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Most Excellent

by Craig Jarvis, images by Louis Wulff / 14.05.2010

One doesn’t realize just how big the playing field is at Super Tubes in Jeffrey’s Bay, one of the greatest waves in the world. If there was a legit list of seven wonders of the surfing world, Supers would be right in there. Surfers from the world over come to visit, and local surfers do their best to maintain some sort of law and order in a line up that could easily go pear-shaped with out such control. Try and surf with 30 frothing Brazilians who don’t care about the Unwritten Rules Of Surfing. But every year Xcel holds an event just for the local surfers, like a gift for having to put up with the circus every day of the week.

And perhaps one of the most exciting things about this year’s Xcel Pro Shootout is that a local surfer, Bertie Stuurman from Pellsrus, the township adjacent to J-Bay, made it all the way through to the Semi Finals of the event. Bertie learnt to surf through the Jeffreys Bay Surf Club, a free grass roots surf initiative run by the Jeggels brothers for underprivileged youth in the area, and sporadically supported by the Mahala Surf Co with boards and wetsuits. They get together, providing boards, wetsuits and coaching pretty much every afternoon during the week, keeping the kids busy, off the streets and away from a plethora of negative influences. It was through the J-Bay Surf Club that Bertie got his first taste of surfing. And there’s no doubt about it, Bertie Stuurman has a real shot at a successful professional surfing career.

Now back to my point about Supers being a big playing field. When you have a contest there it can sometimes be quite hard to keep things in perspective. Sometimes a rider only surfs for half the wave, but that particular wave can be so spectacular that the points awarded are enough to see said surfer advance or win the heat. In the recent Xcel Pro, there was one such incident. A surfer, young Remi Peterson, took off on a wave so far up the point that he was almost around the corner from the spectators, and no one saw his spectacular barrel ride. No one except the judges that is. But seeing as no one else saw it, the crowd quickly turned on the judges, even though they did their job well, saw the wave as they are assigned to do, and scored it. It was enough to see Remi advance through the heat and while knocking out the crowd favourite. This is how competitions run, and how surfers roll. Suck it in boys. As former world champion Shaun Tomson said, “win like a man, lose like a man”.

Remi scored the barrel of the contest in the same heat. A smaller, ugly-looking wave appeared for him and as he paddled many of us on the beach groaned, and muttered things like “what is he thinking?” and “wave selection of a pig” etc. etc. before the wave did something weird, that possibly only a hardened local like Remi could know about. The tide was high and the waves were breaking right over the shelf. Remi’s wave hit the barely-covered rocks and as it threw he grabbed his rail and went into the tightest of pig dog positions. He held on as the wave ran and ran and ran. Many people looked away, some of us yawned, the photographer started shooting a girl in a bikini, somewhere in the distance a dog barked.
Suddenly Remi burst free of the barrel, making it the best tube ride of the contest. Although it was small it went on forever and he made it out of what looked like an impossible situation.

The final pitted young Remi against last year’s winner Ryan Payne. With some big prizes on the line, as well as a slot into the Von Zipper trials for the Billabong Pro in July. They both went toe-to-toe but Ryan Payne had the waves under control and smashed, carved and tubed his way to victory, to claim his second year in a row. Ryan works for Billabong so he gets his fair share of water time at Supertubes.

Needless to say, the event was well supported by the local community, there were loads of people on the beach, and everyone was smiling as they watched one of the best waves in the world unfold in all her glory.

Next up is the Billabong Pro J-Bay that is set to run from 15 – 25 July. With Jordy Smith sitting comfortably at number two in the world and with J-Bay being one of his favourite waves, we could all see something extra ordinary. But for now we can dwell on some images from the sickest Xcel Pro Showdown at Supers.

All photos © Louis Wulff

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