The elite field of competitors reveled in the glassy 1-meter, well-shaped waves at Bathers Beach in KwaDukuza on the opening day of the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong, as they posted several scores in the excellent range (8.00 or above).
The third of nine QS 10,000-rated events on the 2015 World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS), the Ballito Pro offers the highest available rankings points towards qualification for the elite WSL Championship Tour (CT) in 2016.
After checking the conditions at 7 a.m., organizers opted to move the event from the main venue at Surfer's Beach to Bathers Beach, 300 meters south, where the waves offered the competitors higher potential to produce the spectacular surfing they are capable of.
Brent Dorrington (AUS) claimed the highest heat tally of the day -- a 16.60 -- to win Heat 8 and progress to Round 2 along with second placed Tomas Fernandes (PRT). The pair caused a major upset by eliminating local favorite and current World No. 18 Jordy Smith (ZAF) in the process.
"It's been super small and just winning the heat against Jordy, I was stoked," Dorrington said. "It was a bit of a seesaw heat, the lead kept changing and the guy from Portugal (Fernandes) was getting bombs. I went into second and needed a big score. Then I got my 8.90 towards the end and there wasn't many waves after that."
Smith, competing for first time since recovering from a serious knee injury, was hoping for a long run in the event he won in 2010. The Durbanite will now hope that more practice will prepare him for the next CT event at nearby Jeffreys Bay beginning July 8.
The South African was joined on the sidelines by last year's winner Tim Reyes (USA), who bowed out in the first heat of the day, and Tanner Gudauskas (USA), the 2009 winner who, despite earning the highest single score of the day, a 9.10, could not find a high-scoring backup.
A standout on Day 1 was Alejo Muniz (BRA), a former Top 34 ranked surfer, who made excellent use of his pre-event practice sessions to record rides of 9.00 and 7.50.
"You know it was funny because I've been surfing that little right for the past five days," Muniz said. "We never had a heat over there but it just looked so much better than in front of the contest and today I had to surf my heat over there, so I felt like I knew where to surf more than the other guys."
"I was on the CT for four years and I really want to come back because I feel like I can do better," he continued. "Every Prime (QS 10,000) event is really important but for some reason here in Ballito is really special."
Organizers will convene at 7 a.m. local time on Tuesday morning to make the call on when to restart the event. When the contest resumes, Michael February, South Africa's highest-ranked QS surfer, will be up against experienced CT campaigner Adrian Buchan (AUS), Maxime Huscenot (FRA) and Ezekiel Lau (HAW) in Heat 10.
All the action at the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong can be watched LIVE on worldsurfleague.com and theballitopro.com.