Jeffreys Bay surfer Kai Woolf made the Volkswagen Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro presented by Billabong all her own at the weekend, winning both the women’s and junior women’s titles, while David van Zyl (Glenashley) won the men’s event and Dillon Hendricks, also from Jeffreys Bay, captured the junior men’s crown.
The first of 13 events on the 2018 World Surf League (WSL) Africa regional tour, the Volkswagen Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro featured Qualifying Series (QS) events for men and women alongside Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) events for men and women aged 18-and-under.
Woolf, 16, was unbeatable in the beach break conditions, winning every heat she contested in both events while racking up double digit heat scores with her impressive repertoire of high performance manoeuvres.
In the QS 1000 women’s event, the teenager defeated reigning WSL Africa champion Nicole Pallet (La Lucia) in the one-on-one final, catching two waves early in the final and delivering scores of 6,25 and 7,25 (each out of 10). A howling SW ‘wind that sprang up midway through the heat altered the lineup significantly and Pallet was left the near impossible task of finding an excellent 8,50 in the deteriorating conditions.
Earlier Woolf was equally dominating in the four-person JQS 1000 women’s final. She again posted her best scores early in the encounter to leave Sophie Bell (Salt Rock), the 2017 WSL Africa junior women’s champ, requiring a solid 7,0 when the siren sounded to end the heat. Anna Jellema-Butler (Cape Town) and Olivia Izzard (La Lucia) took third and fourth places respectively.
Van Zyl justified his top seeding for the QS 1500 men’s event in PE and was in a class of his own, averaging heat scores of 13,56 (out of 20) during his first event of the year. Ranked No. 67 on the QS at the end of 2017, and No. 2 on the WSL Africa leaderboard, van Zyl narrowly overcame Dylan Lightfoot (Jeffreys Bay) in their quarter-final duel and posted an outstanding 8,75 to pip Jordy Maree (Kalk Bay) in their semi clash.
In the final van Zyl opened his account against Adin Masencamp (Strand) with a well ridden 7.50 and surfed with power and flow to consistently add to his total in the testing conditions. He earned three scores in the six-point range before a 7,0 closed the door on his opponent hopes and saw van Zyl pocket the R40 000 winner’s cheque and 1 500 precious ranking points.
Masencamp, in his rookie season in the open ranks following a stellar junior career, had a confidence-boosting run in the event, but could not match van Zyl’s finesse in the final.
The 18-year-old from the Strand defeated Australian Ty Watson in the quarters and then 2017 Ballito Pro Trials winner Richard Kidd (Ballito) in the semis to set up his first man-on-man QS final in South Africa.
Hendricks, 17, came into the event seeded outside the top 10 but cut a path through his more fancied opponents to earn his first JQS title. He outpointed Daniel Emslie (East London) and Luke Slijpen (Hout Bay) to reach the final where he relegated multiple event winner Max Elkington (Kommetjie) to the runner-up spot by the narrowest of margins.
Both surfers scored heat totals of 13,50 out of 20, but Hendricks got the nod thanks to a highest single score of 7,75, which he earned on a mid break wave where he belted the lip multiple times. Elkington’s best of 7,50 was enough to see finish ahead of Koby Oberholzer (Warner Beach) and Bryce du Preez (East London) who had to settle for third and fourth places respectively.
The Volkswagen Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro, which is also the first of five events on the 2018 City Surf Series , enjoyed great conditions for Saturday and Sunday before experiencing four seasons in eight hours on the final day.
Alongside the red hot surfing action, Surfing South Africa, the national controlling body for the sport, ran activities coordinated by SSA Development Officer, Danielle Powis, designed to foster and encourage surfing among young people, regardless of their background. Other onsite activities included a kids’ ‘Trash to Treasure’ craft section, a group Clean-the-Beach activity and a plastic awareness talk.