surfing Column for Independent On Saturday – Saturday 6 June 2015

By Paul Botha

Bianca Buitendag kept the South African flag flying high at the Fiji Women’s Pro this week, carving her way into the final of the fifth stop on the Samsung Galaxy Women’s Championship Tour (CT) held in epic 3 to 3.5 metre waves at Cloudbreak.

The 21 year-old from Victoria Bay in the Southern Cape used her lanky 1.87 metre frame to great effect in the double overhead surf, powering her way to a series of nine-point rides in the quarter and semi-finals before clinching her second successive runner-up finish of the year and the third of her career.

Only a plucky Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) prevented Buitendag from posting what would have been a well deserved maiden CT victory. Despite having perforated her eardrum in Round 2, the Australian successfully defended the title she won in similar conditions last year with a watertight bandage covering her injury.

“It’s been an incredible day for women’s surfing and I’m very proud of Sally (Fitzgibbons),” Buitendag said on the podium. “She is a true warrior and deserves this win. Of course, I’m a little disappointed to not come out on top, but it was a great event for the WSL. We had excellent waves and all the girls stepped up. It was impressive to see and another runner-up finish puts me in a great position for the back half of the year.”

The Fiji result, combined with her second place in Rio de Janeiro last month and her fifth, ninth and 13th places on the Australian leg earlier in the year, has seen Buitendag jump three places to No. 6 on the Jeep Leaderboard at the halfway point of the 2015 season.

Jordy Smith is the latest injury withdrawal from the men’s Fiji Pro which starts on Sunday and runs until 19 June. Smith, who hurt his knee in Rio, joins a list that includes Brett Simpson (USA), who was injured at Huntington Beach; John John Florence (HAW), who rolled his ankle in Brazil and Michel Bourez (PYF) who was seriously hurt after an horrendous wipe-out at Teahupoo near his home in Tahiti.

The field for Fiji is headed by current rankings leader Adriano de Souza who holds a slender lead over fellow Brazilian Filipe Toledo, the winner of two of the four events this year. That pair are a substantial 5 000 points ahead of three-time world champion Mick Fanning (AUS) with compatriot Josh Kerr further 1 000 points behind and 2014 Fiji Pro runner-up Nat Young (USA) in fifth place.

Reigning world champ and defending event champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) has slumped to 19th on the Jeep Leaderboard after only posting one top eight finish this so far year and will be going all out to resurrect his challenge for a second world title at one of his favourite stops on tour.

All the action at the Fiji Pro can be followed via live webcast on www.worldsurfleague.com starting at approximately 10.30 each evening.

ENDS