Fast, small-wave surfing, airs and rotations, tricks and fins-frees have been winning the heats so far for the first few days of small Ballito. On Day 4 there were some solid barrels at first light. Experienced surfers like Jack Freestone went immediately for barrel time, knowing that critical tube rides are always going to score highly.
That strategy netted Freestone the first win of the day. The CT rookie was getting slotted across the bank at Surfers. And in the very next heat South Africa's Matt McGillivray found a high-scoring barrel to also win through.
"I woke up this morning and saw that the waves were pumping," said McGillivray after his heat win. "I was so stoked because it had been pretty small all week. I sat and watched the first heat and watched where the guys were sitting."
Matt, a Qualifying Series (QS) surfer, knows the true value of a 10,000 event. "Being a prime event there are just so many points on offer for every round you make," he said. "The support I have been receiving has also been great, with so many people wishing me luck."
The day had its share of weirdness, too. In an afternoon heat, Dusty Payne was surfing solidly and powerfully, but was left hurting for another score as the clock ticked down. A wave arrived, Dusty paddled, he caught it, and his hands left the rail a split second before the siren. All good.
Nate Yeomans, holding priority over Payne, paddled and dropped in on him, assuming that he still had priority.
However, Nate took off that split second on the other side of the siren, and all priority had therefore been negated. Dusty, up and riding before the siren, won priority. Nate was up after the siren, got scored an interference, and lost one of his top scoring waves. Dusty, in second place score-wise, dodged a bullet while Nate, in fourth, got dealt one by the WSL rulebook.
Before there was time to digest the call, the next heat was already going. Charly Martin from Guadeloupe refused to acknowledge the priority of David do Carmo of Brazil, and tried to bully his way into a bomb. It was a very poor decision on Martin's behalf, and a clear interference to all. Guadeloupe to Ballito is a long way to travel to pugnaciously lose against a basic rule of priority.
With loads of heats to get through, Commissioner Travis Logie decided to keep pushing through the fresh afternoon onshore. Good scores were still coming through, so it was justifiable.
Ryan Callinan continued his streak in Round Three, powering through his heat with his backhand attack. "My year hasn't gone to plan on the CT so far," he said. "It's so good to make some heats and gain some confidence before J-Bay.
By the time Jordy paddled out, the waves were lumpy and chunky, ribbed up by the onshore. Jordy started off by going straight to the air, and it looked like he was in it to entertain the spectators. As was the diminutive American, Noah Schweizer, who also stayed active and punted into the wind at every chance.
At the end of the heat, however, it was Joan Duru from France who put on a blue-collar approach after a very late start, stringing together a number of solid, clinical backhand combinations to impress the judges enough. Nothing outrageous, no big risks, to advance in second place behind Jordy.
On paper there was no more daunting match than Heat 9 of Round Three, featuring Stu Kennedy, Yadin Nicol, Jack Freestone and the in-form Matt McGillivray from J-Bay. Everyone took to the air, with two-times world junior champ Freestone going to the air the most, and Kennedy just behind him. Nicol and McGillivray were sent home to eat some pie for supper.
Speaking of which…
Hook in tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. for Day 5 of the Ballito Pro 2016 presented by Billabong.