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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa
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Fri, 18 August 2017

East London braces itself for a wintery blast and giant swell this week as more than 200 people arrive for the 52nd Mercedes Benz South African Surfing Championships hosted by Buffalo City.


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BIGGISH SWELL: Nahoon Reef might be quite biggish on Thursday and Friday next week.


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Let's hope that a backup venue has been secured cos it's going to get large!

Iconic Nahoon Reef has hosted many SA Champs since the first in 1965 - and in 1978 the ISA World Surfing Championships took place here - but seldom has the event seen such stormy conditions and so much swell - first from the east in the opening day or so, and then a huge one from the south.

The event window next Tuesday August 22 opens in clean offshores and plenty of east swell but by lunch time the SW buster is through and it doesn't let up for three straight days.

In fact, the wind increases in intensity on Wednesday and Thursday, and the east swell is blasted off the park by a rising SW windswell. By Thursday, proper grunt has arrived, with 8-10ft surf in the morning building all day as the wave period goes from 12 to 16 seconds, and the swell goes from 10 to 15 foot by Thursday afternoon, and overnight into Friday at growling 16 second periods.

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BIGGISH STORM: This biggish little storm rumbles a bit in the deep south on Wednesday.


While the westerly pumps on Thursday, Friday dawns the best day, with 10-15ft sets and crisp offshores. Going to get interesting for the premier event on the Surfing South Africa (SSA) calendar, and rather challenging for the Open Men’s and Women’s Divisions, and the other seven age groups from Over 30 to Over 60. The giant surf tapers off over the weekend as the wind dies off and light onshores prevail after crisp winter mornings for Saturday and finals day Sunday 27.

The 52nd SA Champs makes it one of the longest running surfing tournaments in the world. Mercedes Benz and the Buffalo City Metropolitan have partnered with SSA to not only showcase our surfing talent in this event, but also to help our team members prepare for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

The collaboration between Buffalo City, Mercedes and SSA also aims to highlight East London’s importance as a major SA surfing venue. The SA Champs and preparation for the National Team will be augmented by coaching and judging seminars, as well as local outreach programmes.

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TWIGGY IN: Grant Baker will compete in the Over 40 division for the Durban district. Photo WSL


Current Big Wave world champ Grant “Twiggy” Baker is representing eThekweni in the Over 40 Division, while World Masters Champion and five time South African Men’s Champion Greg Emslie will be back to defend his title, this time at his local surf spot. He will also be competing in both the Open Men's Division and the Over 40 Division, the same group as Twiggy Baker.

Chris Knutsen of eThekweni, a five time World Champion and four time South African Champion, will be competing in the Over 55 Division while former World Tour campaigner, ISA World Masters Champion and eight time South African Champion Heather Clark of Ugu Surfriders, will be hoping to add at a ninth title to her list of achievements.

Six World Champions are turning out for their Districts with well-known provincial and district surfing stars.

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SLUMTOWN LOCAL: Multiple champ Greg Emslie will be surfing his home spot. Photo WSL


More than 160 surfers from eight districts around the SA coast will contest 11 divisions - from Under 20 to Over 60 - during 140 heats and 47 hours of competition over six days. Individual titles will be won in nine divisions. Surfers' scores are allocated to their District to determine the winning team of the 45-year-old Presidents Cup and Masters Cup. This year all the points from the Open Divisions and Masters divisions will be combined to determine the winners of the inaugural Champions Cup.

The 2016 Presidents Cup was won by Cape Town Surfriders and at Seal Point in 2016 the Buffalo City Surfriders team secured their 11th Masters Cup. These events were held separately in 2016.

To commemorate the memory of a much loved President of the Buffalo City Surfriders, Surfing South Africa has introduced the Dave Fish Trophy which will be awarded to the most consistent surfer of the event. Dave Fish passed away days before last year’s SA Masters Championships.

Proceedings get under way with an Opening Function at the Old Selbornians Club at 7pm on Monday August 21st and heats start on Tuesday at 8am. The heats as well as the Event schedule will be posted on the Surfing South Africa website www.surfingsouthafrica.co.za and results will be updated daily.

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