Kneel Ous Unite!


Wed, 27 November 2019

The biggest gathering of kneel ous since 1956 graced the town of Mossel Bay on the weekend to bear witness to an epic SA Kneeboard Championships. It was one for the ages, writes Spike.


KIWI BOUND: The four finalists will travel to the World Kneelo Champs next year. Photo Kneelos

By the way, I said ages, not aged. And yes, 1956 is a joke, a cheeky dig at the average age of the South African kneel ou. But 2018 did see the first SA Champs held in a very long time, like a decade or something I heard. Twenty ous came out last year (in Port Alfred). This year? More than double turned up to signal a resurgence in kneeboarding in South Africa.

Now, these kneel ous are quite a unique breed. They cry when they win. They smile when they lose. They blurt out loud invocations at inopportune times - a sort of Touretts bid to garner collective inspiration. Some bang tables - impulses of stoke - when someone is talking. And no-one minds. They're also a fine crew of chaps. I say chaps because I have never met a girl kneel ou.

One might think that the kneel ou is a dying breed, and you might be right. Of the 40 odd guys who turned up at the SA kneeboarding Championships at Mossel Bay, only four were under 30. The rest? Well, put it this way. When they were in the prime of their youth, Jimmy Carter was US president, Leonid Brezhnev was the USSR president, and the Berlin Wall still had about 10 years to go before it was pulled down.


GIGS GRIP: Gigs Celliers explodes into action to overtake his heat mates. Photo Kneelos

And the main ou amongst the kneel ous is of course none other than Gigs Celliers, four-time World Champion and winner of the Open division. Only kneel ous, and me, are of the age that they remember the enigma of his dad, the cartoonist Lencil, back in the day, revered for the cheeky, scantily clad characters he depicted when he put pen to paper.

But it was touch and go for the SA Champs this year. Two weeks out, then one week before and almost every day for a few days before the weekend, Gigs reached out to me to discuss the weather, or rather to compare concerns.

As contest director, commissar of the Kneel Ou Champs Organising Committee, Ambassador for South Africa at the World Surf League and Director-General of the Scatterlings of Africa, otherwise known as the nichest of all surfing niches, barring one-legged drop-knee bodyboarding with one eye, Gigs is also a seasoned surf weather guru from years of surfing and surf exploration, but still felt the need to reach out for solace, or perhaps corroboration of the murky predictions that lay within the digital crystal ball before him.


WINNER: Who has kept up to date with how many titles Gigs has won? Anyone? Photo Kneelos

Way out, the charts showed it to be onshore and flat. But slowly but surely the bad stuff - the onshore wind - downgraded. From stiff east, it was predicted to blow west. Box #1 ticked. Hey hey hey. Looking better. However, the key ingredient - nice contestable swell - did nothing at all when upgrade was sorely needed.

The swell stayed south. Not in direction, but size. In fact, it looked like Mossel Bay would be flat the whole weekend. Nader. Niks. Five foot at 8 seconds on WaveWatch III is about as exciting as your dinner conversation with millenials while they flick through Instagram on their phones.

"So laer soos die skaduwee van slang kak", I heard someone say once. That is very flat. No bigger than the shadow cast by snake shit, in case you Aussie kneel ous need to know, and for any expats in Perth, or Brisbane, or the Outer Hebrides who have forgotten their home tongue. LOL. Sunday didn't look much better. Maybe 2' or so. But, slowly as the weekend approached, a slight bit of swell started to show for Sunday. Nothing special though.


JBAY KNEEL OU: Stevo the Kneelo wears his heart on his sleeve, but he can surf! Photo Kneelos

Fast forward to the reality that was Sunday and we're in the final of the SA kneelo champs and Gigs Celliers is struggling in the heat, lying third behind Jedd McNeilage and Lester Sweetman, and a bomb comes through, easily six foot, if not eight.

Gigs at the ripe old age of 54 launches an almost airborne attack on a set wave, like a genial Shrek clubbing a ghoulish monster in the form of two huge floaterish, off-the-lip reos followed by a huge one off the closeout section dangerously close to a gnarly cluster of rocks that almost consumed a couple of competitors, not least my son Tyler Pike.

With that wave, Gigs shot ahead on the score sheet to clinch another SA title, a trend that began in the dark ages: 1980 something. Jedd was second, Lester third and "Stevo the Kneelo" Van der Watt fourth. It was emotional for Stevo. All four of them are going to New Zealand next year to represent South Africa at the World Kneelo Champs in February / March next year. Just getting into the final was a win. There were tears. There were hugs. There were cheers, and wisecracks from Bobby Rousouw.

Sunday was a far cry from Saturday, when the event had to be cancelled due to tiny surf. All day Sunday the swell just jacked, with each set bigger than the last, until it was absolutely off its face.


OCEAN BLUE: The charts didn't promise much, but Neptune delivered kiff surf. Photo Kneelos

Lester showed he is a force to be reckoned with, scooping the only 10 point heat of the contest earlier, and taking gold in the Masters/Seniors Division. Marc Barry was second. Jedd took third and Anton Wiersma - the Kowie local selected to represent South Africa at the World Adaptive Surfing Champs - was fourth.

The Grandmasters title went to Stevo with Adam "Skilpad" Shapiro second, David Wilsenach third and Juriaan Erwee, fourth. Cheyne Robertson beat Matt Bentley into second in the Pro Junior/Cadets Final with Keegan Wilsenach, the youngest competitor in the event, taking third. Tyler came fourth.

The winner of the Kahunas Final was Grant Robertson with Andy Fermor taking second and Mark Tedder ending third while Richard Firth won the Veterans Final, followed by Bobby Rossouw, Johann Rademan and Stuart Henshilwood.


BUNCH OF BALLIES: The Immortals division was won by the oldest, Rudi Kurt. Photo Kneelos

Rudi Kurt, 66, the oldest kneeboarder competing, fittingly won the Legends and Immortals Final beating Mike Theys into second spot. Simon Hammerton was third and Ian Hollander came fourth.

Celliers had support from a group of legendary kneeboarders and officials from Surfing South Africa, who changed the game about how the event was run. Legendary judging. The four Open Finalists will represent South Africa at the World Kneeboard Championships in New Zealand in February and March 2020.

Full results of the event as well as wave and heat scores are available on


JUDGING TEAM: The kneelos were stoked to have a pro team of SSA officials present.


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