Strong performances

The top ranked competitors justified their seeding in the Zigzag Durban Surf Pro pres. by G-Force with all but two out of 24 advancing to the next round of their respective events on the opening day the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) events at North Beach in Durban.

Classic conditions and small but contestable one metre waves prompted the organisers to get stop No. 4 of 13 in the WSL Africa Qualifying Series (QS) underway at 7 am. A total of 24 heats were completed starting with QS 1,000 Men’s and Women’s events and followed by the Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) Men’s and Women’s heats for surfers 18-and-under which closed out the day’s action.

KwaZulu-Natal locals reveled in their home surf with veteran campaigners Brandon Jackson (Durban North) and Dan Redman (uMdloti) both blasting their way through two rounds to reach the last 32 in the men’s event.

Rising star Bryce Burness (Berea) bagged a pair of seven point rides to post a heat total of 14.75, the highest of the day in the men’s event while Capetonians Luke Slijpen (Hout Bay), Ford van Jaarsveldt and Max Elkington (both Kommetjie) all racked up heat wins.

Defending women’s event winner Zoe McDougall (Hawaii) and Josefina Ane (Argentina), winner of the second series stop in Port Alfred in March, got their campaigns underway with comfortable victories. But it was Nicole Pallet (La Lucia), the highest ranked South African in the women’s field who delivered the highest heat total of the round with 12.50 out of a possible 20.

Only two junior men’s heats were run which saw Mitch du Preez (East London) and Karl Steen (Durban) top their Round 1 heats and advance to the last 16 alongside their respective heat runners-up in Daniel Orpen (Knysna) and Daniel Emslie (East London).

McDougall produced a stunning display of competitive surfing in her junior women’s heat, the last to be run on the day, posting a near-perfect score of 9.25 to go with an earlier excellent 8.75 for an superb heat tally of 18.0. The Hawaiian, who spends a significant amount of time in Jeffreys Bay with her partner Matt McGillivray, also earned scores of 7.75 and 6.50, which did not even factor into her two counting rides.

WSL Africa junior women’s rankings leader Kai Woolf (Jeffreys Bay) eased her way into the last eight with a comprehensive heat win and was joined by fellow heat winners Kirsty McGillivray (Jeffreys Bay), the current No. 2, and Kayla Nogueira (uMhlanga), the defending event winner.

Organisers will meet at North Beach at 7.00 am local time on Saturday to make a call on when to get the contest underway. The women’s and junior women’s event champions will be crowned on Saturday afternoon while the men’s and junior men’s winners will be determined on Sunday.

Live scoring, results, photos and video footage will be available on  and on the WSL App, with highlights on the WSL QS Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.


Cry of the Woolf

Jeffreys Bay surfer Kai Woolf made the Volkswagen Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro presented by Billabong all her own at the weekend, winning both the women’s and junior women’s titles, while David van Zyl (Glenashley) won the men’s event and Dillon Hendricks, also from Jeffreys Bay, captured the junior men’s crown.

The first of 13 events on the 2018 World Surf League (WSL) Africa regional tour, the Volkswagen Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro featured Qualifying Series (QS) events for men and women alongside Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) events for men and women aged 18-and-under.

Woolf, 16, was unbeatable in the beach break conditions, winning every heat she contested in both events while racking up double digit heat scores with her impressive repertoire of high performance manoeuvres.

In the QS 1000 women’s event, the teenager defeated reigning WSL Africa champion Nicole Pallet (La Lucia) in the one-on-one final, catching two waves early in the final and delivering scores of 6,25 and 7,25 (each out of 10). A howling SW ‘wind that sprang up midway through the heat altered the lineup significantly and Pallet was left the near impossible task of finding an excellent 8,50 in the deteriorating conditions.

Earlier Woolf was equally dominating in the four-person JQS 1000 women’s final. She again posted her best scores early in the encounter to leave Sophie Bell (Salt Rock), the 2017 WSL Africa junior women’s champ, requiring a solid 7,0 when the siren sounded to end the heat. Anna Jellema-Butler (Cape Town) and Olivia Izzard (La Lucia) took third and fourth places respectively.

Van Zyl justified his top seeding for the QS 1500 men’s event in PE and was in a class of his own, averaging heat scores of 13,56 (out of 20) during his first event of the year. Ranked No. 67 on the QS at the end of 2017, and No. 2 on the WSL Africa leaderboard, van Zyl narrowly overcame Dylan Lightfoot (Jeffreys Bay) in their quarter-final duel and posted an outstanding 8,75 to pip Jordy Maree (Kalk Bay) in their semi clash.

In the final van Zyl opened his account against Adin Masencamp (Strand) with a well ridden 7.50 and surfed with power and flow to consistently add to his total in the testing conditions. He earned three scores in the six-point range before a 7,0 closed the door on his opponent hopes and saw van Zyl pocket the R40 000 winner’s cheque and 1 500 precious ranking points.

Masencamp, in his rookie season in the open ranks following a stellar junior career, had a confidence-boosting run in the event, but could not match van Zyl’s finesse in the final.

The 18-year-old from the Strand defeated Australian Ty Watson in the quarters and then 2017 Ballito Pro Trials winner Richard Kidd (Ballito) in the semis to set up his first man-on-man QS final in South Africa.

Hendricks, 17, came into the event seeded outside the top 10 but cut a path through his more fancied opponents to earn his first JQS title. He outpointed Daniel Emslie (East London) and Luke Slijpen (Hout Bay)  to reach the final where he relegated multiple event winner Max Elkington (Kommetjie) to the runner-up spot by the narrowest of margins.

Both surfers scored heat totals of 13,50 out of 20, but Hendricks got the nod thanks to a highest single score of 7,75, which he earned on a mid break wave where he belted the lip multiple times. Elkington’s best of 7,50 was enough to see finish ahead of Koby Oberholzer (Warner Beach) and Bryce du Preez (East London) who had to settle for third and fourth places respectively.

The Volkswagen Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro, which is also the first of five events on the 2018 City Surf Series , enjoyed great conditions for Saturday and Sunday before experiencing four seasons in eight hours on the final day.

Alongside the red hot surfing action, Surfing South Africa, the national controlling body for the sport, ran activities coordinated by SSA Development Officer, Danielle Powis, designed to foster and encourage surfing among young people, regardless of their background. Other onsite activities included a kids’ ‘Trash to Treasure’ craft section, a group Clean-the-Beach activity and a plastic awareness talk.


Big money up for grabs

The 2018 surfing calendar in South Africa has been firmed up with the confirmation Volkswagen South Africa is continuing the headline sponsorship of the City Surf Series with more than R1-Million in prize money up for grabs in the race to Nelson Mandela Bay.

“For us, getting involved with the City Surf Series was a no-brainer as the Volkswagen brand has been associated with surfing for many years with surfers using their camper vans and Kombi’s to go on surfing tournaments,” says Matt Gennrich, General Manager for Group Communications.

The second edition of the City Surf Series (CSS) will see six events, culminating in the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing presented by Hurley, taking place in different cities along South Africa’s coastline from March to June.

Each of the CSS events will feature Qualifying Series (QS) rated men’s, women’s junior men’s and junior women’s competitions, Surfing South Africa (SSA) longboard men and women and Stand-up Paddling (SUP) men and women’s categories.

A major change from last year’s series is the upgrading of the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing women’s event to a QS3000, making it the biggest women’s QS in Africa. The Nelson Mandela Bay Pro men’s event has also been upgraded to a QS1500.

“Another exciting addition is the launch of a new event, the Port Alfred Classic, which will feature men’s and women’s QS Longboard events with the two disciplines also added to the Volkswagen SA of Surfing presented by Hurley,” says Johnny Bakker, Surfing South Africa president.

“As Nelson Mandela Bay is the home of Volkswagen, we are also proud that the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing has relocated from Durban to Nelson Mandela Bay,” added Gennrich.

The Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing events being hosted in Nelson Mandela Bay are expected to bring in an estimated 4 000 to 6 000 visitors and an R18-million cash injection for the city.

Not only will the CSS events support the local economy, all events will give back to the community and environment by incorporating Learn to Surf Initiatives as well as Community Clean-the-Beach programmes.

In the 2017 edition of the CSS, more than 300 previously disadvantaged children across the five events were taught to surf.

2018 City Surf Series Event Schedule:

  • Volkswagen Nelson Mandela Bay Surf pres. by Billabong: 30 March to 2 April
  • Royal St Andrews Port Alfred Classic pres. by Quiksilver (Inaugural event): 6 to 8 April
  • Mitchum Buffalo City Surf Pro pres. by Reef Wetsuits: 13 to 15 April
  • ZigZag Durban Surf Pro pres. by G-Force: 18 to 20 May
  • Jordy Smith Cape Town Surf Pro pres. by O’Neil: 14 to17 June
  • Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing pres. by Hurley: 19 to 24 June


When worlds do not collide

Taking a petrolhead and putting him on Durban’s North Pier to watch surfing is putting him about as far outside of his comfort zone as it gets.

However, there I was at the weekend, watching intently as the contestants in the Volkswagen sponsored SA Open Nationals strutted their stuff – and thoroughly enjoying the spectacle.

Having spent more than 40 years wandering the country covering motor races, rallies and off-road races, I am somewhat familiar with passion, commitment and dedication – all the elements required to be successful in motor sport.

Equally, watching the expressions on the faces of the surfers it was not hard to see the same levels of passion, commitment and dedication as they worked their magic out on the water. It is a tough sport and these surfers are all athletes, body and mind tuned to be able pursue the perfect score.

It was a full weekend of surfing and a full – and probably very profitable – weekend for Durban with the baby Boks taking on (and beating) the French Barbarians at rugby on the Friday, the Springboks thrashing the French on the Saturday and an Iron Man marathon sharing the beachfront with the surfing on the Sunday.

In that latter event, both the cycle and run phases took competitors past the surfing on a couple of occasions and, from my vantage point on the pier, I watched the runners/cyclists – and not one of them ever glanced seaward at the surfing.

It was not as if they could not be aware something significant was happening out on the water – the surfing public address system was blaring out score updates and commentary all the time. It was simply they were not remotely interested.

Then, I started looking more closely and began to spot the rugby fans at restaurant tables at the many beachfront eateries – also not remotely interested in the surfing or the runners/cyclists and just sitting in their supporter jerseys rehashing the game over coffee, beers or whatever.

In one small orbit, three worlds that simply did not collide.

Perhaps a sad commentary on the world today!