MR PRICE PRO LOOKING BACK – A history in highlights.
IT ALL BEGAN in 1966 when Durban staged the first official South African Surfing Championships kick-starting a surfing event legacy that continues to this day.
GUNSTON – stepped up to sponsor and market the Gunston 500 in 1969, an event that would become the biggest and longest running professional surfing event in the world.
SHAUN TOMSON – captured the biggest winning streak in professional surfing winning the Gunston 500 a record of six consecutive times from 1973 – 1978. Tomson also became World Champion in 1977 and by the time he retired at the end of 1989, after 13 years in the Top 16, he had established himself as a South African surfing icon.
GIRLS – Surfer girls first entered the event in 1992, which was won by Neridah Falconer of the USA. Since then the Mr Price Pro has held a rich history of women’s surfing which has seen numerous surfing greats crowned on Durban’s shores including former 7X ASP Women’s World Champion Layne Beachley (Aus) who won in 1999; 2004 World Champion Sofia Mulanovich (Peru) who won in 2002 and 2X World Champion Stephanie Gilmore who won in 2006.
MR PRICE – South Africas leading retail and leisurewear giant welcomed in a new era in sports sponsorship taking over sponsorship of the event in 2000 by staging the 6 and 5 Star ASP World Qualifying Series Mr Price Pro for Men and Women setting new standards branding and marketing a surfing event.
PRO JUNIOR - 2001 saw surfers aged 18 years and younger compete in their very own division with the introduction of the Mr Price Pro Junior held on the weekend prior to the main event. This gave junior surfers the opportunity to perform on a global platform in front of their surfing heroes as well as a warm up for the main event.
MUSIC – In 2001 Mr Price introduced the free music concerts that saw some of South Africa’s best live acts perform for free, rocking the Durban Beachfront for three nights during the Beach festival.
R1 MILLION PRIZEMONEY – IN 2001 the Mr Price Pro became the first surfing event in South Africa to pay out a massive R1 Million in prize-money attracting surfing greats such as world champions, Mark Occhilupo (Australia), Sunny Garcia (Hawaii), CJ Hobgood (USA) and Andy Irons (Hawaii).
IRON FIST – 2004 and 2005 lay firmly in the grip of the Hawaiian brothers 3X ASP World Champion Andy Irons and brother Bruce whose world-class performances earned them consecutive titles over this two-year period.
RICKY BASNETT – By far the most exciting year since Shaun Tomson’s reign came in 2006 when local WQS surfer Ricky Basnett brought South African Surfing out of the shadows by defeating Aussie Dayan Neve in the final to become the first South African to win the event in 28 years! The victory was also a major contributing factor towards his qualification for the elite ASP World Tour at the end of the same year.
BRAZILLIAN INFLUENCE – The Brazilian contingent have been by far the most dominant force at the Mr Price Pro with a total of four men’s winners and three women’s winners of Brazilian origin. They include Petersen Rosa (2002), Beta Fernandes (2002), Neco Padaratz (2003) and Jihad Khodr (2007) in the men’s event and Maria Tita Tivares (2000), Jacqueline Silva (2001) and Silvana Lima (2008) in the women’s.
TRAVIS LOGIE – Durban’s own Travis Logie has been no stranger to the final at the Mr Price Pro reaching two over the course of his career the first of which came in 2000 when he placed third and the second in 2008 when he placed runner-up behind event champion Australian Chris Davidson.
BALLITO - In 2009 the Mr Price Pro found a new home in the idyllic town of Balitto on the KZN North Coast where it was welcomed with open arms by local community. The event saw unprecedented surf with perfect 8- 10ft barrels for 8 of the ten days, that saw some incredible surfing from the Men with American surfer Tanner Gudauskas winning the event on his 18th birthday.
JORDY SMITH – In 2010 South African Surfing Superstar Jordy Smith stepped up to the podiums highest block, becoming the second South African surfer ever to be crowned Mr Price Pro Champion. Smith defeated junior sensation Casey Grant, his win sending him straight to No. 1 on the ASP One World Rankings and marking the start to a winning streak that would see him go on to win the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay a week later.
PRIME STATUS IN 2011 – For the first time in the event’s history, the Mr Price Pro Ballito has been upgraded to Prime Status offering a huge prize-purse of US $250 000 (approx. R1.7 million), with $40 000 and an invaluable 6 500 points on the ASP World Tour Rankings going to the winner. The elite 96-man field for the Mr Price Pro Ballito is guaranteed to include the majority of the world’s best competitive surfers.
DID YOU KNOW - The Mr Price Pro has been won by seven World Champions: DID YOU KNOW-The Mr Price Pro has been won by seven former World Champions: 1970 Midget Farrelly (Aus) (World Champion 1964) 1961 Gavin Rudolph (Zaf) (World Champion 1971) 1973 – 1978 Shaun Tomson (ZAF) (World Champion 1977) 1980 and 82 Mark Richards (Aus) (World Champion 1975) 1985 Mark Occhulipo (Aus) (World Champion 1999) 1987 and 1990 Damien Hardman (Aus) (World Champion 1987 and 1991) 2004 Andy Irons (Haw) (World Champion 2002 – 2004)