Travel & Outdoors

8 things you may not know about The Ballito Pro

8 things you may not know about The Ballito Pro

Whether it’s the amazing surf, or the awesome festival vibe that keeps people coming back, in just a couple of weeks the world’s longest-running professional surf competition kicks off in Ballito yet again! Here are few things you might not know about this epic surf event…

This year marks the 50th year that this surfing event has been running. It was founded by Max Wetteland, Ian MacDonald and Ernie Tomson in 1969 at the Bay of Plenty in Durban.

The legendary Ballito Pro is the world’s longest running professional surf event and the biggest beach festival in Africa. More than just a surfing contest, the Ballito Pro has become synonymous with live entertainment, fantastic retail areas, free music concerts, beach activities and food and wine offerings.   

This is the 10th year in a row that the event will be taking place in KwaDukuza. Having moved here from Durban in 2009, Ballito has offered contestants epic waves, great weather and loads of local support year after year.

The event has had four name changes over the past 50 years. It started as the Durban 500, which then changed to the Gunston 500. Then it became the Mr Price Pro, and now, The Ballito Pro presented by Billabong.

Six-time champion Shaun Tomson (who is also a world champion) returns this year for Positive Wave Tour. His dad was one of the founding members of the event.

The event was included in the World Championship Tour (WCT) in 1992. The WCT is the highest-level circuit in the World Surf League (surfers competing for monetary prizes).

The stakes are high! Prize money for the first surfing event, in 1969, was R500. This year’s prize pool is $260 000, which equates to roughly R3.2 Million.

Approximately 160 000 people attended the 2017 event over the course of the three days and at least 20 different countries will be participating in this year’s event.


While it’s great to look back over the history of this legendary event, the organisers of this year’s edition of The Ballito Pro say it’s as much about celebrating the event’s long-standing legacy as it is about looking to its bright future. “With decades of history, spanning across multiple generations, The Ballito Pro has seen it all – from the evolution of surfing in South Africa along with surf culture, to changing trends, fashions, watching some of the event’s ‘firsts’ grow old and retire as well as developing some of the world’s surfing ‘greats,’” says event coordinator Collette Bundy. “When you step into this event you are stepping into a legacy that has been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people over five decades. It is about a togetherness of ages, races and interests all culminating into one crowd joining together in the name of surfing and beach culture.”


Text: Leah Shone | Main photograph: Ryan Janssens



Get It Magazine (Ballito/Umhlanga) – November 2018

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