ABOVE: Bianca Buitendag started her campaign to re-qualify for the WSL Championship Tour with a 25th place finish in Australia. Picture: WSL/Sproule/Iol News
CAPE TOWN – South African surfing is set for its biggest ever schedule of professional events after the recently published 2017 World Surfing League (WSL) calendar confirmed eight events along the country’s coastline and another three that are listed, but still to be confirmed.
Thanks to the sterling efforts of regional operations manager Colin Fitch and WSL Africa’s marketing agents Accelerate Sport, local and international surfers will be competing for a total of nearly R13 million in prize money and thousands of points on the regional and global rankings.
The season starts with the Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro from April 7 to 9, the first WSL rated event ever to be staged in Port Elizabeth. Comprising Qualifying Series (QS) 1000 rated events for men and women plus Junior QS 1000 rated events for boys and girls aged 18 and under, the three-day tournament offers a total prize-pool of R80000.
The Easter weekend (April 15 to17) sees pro surfing return to East London for the first time in a decade for the Buffalo City Surf Pro and the series continues with the Corona Durban City Surf Pro (April 21 to 23), both of which have the same format and prize-money as the PE event.
After a break during May, the second annual Vans Surf Pro Classic at Lamberts Bay on the West Coast will run from June 2 to 4 and has added a QS 1000 new women’s event to the men’s and junior boy’s events this year.
The tour moves back to KwaZulu-Natal for the inaugural Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing in Durban from June 14 to 18 where the men’s event carries a QS 3000 rating and a R1-million prize-pool alongside QS 1000 women’s and junior girl’s and boy’s events.
Competitors in all four categories will be logging up the air miles as they return to Big Bay in Bloubergstrand for the QS 1000 and JQS 1000 rated events in the Jordy Smith Cape Town Surf Pro under the looming presence of Table Mountain from June 23 to 25.
Then it’s back to the mid-winter warmth of KZN for the Ballito Pro where the women’s event runs June 30 to July 2 and the R3.3 million, QS 10000 rated men’s event will feature 100 of the world’s best surfers from July 3 to 9.
All of the world’s top 34 ranked surfers will be in action at Jeffreys Bay from July 12 to 23 in the newly named Corona Open J-Bay, the sixth of 11 stops on the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour, where they are competing for a share of R7.5-million and ranking points that count towards the 2017 world surfing title.
The final confirmed event on the 2017 WSL Africa season is the Anfa Place Casablanca Pro in Morocco from September 12 to 17 which is co-sanctioned by WSL Africa and WSL Europe and offers QS 1500 rated events for men and women.
Meanwhile, the pro junior surfers can look forward to another three possible events in Cape Town, Ballito and Cape St Francis if the negotiations currently underway are successful.
It’s a great time to be a competitive surfer in South Africa and all budding surf champions will be waxing up for the best local contest season since pro surfing was introduced at the Gunston 500 in Durban in 1969.