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South African Surfing

Go Surf

by Warwick Wright / 11.07.2011

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me god. South Africa currently enjoys the undivided attention of the surfing world. Thanks to two back to back 8-10 foot swells that lit up the Mr Price Pro. People are claiming it as the best WQS event outside of Hawaii, ever. And coming up is the Billabong Pro in J-Bay, widely regarded as the best wave on the World Tour. So it’s a good time to talk about the elephant in the corner of the room. While Jordy basks in the limelight, up there in the stratosphere of the world’s elite surfers where the hell are the rest of South Africa’s surfing prospects. Who is going to qualify for the Championship Tour next year? Is there even another South African surfer knocking on that door? Or is Jordy set to be a South African competitive anomaly, like our last world champion; 70s tuberiding legend, Shaun Tomson?

And it seems to be a recurring line of questioning. I’ve always been on the other side of the fence when it comes to South Africa’s pro surfers and WCT hopefuls. I used to be in that position, coming home from another WQS event with a first heat knock out, licking my wounds and thinking up excuses for why I wasn’t getting results. I spat fire and fury to journalists and surf veterans sitting behind their laptop screens at coffee shops, skinnering and passing judgment on why the current crop of South Africans weren’t getting results, why we will never make it. And the reason it infuriated me so much was because these state-of-the-nation media hecklers were so clueless. 90% percent of them don’t surf or can’t surf but for some reason rate their opinions as highly as if they were some sort of Kelly Slater geniuses. As if their word is truth.

No, no, no that shit stops here. You want answers? How about I give you some facts. But hey, whatever I say could be utter bullshit, what would I know? I only did the tour for 7 years and I never qualified. I wasn’t fit enough. I was too jetlagged. My boards were shit. There were no waves in my heat… I’ll tell you this in all honesty, and I can say this now without giving a shit: I didn’t want it bad enough! I had my results. I won a world junior title for my country. I care not what people say of me.

South African Surfing

A lot of pros moan about the country we come from. Finances are always an issue and stability is very hard to come by, but we are well off, let me tell you. We moan at how companies won’t pay us enough, we have to listen to bullshit about recessions, which means budget cuts and trust me that doesn’t leave our confidence too high, knowing that we’re riding on our sponsor’s last penny. In the back of your mind, going to a contest knowing all of that, but still trying to push out big results, is hard. Little things like these are the fine print that the so called “experts” leave out. You might have watched the Mr Price every year for the last decade but that right there my friends, is our speciality event, our bread and butter, it’s like doing Survivor and winning immunity. We should rule. And yet South Africans struggle to hold down the podium places. Jordy was the only South African in the semis. The rest of the field were left behind in first and second rounds. We’re endlessly being pipped by Australians, Brazilians and Seppos at our homebreak as well as everywhere else.

All I hear about now is the void that Jordy Smith has left between himself and the rest of the upcoming surfers, whoever that might be. I’m guessing we’re talking about Dale Staples, Sean Joubert, Beyrick de Vries and so forth. What will become of them? Will they qualify for the elite tour? They all look like they’re having a great time, surfing sick and making names for themselves… but who can say? One good run could send them on their way, but it depends on how bad they want it. It also depends on who really wants it. Them or their parents? That’s another confusing aspect affecting the future of these kids. How far can they be pushed before they decide to go and get it for themselves?

Bottom line, surfing has stepped up its game. It’s increasingly more technical and more professional. You might as well wear a suit and tie to the beach nowadays. So please, don’t ever compare our surfers to the world champions 25 years ago when there were only 50 people, world wide, doing the tour. This is here and this is now, the tour changed, the tour got bigger, the tour got better, and sure as shit the surfing got better. Jordy Smith was our future and that’s now our present. As far as I’m concerned he’s the best surfer in the world. And because he’s South African, he surfs for me, you and everybody else who holds that green booklet. As for the rockstar persona… Jordy’s earned it. But I see a lot of it coming up the ranks from the next generation, but I don’t see any results to justify it. Kids worrying more about the sprays on their boards and who’s wearing tighter jeans… Wanna be a rockstar? Join a fucking band. You wanna be a world champ, go surf.

South African Surfing

See more of Wok’s rantings here.

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