IDEAL waves and the first – and hopefully not the last – perfect 10 made for an exciting start to the Billabong Pro in Jeffreys Bay yesterday. Australian surfer Nathan Hedge scored the 10 and bagged 19.27 points, as competitors battled it out on 1.2m to 1.8m waves.
Surfers are allowed to catch 10 waves in each heat. Rides are each scored out of 10, with a score of 10 indicating a flawless ride by the surfer. Hedge’s total score of 19.27 came from his best two rides for that heat, a 10 and a 9.27.
"I believe I have the experience, as I have surfed this wave for many years, and have beaten Kelly [Slater] on it before. The reality of scoring the first perfect 10 wave is still hitting me. I am doing this to make myself, my family and my country proud,” Hedge said.
Judge Richard Porter, of Australia, said the weather had played along and the "guys [were] surfing fantastically”.
"It can be a tricky break, and that’s where local and frequent competitors benefit. They are able to read the waves, know the places that require speed and those that allow for barrels. The locals are putting up [tough] competition which is something that is great to see.
"The weather looks like it is going to hold out. Assuming this, we are hoping to have the competition done by Saturday,” he said.
South African Weather Service officials, however, were not as optimistic as Porter and predicted that a front from the west would bring heavy rainfall over the province tomorrow.
"In a nutshell, it’s going to be a cold, wet weekend, right from Thursday night through to Sunday. Maximum temperatures should be around 11°C,” Port Elizabeth Weather Office spokesman Garth Sampson said.
Disappointment came from the Mark Occhilupo camp, following an announcement that he would not be surfing in the Billabong Pro this year. Similarly, friends and fans of Royden Byson had their hopes dashed when the local surfer broke his leg on Monday afternoon.
South African Greg Emslie said it felt terrible to lose his heat. "But I do believe that this wave should be reserved for the top 10 surfers and we only have one of those 10 performing this year. There is no doubt that this is still a champion event, and time proves that it is still a tricky right-hand break.”
South African Sean Holmes garnered a significant amount of attention, dominating his heat with a 14.27 score.
Dylan Lightfoot, another South African, was unlucky in his opening heat, placing third with a score of 8.67.