Jordy Smith won the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong in front of a packed beach of partisan spectators, defeating powerful Brazilian Willian Cardoso in a pulsating final to add the 2017 event title to his previous victory in 2010.
The South African overcame a stomach bug that almost derailed his charge to reach the final of the first World Surf League event of the year, where he used his trademark repertoire of aerial manoeuvres to post an impressive heat total of 18,06, including near perfect 9,73.
“I had a bit of a slow start, but I ended up sticking that first air and from there I was actually enjoying my surf and just taking my time as the waves came through,” Smith said.
“Eventually, I got that one wave with a nice section and got one of the biggest ramps all week, I just went for it and I landed it. I’m really happy with my performance and, hopefully, I can take this momentum to J-Bay,” Smith noted.
His haul of 10 000 points sees Smith jump straight into fifth position on the QS rankings, along with a massive boost of confidence as he heads to Jeffreys Bay (for stop number six out of 11 on the WSL Championship Tour) starting on Wednesday where he is a former two-time event winner.
While he was disappointed not to claim the win, Cardoso was happy with his runner-up finish, which bumped him up into number two on the QS rankings heading into the second half of the year.
“I knew with Jordy it was going to be crazy in that heat and I tried to find the really good waves, but I just found one. I’m just super stoked to be in the final. It’s been about two years since I was in a final, so it’s really good to be in that position again,” Cardoso said.
Crowd favourite Michael February had an incredible run through the event, posting his career-best result on his way to third place after suffering a narrow loss to Smith in their all-South African semi-final encounter. The Capetonian matched Smith ride-for-ride in the early stages, before the heat burst into life in the last five minutes with a flurry of rides that saw Smith nail down his berth in the final with back-to back excellent rides that February could not equal as time ran out.
“When you surf against Jordy you’ve got to be at your best, he’s so good, and it was pretty cool to watch him from the water. It’s awesome to surf against him because he is such an amazing surfer and to have a heat against him at this stage of the contest is really good for me. At the end of the contest you’re always going to surf against the best in the world, and Jordy is definitely one of them,” February said. His third-place finish saw February leapfrog from 21st to number four on the QS rankings.
“Secretly I was a little bummed for Mikey February. I would have liked to be in the finals with him but that’s just the way our sport goes. I just wish him all the best. I really hope he brings it and joins me on the tour next year. He’s got the ability and the confidence to go all the way,” Smith commented.
Full results, video footage, photos and news from the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong can be found at www.worldsurfleague.com.