Hawaii’s Bettylou Sakura Johnson won the O’Neill SMTH Shapes Ballito Pro Junior QS 1,000, the second stop on the 2022 World Surf League (WSL) Africa Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) in two-to-three foot surf at Willard Beach on Saturday, 2 July.
As one of the lead-up events ahead of the Ballito Pro presented by O’Neill Challenger Series (CS), this JQS1,000 competition featured a fantastic international field for the first time since 2019.
The final saw Sakura Johnson and Sophia Medina (BRA) making their presence known in Ballito, despite it being their first time in South Africa. Using this event as a warm-up ahead of the Ballito Pro presented by O’Neill Challenger Series, they got to experience all the different moods of the Ballito beach break.
Medina stayed busy in the tricky onshore conditions, moving across the lineup to hunt down waves and build her score to keep the pressure on Sakura Johnson. Relying on her experience as a Championship Tour rookie, Sakura Johnson stayed patient until she found the best wave of the heat, using her powerful backhand for a two-turn combination to get a 7.50 (out of a possible 10). She jumped into the lead and shut down the heat with an excellent 8.50 in the last minute to defeat Medina with a total of 16.00 (out of a possible 20).
“The conditions change quite often, but it’s really just being prepared,” said Sakura Johnson.
“I’m very stoked to take the win and to keep this momentum going into the Challenger Series. When your opponent is staying busy and catching lots of waves it could change your mind, but if they’re not putting down bigger scores you know what you need to do to give yourself those opportunities. Luckily those waves came and I was able to do that. I’m feeling good, this event was really just to get more time out there with less people so I’m super stoked to get the rhythm going,” she added.
South Africans Stumble in Semi-Finals
Medina dominated the first semi-final in the women’s competition against defending event winner Zoë Steyn (RSA), who struggled to find a decent scoring opportunity. The low tide made for some tricky conditions, but Medina hunted down waves to keep building her scores. Steyn looked like she could pull off another buzzer-beater, but this time she ran out of luck.
Sakura Johnson eliminated Laura Raupp (BRA) in the second semi-final with an impressive display of surfing. Raupp started off with a good opening score, but once Sakura Johnson found her rhythm, Raupp couldn’t catch up.
O’Neill SMTH Shapes Ballito Pro Junior Women’s Semi-Final Results:
HEAT 1: Sophia Medina (BRA) 12.00 DEF. Zoë Steyn (ZAF) 7.17
HEAT 2: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 14.50 DEF. Laura Raupp (BRA) 8.36
O’Neill SMTH Shapes Ballito Pro Junior Women’s Final Results:
HEAT 1: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 16.00 DEF. Sophia Medina (BRA) 8.93
Photo 1 Caption: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) during the final of the women’s O’Neill SMTH Shapes Pro Junior in Ballito. Photo: WSL/Pierre Tostee
With editing by gsport