The most exciting and lucrative series of professional surfing events ever staged in South Africa will be launched in Port Elizabeth today when the Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro, presented by Billabong, hosts a huge field of local and international competitors at The Pipe on Pollok Beach.
Comprising World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) rated events for men and women, plus Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) events for men and women aged 18 and under, the Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro offers a total prize pool of R80 000 plus points counting towards international and regional rankings lists.
The historic event has notched up a slew of landmarks including being the first professional surfing contest to be staged in the city, the first of four JQS events in the 20th annual Billabong Junior Series and the first event counting towards the crowning of this year’s WSL Africa regional champions in September.
The QS1 000 rated men’s event features a 64-man field including the cream of South Africa’s surfers.
The top seed is Michael February (Kommetjie), the country’s highest QS ranked surfer at No 65, followed by last year’s WSL Africa champion Beyrick de Vries (Umhlanga) Dylan Lightfoot (Jeffreys Bay) and Braden Jones (US).
The men will be battling for a share of the R30 000 on offer, with the winner pocketing R10 000 and 1 000 precious ranking points on the 659-man WSL QS leaderboard.
The QS1 000 women’s seeding is headed by Nicole Pallet (La Lucia), Emma Smith (Jeffreys Bay), Teal Hogg (Umhlanga) and Fay Zoetmulder (Cape St Francis) with Tayla Hanak (AUS), the only international among the 24 competitors.
Reigning WSL Africa Junior champion Adin Masencamp (Strand), Sebastian Williams (Durban) and Kommetjie residents Jake Elkington and Ford van Jaarsveldt are the top four in the JQS1 000 junior men’s event, while the JQS1 000 women’s field is headed by Sophie Bell (Salt Rock), Kirsty McGillivray (Jeffreys Bay), Taghiti Gericke (Mossel Bay) and Olivia Izzard (Umhlanga).
The rankings points accumulated in the JQS events determine the top four men and top two women who will represent WSL Africa at the annual WSL World Junior Championships in Australia in January.
The three-day event starts with two rounds of men’s competition today, followed by the earlier rounds of the women’s and junior events on Saturday and concludes with the champions being crowned on Sunday.
Outreach programmes designed to foster and encourage newcomers to surfing will be run during the event by Surfing South Africa, the national controlling body for the sport.