The Epic Evolution of Gunston 500 to The Ballito Pro
Ballito will once again welcome the world’s longest running professional surf competition to its shores on 28 June 2015. From it’s earliest days as the Gunston 500, to it’s evolution to the Mr Price Pro and now officially the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong, this international sport surfing event is set to be EPIC in it’s 47th year!
The atmosphere in the crowded conference room at La Montagne Hotel was warmly welcoming and expectant. The official launch of the Ballito Pro 2015 included approximately 150 guests, media representatives and key personnel behind the event which has annually rocked Ballito (and the world!) for six years, now in it’s 7th year of successful application in Ballito.
Having evolved from it’s earliest days as the Gunston 500 on Durban’s North Beach which drew local surfers and invited internationals to compete for a prize purse of a massive R 500 (second prize was a motorbike to give an indication of the value of R 500!) the Ballito Pro is now a global phenomenon which attracts the world’s top surfers in a fierce competition of skill for the elite men and women on the World Championship Tour. The prize purse of $250 000 (approximately R 3 Million) is attractive in itself, but the 10 000 QS ranking points more so.
Ballito, renowned for its massive winter swells, was chosen for the challenge it presents champion surfers. 2011 goes down in history for the power of the waves over the event and the number of boards shattered through the competition. The Woman’s Competition was halted in 2009 as the waves were so big, and only returns again now, 2015.
Ballito, renowned for its massive winter swells, was chosen for the challenge it presents champion surfers.
Colin Fitch, Manager of WSL Africa (World Surfing League was previously the ASP – Association of Surf Professionals) presented an enlightening history for the event, highlighting the integral part the original competition played in opening the door for South African surfers to enter the world champion stage.
In 1969, Gavin Rudolph, a teenager from Port Elizabeth won the first Gunston 500 and went on to compete internationally, paving the way for other South African greats like Antoni Brodowicz (World Champion 1978) Shaun Tomson, Jordy Smith and Travis Logie to compete (and win) across the world.
The Gunston 500 began as a pure sport surfing event, attracting bikini clad girls in their thousands to support their local surf hero’s. The addition of a small exhibition marquee behind the Gunston Tower paved the way for the retail, lifestyle exhibition which now accompanies the Pro event.
Alongside the main surfing events held at Williards Beach, various beach soccer and volleyball games as well as local stage performers and events will entertain onlookers on the sand.
The small shopping retail arena in the parking area will again consist of select exhibitors and food outlets.
The addition of the Monster le Riche brothers headlining the extreme sports program with Freestyle Motocross displays is set to thrill crowds even more than previous years. Parcor, Motocross, BMX and Skateboarding offer Extreme Thrills.
The other great crowd pleaser, The Coastal Living Bru Food & Wine Festival returns to La Montagne Hotel too.
5FM has officially joined the co-sponsor lineup of the Ballito Pro and will once again host the music festival events at Salt Rock Main Beach over the Ballito Pro and Crush Nightclub is the official afterparty venue for all the event.
Bringing the world surfing event to Ballito was not an easy one. Councillors of Kwadukuza were not thrilled to sponsor a ‘white man’s sport’, but the foresight and vision of Kwadukuza’s Economic Development director drove the deal forward. Catering to just a few thousand additional visitors in 2008 and generating tourism revenue of R 2.4 million to the region, last year’s event catered to an estimated 200 000 visitors with an income generation of R 40 million.
The longest running professional surfing event is now officially named Ballito Pro presented by Billabong. The evolution of the event over the past forty seven years has been an exponential one, bringing South Africa’s young up and coming surfers into the spotlight of world surfing greats and facilitating opportunities for them beyond their wildest expectations. The opportunity to showcase our beautiful coastal town of Ballito to the world is a golden one, supported by the hundreds of workers behind the scenes, working so diligently to make this, Ballito Pro 2015 Epic!
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