The top seeds dominated the opening round of the Billabong Junior Series pres. by All Aboard Travel at Willard Beach in Ballito on Tuesday, racking up great scores in the punchy, early morning beach break conditions.
But the contenders fought back as the onshore wind and an incoming tide brought an element of luck to wave selection which resulted in several top seeds being eliminated early on from the JQS1,000 men's and women's events.
WSL Africa junior men's rankings leader Jake Elkington maintained his challenge for a fourth title this year by winning both his encounters, combining excellent manoeuvres with savvy wave choices to advance to the last eight and another keeper result in the chase for the coveted Billabong Junior Series U18 men's title.
Defending event champion Adin Masencamp is also through to the Semifinals after back-to-back heat wins. The current rankings No. 2 will come up against Brazilian whiz-kid Samuel Pupo who was the day's standout performer.
Hailing from Maresias, a beach town between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro that is not unlike Ballito, Pupo displayed all his aerial skills in his opening clash, flying high above the lip to record scores of 8.33 and 9.33 for a heat total of 17,66 out of 20, the highest of the day.
Defending junior women's champ Zoe McDougall was on fire in her first heat, seamlessly linking powerful turns together as she charged to the highest scores of the JQS1,000 women's event. McDougall then had to dig deep to hang on to second place in Round Two, finishing behind local standout Sophie Bell who made full use of her knowledge to grab the heat win in the tricky afternoon conditions.
Emerging Durban talent S'Nenhlanhla Makubu grabbed the runner-up spot behind McDougall in Round One and then delivered a heat-winning performance in Round 2 to book a spot in the last eight.
The 20th edition of the Billabong Junior Series pres. by All Aboard travel is the opening event in the Ballito Pro Surf Festival that runs until 9 July and includes the SSA Ballito Trials pres. by Billabong, the QS1,000 Ballito Pro, pres. by Billabong and the QS10,000 Ballito ProBallito Pro pres. by Billabong.
The Billabong Junior Series is supported by All Aboard Travel, BOS, VonZipper and Zigzag.