What: Mr. Price Pro, ASP 5 Star WQS Womens Event #7
Where: North Beach Durban South Africa
When: 29 June – 26 July 2008
ASP World Qualifying Series ratings leader Sally Fitzgibbons, 17, (Australia) proved her surfing supremacy extends far beyond Australian shores, obliterating the competition on the first day of the 5-Star ASP WQS Mr Price Pro at Durban’s New Pier yesterday.
Fitzgibbons, who has won two of the six WQS events this year and qualified for the 2009 ASP Women’s World Tour sixth months prematurely, posted a sensational 9.10 ride (out of a possible ten), the highest individual wave score of both the men’s and women’s rounds combined.
Opening with two excellent 8.33 and 7.00 rides, Fitzgibbons went to town on a clean right-hander, performing a series of smooth carves, three consecutive tail releasing re-entries and a radical off the top, for a near perfect score.
Fitzgibbons left her rivals needing a combination of scores, advancing ahead of Sarah Baum (Warner Beach), the pair eliminating top South African hopefuls Tammy Lee Smith (Ballito) and Tarryn Chudleigh (Kommetjie).
“It was a little challenging on the high tide, but I managed to get my two scores so I’m happy!” Fitzgibbons said. “I’m really stoked to have qualified already this year. It is a big pressure off my shoulders and for the rest of the year I can feel freer and just go a lot harder and have more fun out there.”
Mr Price Pro Junior Champion and women’s wildcard Bianca Buitendag, 14, (Victoria Bay) found her form against the event’s top seed and World No. 11 Silvana Lima (Bra). Buitendag defeated Lima who placed second with Claudia Goncalves (Bra) and Marina Werneck (Bra) finishing in third and fourth.
Competing in her first ever WQS event, Buitendag out-positioned her more accomplished rivals, picking off the better of the set waves to advance in first with a combination of good scoring rides. “Is she (Silvana Lima) the top seed? Oh, I never even knew,” Buitendag admitted. “She’s actually on the cover of my maths book at school, doing this huge air!”
With a sensational win in the Pro Juniors on Saturday, Buitendag looks poised for further upsets at this event. “I’ve had a very good warm up so far with the junior contest, so I just want to stay focussed throughout the whole event,” Buitendag continued. “My Junior win influenced me a lot in this heat because I have been surfing New Pier a lot and I know what the waves are doing.”
Other South African women to survive the challenging round of 48 included heat winners Heidi Palmboom (Bluff) and Stacey Guy (Cape Town), while ASP World Masters Champion and former ASP World Tour competitor Heather Clark (Port Shepstone) and WQS No. 11 Rosy Hodge (EL) narrowly slipped through in second places.
“I was very nervous out there today because last year I didn’t surf – I had a knee injury – and then I didn’t do the ’QS so I didn’t have any points anywhere, on any board,” Clark said. “I had to start in the round of 50 which is always nerve-wracking but at the same time it’s exciting to be back out there again.”
The international contingent held their own in the Durban surf, with Hawaii’s Alana Blanchard taking her first ever heat win in Durban over Pauline Ado (Fra), Sarah Beardmore (Aus) and Tanika Hoffman (Kommetjie) while ASP World No. 9 Jessi Miley-Dyer (Aus) defeated Rebecca Oakley (Aus), Jessica Hickson (Aus) and Faye Zoetmulder (Port Elizabeth). Seasoned WQS campaigner Leilani Gryde (Haw), 14th on the WQS, showed her familiarity with the Durban break defeating WQS No. 7 Bruna Schmitz (Bra), Erina Taniguchi (Jpn) and Bronwyn Coote (Dbn).