The 2023 Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill Festival, which encompassed sustainability, inclusivity, and growth, welcomed large numbers of holidaymakers to KwaDukuza shores for an epic seaside event that ran from 27 June to 9 July.
Photo credits to Luke Patterson
Alongside the many popular retail and entertainment activities on offer, this year’s festival brought a number of new programme additions to the 54th Ballito Pro.
“We’d like to extend our thanks to the host, KwaDukuza Municipality, our sponsors, partners, and all the festival attendees for one of the biggest and best Ballito Pro Festivals to date,”
said Collette Bundy, The Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill Festival Organiser.
“It was through extensive collaborations that we were able to grow our festival programme, including a variety of sustainable elements that promoted ocean health and conservation – without which, there is no Ballito Pro. We look forward to continuing this trend of inclusivity and sustainability as we plan for 2024!”
Konke KuLuhlaza - Everything is Blue
This year’s theme Konke KuLuhlaza touched on the importance of ‘going green for the big blue’ with ocean conservation and inclusivity prioritised. This started with event hosts, KwaDukuza Municipality, which has adopted Coastal Development & Economic Tourism Strategies, including the KwaDukuza Coastal Management Plan, which ensures best practices, environmental education, sustainability, and beach safety through strategic plans for growth and economic sustainability. This includes launching its Blue Flag Beach programme, with Willard Beach one of three Blue Flag beaches in the area.
Another key partnership with the non-profit organisation (NPO), Ballito Urban Improvement Precinct (BUIP) has ensured water health with regular monitoring E.coli levels at all beaches and tidal pools from Salmon Bay to Tiffany’s Beach. BUIP, with the support of the municipality, is also raising funds to install a fourth access ramp to the beach, forming part of its Beach Access for All campaign.
Event sponsor, O’Neill, is also showing its commitment to conservation through its sustainable product collection – the O’Neill Blue. For the Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill Challenger event, the O’Neill Blue event merchandise was manufactured from recycled cotton and polyester using a recycling process called Repreve. This is where plastic bottles from the oceans and landfills are converted into durable fibres to manufacture boardshorts. Throughout the festival, sustainable steps were taken such as the removal of single-use plastics, recycled polybags, and recycled material hangtags. O’Neill also supports global NPOs who align with the O’Neill Blue Ocean Mission including The Surfrider Foundation, Mauli Ola Foundation, Ocean Works, and Surfers Not Street Children.
A further three local NPOs came on board at this year’s Ballito Pro Festival to educate and encourage ocean conservation. Litter4Tokens, founded on the KZN North Coast in Shaka’s Head by Clare Swithenbank-Bowman in 2015, encouraged festival-goers to collect nurdles – harmful microplastics found on the ocean shore – with 25 staff members also involved in cleaning up litter. More than 56 bags of litter were collected a day throughout the event, with a record set by Ballito Pro spectators who spent 10 hours a day collecting a total of 38.9kgs of nurdles. These are collected using Litter4Tokens Mermaids Tear Catchers (another name for nurdles) which is a dual sieve/frisbee which sifts through the sand. Participants were treated to prizes worth more than R50 000 for their environmental contribution.
The Litterboom Project (TLP), founded by Cameron Service in 2017, collects waste from rivers to prevent it from reaching the ocean. A thick pipe placed across the rivers can sift out huge amounts of waste – more than 500 000kgs to date – preventing it from becoming an ocean-bound problem. At the Ballito Pro, visitors supported TLP initiatives by competing in the Hunt Properties 5km run through Ballito on Friday, July 7. The company donated R5 for every participating runner with thousands of rands raised for TLP.
Another KZN North Coast organisation tackling pollution is the newly launched WEEE are iLembe, an initiative that promotes the recycling of waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) - or e-waste. WEEE are iLembe set up at the Ballito Pro retail area at Willard Beach where visitors got to learn more about the initiative, how to safely dispose of e-waste, as well as check out the epic e-waste-to-art installation!
Music and After Dark Parties
There was non-stop musical entertainment at this year’s Ballito Pro Festival with The Good Vibes programme running from 1 to 9 July at Good Vibes Café. Getting the party going were top DJs such as Kyle Cassim, Austin Cassim, Chunda Munki, DJ Royal Love, I am Rogue, Ryan Stylz, Claudio, Jayy Jabs, and more. KwaDukuza’s best record spinners competed in the Ballito Pro Battle of the DJs competition on Wednesday, 5 July at the KwaDukuza Town Hall with DJ Phiwe Morris taking the top prize.
The competition winner got to play on the Main Stage on the first night of the Ballito Pro Music Concerts which took place at Salt Rock Main Beach on 6 and 7 July. He joined the likes of Ballito’s DJ Merlon who headlined the event, as well as Dlala Thukzin, Oscar Mbo, DJ Sox and Chynaman. Friday welcomed Matthew Mole, Majozi, Freddy L, and Durban’s Southport Band.
The Conchilla Tapas Lounge set the scene for the After Dark programme and daily activities throughout the festival, with La Montagne featuring live music as well as a fantastic series of music, comedy, and burlesque performances at La Montagne’s Pumpkin Theatre close to Willard Beach.
Sporting action wasn’t limited to KwaDukuza’s surf with Brent Le Riche returning to perform his world-class trial biking moves as part of the Monster Energy Programme from 7 to 9 July. Old School Productions welcomed a top line-up of the country’s best skaters for The Ballito Pro Skate Jam at the Ballito Bowl on 1 July. It was Umhlanga’s Kalvyn MacMillan (35) who took first place in the Men’s Division, while Capetonian Janine Louw (24) came tops in the Women’s Division, and Ballito’s Ezra Vosloo placed first in the U16 Boy’s Division.
For the first time ever, the Ballito Pro welcomed the inspirational Para Surfing Expression Session to its programme, with adaptive surfers taking to the water on 1 July. The surfers came from Made for More, a local non-profit organisation that aims to include, empower, and equip people with disabilities through sport. Through their adaptive surfing programme, many individuals have been instructed in water safety, life skills, and adaptive ways to bodyboard and surf. A stand out on the day was O’Neill Team rider Caleb Swanepoel who caught a solid 4-foot wave with the crowd providing massive support.
On 4 July, the Ballito Pro BRA (Ballito Restaurant Association) Golf Day fundraiser took place at Simbithi Golf Club with proceeds raised going towards the Ballito Beach Collective (BBC). Fabian Durocher-Yvon, owner of Fiamma Grill, commented:
“The BRA Golf Committee expresses our sincerest gratitude for the donations, sponsorship, and commitment to this successful event. The BBC is fundamental in helping keep our beaches safe, clean and beautiful.”
Retail and beachside activities
There was daily seaside fun for families, including fantastic retail stalls selling quality goods; free Beach Yoga and Pilates; beach sports and recreational activities; Jive with Jen daily dance lessons, expression sessions, face painting and fun games for children; O’Neill Blue Capsule initiative and Women of the Wave activation; indoor rowing demonstrations; and the Coastal and Cultural Tourism Experience.
Don’t miss any of the action at the 2023 Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill Festival and be part of the change. #konkekuluhlaza #everythingisblue