Cold Waterby Rock Bottom, images by Craig Kolesky / 04.08.2010
South Africa is blessed with the kind of surfing talent that on any given day and at any given contest we can just throw some random local surfers into the line up and have them beating the world’s best. Who also happens to be a South African. What can we say? Our cup runneth over. At the Oneill Cold Water classic in Cape Town last week, a retired family man, Greg Emslie, and a Kom-skom manchild, Matt Bromely, took out current world number one Jordy Smith. OK that some-random-local-surfers line may not be entirely true. But Jordy did get sort of smoked. Sort of. Maybe the magic crystals his current squeeze, the pneumatic Tanit Phoenix, brought to him before his heats during the Billabong Pro hadn’t fully recharged in the sea during the full moon at the beginning of the week, or maybe he got caught out by the “tricky” (read wretched sideshore) conditions. All I can report is that the world number 1 went down. For the rest of the event we got to see Jordy on land, hanging about, shaking hands and signing autographs, tagged closely by his New Best Friend, who, it is widely rumoured, claimed to be “the best surfer on the WQS and a big wave surfer of note” but is better known to all as “Laces” (because he’s so far up Jordy’s ass all you can see sticking out is his shoelaces). But I digress. There was no shame in Jordy getting knocked out of the competition before the quarter-finals, it was the same fate that befell many of the top seeds, thanks mainly to some rather odd choices of venue by the contest directors. Not that the contest directors had much to choose from. It was just another week of kak Cape Town weather. Cape Town is a difficult place to have a surf contest.
After a good start, the first day was held in almost contestable conditions at Noordhoek, which consisted of late entries and lower than the low seeds, the comp was then taken to an uncontestable Outer Kom for the second round. Outer Kom was once considered a world class break by the older Cape Town crew back in the late 70’s. They also used to surf competitions in woollen rugby jerseys and smeared themselves with vaseline or whale blubber to stay warm. Today it probably really should not be considered a contest venue. I don’t even think anyone surfs the place anymore. Maybe just aspiring big wave surfers ready to take the next step after progressing from Muizenberg. And the old crew from the late 70’s, who’ve never travelled.
Only once top seeds like Stuart Kennedy, who is in contention to take out the $50 000 O’Neil Coldwater series prize, seasoned Ozzy veteran Jarred Howse, and Mr Price Pro runner up and contender to become ASP Africa champ, Casey Grant, lost their first heats at the famous 70’s World Class Surf Break did the contest directors finally decide to call it quits for the day. Stuart Kennedy got to watch the rest of the comp and possibly his $50 000 bonus slipping into someone else’s hands. Like maybe Royden Bryson.
For the final two days the directors didn’t cut their noses to spite their face, rather they just hid their faces under hoodies and went ahead running the rest of the comp at the all too well known, dull and dreadful, Long Beach. The contest venue list was long. Outer Kom was on the list. Crayfish Factory was on the list. There was even talk of both Elands and Kalk Bay. Long Beach was not on the contests venue list. It is that bad. Royden Bryson will tell you it is bad. Jordy Smith will tell you it’s bad. Greg Emslie will tell you it’s bad. Even the locals don’t rate it too highly. Amazingly it was the only surfable/contestable wave in the whole of Cape Town. Is Cape Town that bad?
Jordy and Royden lost out early to shifting fade-outs and quick close out peaks with gale force side to offshore winds. Royden watched his lead in the O’Neil Cold Water Classic and that $50 000 bonus checque get blown out to sea on that stiff breeze. Jordy probably just didn’t care. He’s got bigger fish to slice up and serve as sushi on the World Championship Tour. Royden did care. Stuart Kennedy still cares.
There is only so much you can write about a contest at Long Beach. Retired family man Greg Emslie won with a wave he did two turns on in the last minute. Australian Dion Aktinson came second.
Still it’s a good thing for Cape Town to have a big pro surfing event, even if the weather and the waves don’t really come to the party. Hopefully it’ll help improve the general state of surfing in the old colony. Maybe next year the Cold Water Classic will go West. As long as the three locals up West don’t mind.
All images © Kolesky/Nikon.