Jordy Smith, the Ballito-Pro defending champion, will be back in action at Willard Beach from this week and may be riding the waves all the way to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Picture: Kelly Cestari
Durban - With surfing now going to be an Olympic sport, all eyes will be on local star Jordy Smith at the Ballito Pro this week.

Thirty-year-old Smith of Durban, the Ballito Pro defending champion, is the most likely candidate to be selected to represent South Africa at the 2020 Olympics in Japan, experts predict.

“The Ballito Pro, as well as the JBay Open play such an important role in the Olympic qualification process for South African hopefuls and with Jordy being a winner of both the events, his qualification for the Olympic Games should never be doubted,” said surfing guru and columnist Pierre Tostee.

For the past decade Smith has been carrying the weight of the country’s surfing on his shoulders, Tostee said.

Currently No 8 on the World Surf League’s championship tour, Smith has come close on several occasions to winning the world title race.

“He really has been our only hope to win a world title since Shaun Tomson last won in 1977,” said Tostee.

Smith has the talent and the experience to win a world title, and he also has the ability to win an Olympic gold medal for South Africa, Tostee predicted.

Smith told the Daily News he would love to go to the Olympics.

“To be the first South African surfer to go would be a great honour, and I’m working towards that goal,” he said.

Durban-born international surfing legend, Shaun Tomson, now based in California, is back in town for the Ballito Pro and said he felt that winning an Olympic gold medal would be “right up there” with winning the World Surfing Championship.

“To be the first to have that gold placed around one’s neck in front of one’s country and the world, would be the ultimate competitive honour,” he said.

Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that surfing would one day make the Olympics.

The sport just seemed so wild and free in the early days, he recalled.

The decision on who would go to the Olympics would be made next year.

Tomson and Smith, as well as Ricky Basnett (the 2006 winner of the Ballito Pro) and Gavin Rudolph, (the winner of the inaugural Gunston 500 in 1969), are to receive special awards to coincide with the 50th edition of the Ballito Pro.

The Ballito Pro runs until July 1 at Willard Beach.

Daily News