Team captain Llewellyn Whittaker posted the highest heat tally in the open men’s division to lead the South African charge on the opening day of the World Surfing Games in Playa Venao, Panama on Sunday.
All eight SA team members finished either first or second in their respective opening encounters, advancing to the second round of the qualifying stream in the double-elimination format.
Whittaker registered scores of 7.17 and 8.67, both out of 10, for a heat total of 15.84 out of 20, leaving his three opponents, including Venezuelan Magnum Martinez, needing to improve on both their counting rides to overtake him.
“Our team arrived five days before the contest, and we had a lot of time to practice on these waves,” said Whittaker.
“We are feeling very comfortable surfing here in Playa Venao.
“The level of competition is extremely high and you have the best surfers from every country at this event.”
Former World Tour campaigner Nikita Robb posted the second highest heat tally of 14.67 in the open women’s division to win her match-up and progress to round two.
Tanika Hoffman was less than a point behind the winner of her heat, Dominic Barona from Ecuador, and over four points ahead of the third-placed competitor.
The SA team’s two longboard surfers, two-time world champion Matthew Moir and fellow competitor Justin Bing, both racked up comprehensive round-one victories.
Moir’s 15.06 point total was second only to the 15.66 awarded to Australian Tony Silvagni in the longboard division heats. — Sapa