Thompson & Harrison take Ballito Pro Junior titles

Luke Thompson (Durban) and Piper Harrison (AUS) won the men’s and women’s titles in the inaugural Ballito O’Neill SMTH Shapes Pro Junior at Willard Beach in Ballito on Saturday.

In completely different ocean conditions at Willard Beach, with a cross-shore wind grooming the 1.3 metre waves for fun, high-performance surfing in the World Surf League (WSL) Africa Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) 1,000 rated events

The final saw the top three men on the regional rankings, Luke Slijpen (Llandudno), Thompson (Durban) and Eli Beukes (Kommetjie), fighting it out for top honours with Japan’s Joh Azuchi.

It was a red-hot encounter with Thompson and Beukes showing their intent right from the start. Thompson found an absolute gem of a wave that allowed him to fit in three critical turns before finishing right in front of the rocks. His commitment was rewarded with 7,25 out of 10 by the judges and with a 5.00 as his second counting ride he posting a title-winning 12.25 heat total.

Beukes tried to improve his scores right up until the last second, but it wasn’t enough, while Slijpen and Azuchi finished in third and fourth places respectively.

“I’m so happy. I’ve made almost every final this year and I just wanted to win one so badly,” said Thompson. “I felt really good before this contest started. The waves are super fun and I waited on the wider peak, where I got one under priority, and that was my best score.

Australia’s Piper Harrison is on a roll in South Africa, and won her third consecutive JQS 1,000 title after being in control for most of the Women’s Junior final.

“The conditions were really tough, the toughest that I’ve surfed in South Africa,” said Harrison. “The girls were ripping, it was so awesome. I think I put myself in the right place at the right time and I got lucky with a few, so I’m super stoked.”

Defending event winner, Zoë Steyn (East London), had to work hard to catch up to the heat leader. With a few seconds to go, Steyn squeezed in two quick manoeuvres for a 4.90, but it wasn’t enough and she had to settle for second place with Rachel Presti (GER) third and Pacha Luque-Light (AUS) in fourth.

“The waves were good and I got quite a nice first wave, but I just didn’t manage to back it up. Hopefully I can win the next few JQS events so I can defend the WSL Africa title,” said Steyn.

With Thompson now in the number one spot on the WSL Africa Junior men’s rankings, Beukes said the race for the top spot has been fun.

“We push each other a lot, staying together at events and we’re actually super close friends. We are all trying to build up to go to the WSL Junior Championships at the end of the year,” said Beukes.

The first men’s semi final was a display of power-surfing with Azuchi starting the heat with an excellent eight-point ride on one of the bigger set waves. Slijpen quickly banked his top two scores of 6.75 and 6.35 to take the heat win with 13.10. Azuchi could only get a backup score of 2.50 but it was enough to advance to the finals ahead of Max Elkington (Kommetjie) and Mitch du Preez (East London).

The second semi final was stacked with Beukes, Thompson and fellow Durbanites Tide-Lee Ireland and Karl Steen. Beukes kept busy and bagged two mid-range scores for a total of 10.30. It was a close battle for second place between Thompson and Ireland, but the eventual winner hung on and advanced to the final.

Steyn was surfing circles around her opponents in the first women’s semi. The goofy-footer unleashed her backhand attack on the bigger set waves to put her opponents in a combination situation and needing to replace both their scores to overtake her. Harrison finished second as the pair eliminated Aimee du Preez (East London) and S’Nenhlanhla Makhubu (Durban).

In the second semi final, Presti, who has been in South Africa for almost a month competing on the WSL Africa Tour, advanced to the final with Luque-Light, who spent time here last year and knows the Ballito break well. Ending in third and fourth place respectively, were Brazil’s Anne dos Santos and local ripper Kayla Nogueira (Durban).

Men’s Results:

  1. Luke Thompson (Durban) 12.25
  2. Eli Beukes (Kommetjie) 11.60
  3. Luke Slijpen (Hout Bay) 9.50
  4. Joh Azuchi (JPN) 6.50

Women’s Results

  1. Piper Harrison (AUS) 10.65
  2. Zoe Steyn (East London) 10.15
  3. Rachel Presti (GER) 8.90
  4. Pacha Luque-Light (AUS) 5.35