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adaptive-1200-th Tue, 7 August 2018

Adaptive surfers from South Africa and overseas made the pilgrimage to Durban for the Triggerfish Animation South African Adaptive Surfing Championships on the weekend, writes Spike.


CELEBRATION NATION: Participants and champions finish off an epic day. Photo Sandy Coffey

Included in the group were reigning world AS-1 champion Adi Klang from Israel, reigning Great Britain AS-2 champion Llywelyn “Spongebob” Williams from Wales, and reigning world AS-4 champion Bruno Hansen from Denmark, as well as former AS-1 world champ Ant Smyth, from Cape Town. Also in attendance were Israeli champion David Feldman (AS-1) and Darian Bailey Haynes, who came all the way from Hawaii to attend.

In the typical camaraderie and bond that binds this band of folk together, there was no stipulation you couldn't be from another country to participate. For the purposes of team selection for the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Champs in California (December 12-16), organisers will simply remove foreigners from the results. Besides, seeing old friends, while pitting yourself against the best, is what it's all about. It's less about the competition and more about collective participation.

Hosted and organised by Durban-based Non Profit Company, Made for More and Surfing South Africa on Sunday, the event was moved to New Pier because primary venue Addington Beach was flat. The plan was for the surfers to get a taste of the fast-breaking and hollow waves they will encounter in La Jolla in December. The plan worked. You don't get better small New Pier.


ON A ROLL: Bruno Hansen, who is orginally from SA, rules the A-4 division. Photo Dane Evans

For many surfers, 2-3’ lines coming through on a low tide sand bar at a world-class wave like the iconic New Pier can be fun, but when you’re strapped onto a board because you can’t move your legs, it can be terrifying. This is where the volunteers step up. Apart from assisting with wetsuits, wheelchair and prosthetics, they are the safety barrier that keeps it all fun and relaxed. A stellar crew of Durbanites, and others who flew in from all over South Africa, did just that.

Mono. He has one leg, in case you were wondering.The vibe on the beach was filled with laughter and wisecracks. Little wonder. The wit of the adaptive surfer is unique. Where else would you get nicknames like Mono, which refers to Mark Stewart, a former AS2 world champion who famously cut up his fins in front of organisers at a world champs when they were told they couldn't use fins. Mono. He has one leg, in case you were wondering.

Take Llywelyn "Spongebob" Williams, the Welsh AS2 champion, who was the spitting image of Spongebob Squarebob Squarepants as a kid, or English surfer Rick "Pegleg" Bennet. He calls himself Pegleg on Facebook. No sign of Rick. One of his posts asks people to please call him Peg. Australian double amputee Reddog Wheatley has a red face. Like Peg, he is Reddog on Facebook, no mention of his actual name.


SPONGEBOB: Welshman Llewelyn Williams hangs out with a new friend. Photo Dane Evans

American Christiaan "Otter" Bailey is the Laird Hamilton of adaptive surfing. The only paralysed professional big wave surfer in the world, a skateboarding accident rendered him paralysed from the waist down. He was the first paralysed surfer to ride Mavericks. Unfortunately for the Otter, Bruno Hansen, the former South African similarly paralysed (in a shooting incident), always gets the jump on the Otter in the AS-4 division at the world champs.

The SAs were larger this year, with 27 competitors, 22 South Africans and five internationals showcasing their skills in the water. Wheelchair access mats were pulled out and the accessible water chairs made the competition and the day fully inclusive.

The AS-1 men’s final was heavily stacked with one past and one current world champion competing, as well as a national champion. In the dying minutes of the heat, JP Veaudry (from East London) became national champion when he got the wave of the heat (an 8.5) to beat current World Champion, Adi Klang (current world champ, Isreal) who managed to get second. Despite ripping it up in the early rounds, Antony Smyth (former world champ, South Africa), had to settle for third and David Feldman (national champion, Israel) got fourth.


OFF THE TOP ON TOP: JP Veaudry, from East London, is the new SA champion. Photo Dane Evans

Grace Anderson defeated friend and rival, Darian Bailey Haynes from Hawaii to take the title and top honours in the AS-1 women’s division, while shark bite survivor Caleb Swanepoel became this year’s AS-2 South African Adaptive Surfing Champion, with Llywelyn Williams (Wales), Tyler Pike (Cape Town) and Donovan Kanes (Cape Town).

Hansen, a former South African who surfs for Denmark, took the AS-4 division with Danie Nel second and Dries Millard third. In the AS-5 division, Albert Rust took the win and Ashtan Davids came second. Winner of the AS-6 division (blind) was Durban boy Danito Mondlane, originally from Mozambique, who defeated Durban's Erynn Geddie.

For new surfers, or surfers not quite yet ready to surf in competition, an expression session was held that looks set to create a new wave of adaptive surfers. Official adaptive surfing contests is relatively new to South Africa, with just three championships held so far.


ON SITE: Organiser Julia van Zyl helps blind surfer Danito Mondlane from the surf. Photo Dane Evans

Organiser Julia van Zyl summed it up: "This event was truly something special, and all who had the privilege of experiencing it, were deeply humbled and encouraged. Spectators were inspired and contestants were admired, respected and honoured for their bravery and surfing abilities. This event would not be possible without the love and support of Triggerfish Animation Studios, Surfing South Africa and Sports and recreation South Africa.

"Anne Wright was contest director, Bongani Xulu was head judge, and Mike Frew did the commentating. We had the most incredible medals and prizes thanks to Surfing South Africa, Hurricane Surf, Zigzag and Hurley to name a few.

"We were absolutely blown away by the volunteers and the way in which they served with such joy and grace. We couldn’t have done the event without you, and we are super grateful for your support.

"Contestants, You guys are the real heroes! Watching you shred and experience the stoke and the freedom of the ocean is why we do what we do. Well done to everyone and especially to all our newly crowned South African Adaptive Surfing Champions."

adap-surf 95

NEW PEER: A bumper SA Champs, and well done to everyone involved. Photo Dane Evans

AS-1 men (Surfers who ride waves in a standing or kneeling position and/or have upper limb or below the knee amputation)
J.P Veaudry (East London)
Adi Klang (Israel)
Antony Smyth (Cape Town)
David Feldman (Israel)

AS-1 women (Surfers who ride waves in a standing or kneeling position and/or have upper limb or below the knee amputation)
Grace Anderson (Cape Town)
Darian Bailey Haynes (Hawaii)

AS-2 men (Surfers who ride waves in a standing or kneeling position and have above the knee amputations)
Caleb Swanepoel (Cape Town)
Llywelyn Williams (Wales)
Tyler Pike (Cape Town)
Donovan Kanes (Cape Town)

AS-4 Men (Surfers who ride waves in a prone position)
Bruno Hansen (Denmark)
Daniel Nel (Cape Town)
Dries Millard (Cape Town)

AS-5 Men (Surfers who ride waves in any non-standing position, need assistance catching waves but must be independent on the wave)
Albert Rust (Cape Town)
Ashtan Davids (Cape Town)

AS-VI (Surfers who have a visual impairment or are blind)
Danito Mondlane (Durban)
Erynn Geddie (Durban)

Other awards
Longest ride: Derrick Mboyisa (Cape Town)
Best Wave: Grant Oosthuyzen (Durban)
Most stoked: Amuri Mwanza (Durban)
Happiest Surfer: Lulu Tshoba (Durban)
Most dedicated Surfer: Nelisiwe Sibiya (Pietermaritzburg)
Biggest wipeout: Peter Glass (Amamzimtoti)
Bravest Surfer: Zonke Nyandeni (Durban)
Most committed Surfer: Deryck Du Einbein (Harding)
Blow up award: Dean Hart (Durban)

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