Rio Waida from Indonesia and Zoe Steyn from East London took the premier Pro Junior titles at the Billabong Junior Series presented by BOS which was completed in bumpy but contestable one-to-1.3 metre waves at Willard Beach in Ballito on Sunday.
The first of two events in the 21st year of the world's longest-running series of events for surfers aged 18-and-under, the Ballito Junior Series features World Surf League (WSL) Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) 1,000 rated events for men and women, alongside SSA sanctioned events for Under-12, U14 and U16 boys and girls.
Waida made the most of the shifty, onshore conditions at Willard Beach to defeat local favorite and event top seed, Luke Slijpen (Llandudno) in the final of the event that kicked off the 10-day Ballito Pro Surf Festival. The Indonesian flowed effortlessly from section to section, surfing with visibly more speed than most of his competitors and posted an early 6.00 to take the lead and put the pressure on Slijpen.
Slijpen, who claimed his second JQS men's title of the season in Port Elizabeth earlier in the week, kept busy hunting for good waves but was unable to post anything better than average range scores (4.0-5.9 points out of 10).
With 10 minutes remaining, Waida put the final nail in the coffin by dropping an excellent score of 9.25, the highest single wave score of the entire event, to leave Slijpen needing a perfect 10 to take the lead. And the situation stayed that way until the buzzer sounded to end the heat.
'I was thinking stay busy for the first five minutes and then I got a 6.0 on my first ride, which I thought was pretty good in these conditions, so I decided I could start waiting for good ones,' Waida explained.
'I was lucky, the sets kept coming to me, and then I got that nine points and after that I could just relax. This win is a great result for me, I've finished second in a QS1,500 before, but now I'm just looking forward to competing in the QS10,000 this week.'
Slijpen extended his lead at the top of the WSL Africa Junior Men's rankings and with just one event left on the 2018 schedule, he is the champion elect and a shoo-in for the four-man regional squad to represent WSL Africa at the World Junior Surfing Championship in Australia in January.
South Africa's Steyn took the JQS women's title in emphatic fashion, beating Kirsty McGillivray from Jeffreys Bay in the tricky onshore conditions that saw the two stay busy, each catching plenty of low-scoring waves. Steyn eventually found some rhythm towards the end of the heat and the East Londoner's last two rides, a 4.75 and a 5.60, were the two that counted.
'It's been my goal for a while to win a Pro Junior event so I'm really excited,' said Steyn. 'It's helped with my selection for the team to go the World Juniors in January, which was my ambition for this year, so that's great. I'm just going to keep on trying to get the best results I can for the rest of the year, and I really want to defend my title at the SA Champs in September.'
Steyn was in devastating form throughout the event, winning every heat she contested and posting the highest score of the women's division, a 9.0, in her semi-final defeat of Kayla Nogueira (uMhlanga).
She consolidated her No2 ranking behind runaway leader Kai Woolf (Jeffreys Bay) who did not enter the Ballito event while also moving ahead of her closest rival, Sophie Bell (Salt Rock) who was eliminated by McGillivray in the semi-finals.
The Billabong Junior Series presented by BOS is the opening event in the Ballito Pro Surf Festival that runs until Sunday 1 July at Willard Beach and the surrounding area. The crown jewel in the festival, the Ballito Pro pres, by Billabong, is a R3.2 million, QS10,000 event that features 112 of the world's best surfers and starts on Monday 25 June.