Strong performances

The top ranked competitors justified their seeding in the Zigzag Durban Surf Pro pres. by G-Force with all but two out of 24 advancing to the next round of their respective events on the opening day the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) events at North Beach in Durban.

Classic conditions and small but contestable one metre waves prompted the organisers to get stop No. 4 of 13 in the WSL Africa Qualifying Series (QS) underway at 7 am. A total of 24 heats were completed starting with QS 1,000 Men’s and Women’s events and followed by the Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) Men’s and Women’s heats for surfers 18-and-under which closed out the day’s action.

KwaZulu-Natal locals reveled in their home surf with veteran campaigners Brandon Jackson (Durban North) and Dan Redman (uMdloti) both blasting their way through two rounds to reach the last 32 in the men’s event.

Rising star Bryce Burness (Berea) bagged a pair of seven point rides to post a heat total of 14.75, the highest of the day in the men’s event while Capetonians Luke Slijpen (Hout Bay), Ford van Jaarsveldt and Max Elkington (both Kommetjie) all racked up heat wins.

Defending women’s event winner Zoe McDougall (Hawaii) and Josefina Ane (Argentina), winner of the second series stop in Port Alfred in March, got their campaigns underway with comfortable victories. But it was Nicole Pallet (La Lucia), the highest ranked South African in the women’s field who delivered the highest heat total of the round with 12.50 out of a possible 20.

Only two junior men’s heats were run which saw Mitch du Preez (East London) and Karl Steen (Durban) top their Round 1 heats and advance to the last 16 alongside their respective heat runners-up in Daniel Orpen (Knysna) and Daniel Emslie (East London).

McDougall produced a stunning display of competitive surfing in her junior women’s heat, the last to be run on the day, posting a near-perfect score of 9.25 to go with an earlier excellent 8.75 for an superb heat tally of 18.0. The Hawaiian, who spends a significant amount of time in Jeffreys Bay with her partner Matt McGillivray, also earned scores of 7.75 and 6.50, which did not even factor into her two counting rides.

WSL Africa junior women’s rankings leader Kai Woolf (Jeffreys Bay) eased her way into the last eight with a comprehensive heat win and was joined by fellow heat winners Kirsty McGillivray (Jeffreys Bay), the current No. 2, and Kayla Nogueira (uMhlanga), the defending event winner.

Organisers will meet at North Beach at 7.00 am local time on Saturday to make a call on when to get the contest underway. The women’s and junior women’s event champions will be crowned on Saturday afternoon while the men’s and junior men’s winners will be determined on Sunday.

Live scoring, results, photos and video footage will be available on www.WorldSurfLeague.com  and on the WSL App, with highlights on the WSL QS Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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When worlds do not collide

Taking a petrolhead and putting him on Durban’s North Pier to watch surfing is putting him about as far outside of his comfort zone as it gets.

However, there I was at the weekend, watching intently as the contestants in the Volkswagen sponsored SA Open Nationals strutted their stuff – and thoroughly enjoying the spectacle.

Having spent more than 40 years wandering the country covering motor races, rallies and off-road races, I am somewhat familiar with passion, commitment and dedication – all the elements required to be successful in motor sport.

Equally, watching the expressions on the faces of the surfers it was not hard to see the same levels of passion, commitment and dedication as they worked their magic out on the water. It is a tough sport and these surfers are all athletes, body and mind tuned to be able pursue the perfect score.

It was a full weekend of surfing and a full – and probably very profitable – weekend for Durban with the baby Boks taking on (and beating) the French Barbarians at rugby on the Friday, the Springboks thrashing the French on the Saturday and an Iron Man marathon sharing the beachfront with the surfing on the Sunday.

In that latter event, both the cycle and run phases took competitors past the surfing on a couple of occasions and, from my vantage point on the pier, I watched the runners/cyclists – and not one of them ever glanced seaward at the surfing.

It was not as if they could not be aware something significant was happening out on the water – the surfing public address system was blaring out score updates and commentary all the time. It was simply they were not remotely interested.

Then, I started looking more closely and began to spot the rugby fans at restaurant tables at the many beachfront eateries – also not remotely interested in the surfing or the runners/cyclists and just sitting in their supporter jerseys rehashing the game over coffee, beers or whatever.

In one small orbit, three worlds that simply did not collide.

Perhaps a sad commentary on the world today!