The ASP Prime Mr Price Pro Ballito is set to go down in history, as Surfers Beach once again delivered flawless two-point-five-meter (8ft) barrels that had surfers calling some of the best waves ever surfed in, or out of competition.
Two rounds of 12 (non-elimination and elimination) were completed with the winners of the non- elimination round advancing directly into the quarterfinals, while the remaining eight surfers battled through the repo charge rounds for four remaining spots in this year’s competition.
Defending champion and current ASP World No. 5 Jordy Smith (Durban) showed exactly why he is a world title contender. Dusting off an old 6’4 ‘gun’ (big wave surfboard) that his dad brought down for him the day before, Smith rode two of the heaviest barrels of the day, advancing into the quarterfinals in first place.
“I knew that one wave was a pretty heavy wave and I thought either I’ll get a massive score or I’ll get a massive beat down and as it turned out I got both,” Smith said.
Smith posted the highest individual wave of the day, a 9.80 (out of ten) for a throaty, set wave barrel, bursting through the suicidal closeout section to advance in first place ahead of Kieren Perrow (AUS) and Shaun Joubert (RSA).
“We weren’t really battling each other out there, we were battling the ocean trying to find those perfect waves,” Smith said. “It is definitely difficult but when you get a good one, it is worth it. I’m stoked to advance straight into the quarterfinals but I wouldn’t have minded getting a few more 9.8’s either.”
Pipeline specialist John John Florence (HAW) was right at home in the double-overhead surf, armed with one of his tried and tested ‘Pipe’ quiver, the 18-year-old netted the day’s highest heat total of 18.43 (out of 20.00) to earn his place into the quarterfinals.
“It’s a lot like the barrels at Backdoor (right hand waves at Pipeline), it’s big and round and maybe a little bit faster and longer,” Florence said. “I came here a few years ago and it got pretty big so I brought my Pipe boards and I’m happy I did.”
Air-dropping into an enormous barrel, disappearing for several seconds, Florence emerged cleanly to post a 9.50 (out of ten) taking the win over Kai Otton (AUS) and Jano Belo (BRA).
“I was paddling back out when I saw that wave standup and I just air dropped straight into it, the waves are amazing and I cant wait to get back out there.”
ASP World No. 27 Patrick Gudauskas (USA) looked perfectly in-tune with his equipment posting a faultless performance against proven big wave surfer Kieren Perrow (AUS).
“These waves are just unbelievable, it’s one of the most enjoyable events I’ve surfed in so I’m frothing,” Gudauskas said. “I knew this wave had some juice and I’m riding a step-up designed for a more hollow, powerful wave so I’m lucky I packed it.”
Landing a critically late air-drop, Gudauskas slotted stylishly into an expansive cavern to top Perrow’s 9.27 with a 9.40 (both out of ten) and advanced into the quarterfinals where he will take on Brazil’s Junior Faria when the competition resumes.
“Kieren is one of my favourite barrel riders and when I saw his nine-point ride I was stressing,” Gudauskas said. “I knew I needed a good one and luckily I stuck that drop, the wave stood up and I came flying out.”
Junior Faria (BRA) found his feet in some of the toughest conditions of the morning, tucking into a rare double barrel opener for a 9.33, to advance into the quarterfinals ahead of Gudauskas and Jesse Mendes (BRA).
“It’s really heavy, you cant just choose any wave to get scores because you’re going to take a long time to come back, even with the skis,” Faria said. “It’s a matter of finding one good wave in thirty minutes.”
Heath Joske (AUS) completed a dream heat, riding another of the day’s standout barrels to advance with a near-perfect 9.23 ahead of Wilson (AUS) and Blake Thornton (AUS).
“The waves are absolutely pumping,” Joske said. “These are waves surfers dream of surfing! You cant ask for better conditions, its amazing.”
ASP World No. 30 Julian Wilson (AUS) could hardly contain his excitement when he laid eyes upon the ocean this morning. Holding nothing back Wilson made his way through repo charge round defeating Jano Belo (BRA) for a spot in the quarterfinals.
“I came over with 12 boards because I’m here for three weeks and I didn’t want to run out, “ Wilson said. “I think that’s why I was so excited this morning because I had the right equipment. The waves were phenomenal! I saw some of the best waves of my life this morning, I saw one that was like 8ft Kirra (Australia) so I’m so stoked I came to this event.”
Fresh off a victory in Portugal, Wilson’s new found form could see the ASP World Tour rookie prove unstoppable in Ballito tomorrow.
“I had a tough start to the year and things just feel like they are clicking together now,” Wilson said. “I’ve been putting in the hard work and trying to figure out what works and it feels like I’ve found my groove. It’s awesome confidence to take to JBay.”
Also advancing into the quarterfinals were Jesse Mendes who advanced ahead of Shaun Joubert (AUS) and Blake Thornton (AUS) who took down Kai Otton (AUS).
With another great day of surf expected tomorrow, organisers are hoping to crown the 2011 Mr Price Pro Ballito Champion by midday. The action will get underway at 08H00 and will see a Legends Exhibition featuring South African surfing icons such as Shaun Tomson, Gavin Rudolph, Jonathan Paarman and others paddle out before the final. The call will be made at 07h30.
Photo: John John Florence (HAW) bringing his considerable Backdoor experience to the Mr Price Pro Ballito.