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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Mon, 7 August 2017

"It's all about the stoke, no troubles" sounds like something Meghan Trainor would sing, but it aptly sums up a great day for South African adaptive surfing on Saturday, writes Spike.


ADAPT AND FLY: The medallists pose for a happy photo post-event. Photo Sandy Coffey


The positive, 'I can do this' stoke exuding from the second Triggerfish Animation South African Adaptive Surfing Championships at Muizenberg could have powered a small town with electricity for a week. The challenges faced by most participants - some paralysed, one blind, and others limited by the use of one arm or leg - make every-day troubles relatively rather silly.

When people call their regional trophy, without an iota of irony, regret or whatever you want to call it, the Cripple Cup, then you know they are not in the market for inspiration porn, or politically correct platitudes that justify your notion of what constitutes abilist sympathy.

Their stoke was resounding, and infectious. Early in the day, a small group of die-hard contestants - some reclining in wheelchairs, one listening, and others poised on prosthetic limbs - clustered around the contest area to listen to the briefing session by surf coach and co-ordinator Tasha Mentasti.


CHALLENGING: A solid and consistent four foot swell made it tough out there. Photo Graeme Field


By mid-morning, hundreds of curious onlookers had gathered. As Media Officer for Adaptive Surfing South African (ASSA) Sandy Coffey said, "It was a fantastic vibe on the beach. More and more people were stopping by to have a look, but then staying to learn about adaptive surfing."

Right, Matt Bromley and Bernie Shelly came down to volunteer

The champs are held to determine winners in a number of adaptive surfing categories, and acts ostensibly as a selection platform for the South African team to participate at the ISA Stance World Adaptive Surfing Champs in La Jolla, California at the end of November.

There were winners on Saturday. In the Standup Men AS-1M category, JP Veaudry edged Antony Smyth to claim moniker of SA Champ. They have a fierce rivalry in the water, but are good mates when they're back on land. In the Stand Up 1 Women (AS-1W), Grace Anderson won over Janine Prinsloo. In Stand Up 2 (AS-2), shark bite victim Caleb Swanepoel took gold with Tyler Pike in second, while Prone Men (AS-4M) was won by Daniel Nel, with his partner Elsje Neethling, sister to swim star Ryk, winner in the Prone Women (AS-4W). These two wheelchair-bound love birds found each other via adaptive surfing.


SMILES FOR MILES: Talk about the personification of unadulterated stoke. Photo Graeme Field

In Prone Assist (AS-5), first was Albert Rust, with Ashtan Davids and Charmont Botha second and third. The visually impaired category was contested by only entrant Danito Mondlane. The winning region, and winners of the affectionately known The Cripple Cup, were the Cape Town Surf Riders.

But it was so much more than competition. Friendships were invariably forged as a sea of red-clad volunteers descended on the beach to assist the surfers, outnumbering them by some margin. Among the helpers were growing big wave legend Matt Bromley and the Elkington brothers Max and Jake, watched on by folks Karen and James.

A sea of red-clad volunteers descended on the beachVeteran administrator Robin de Kock from Surfing South Africa popped by, while Colin Fitch from WSL Africa took some time to paddle out and help as well. By his Facebook post of a past trauma involving a white shark at Muizenberg many years ago, it appears the day was deeply therapeutic for him too. Even sponsor representative Jean-Michel Koenig from Triggerfish Animation was out there in the ocean to help. He is a passionate supporter.

Longboarding stalwart and recent hip recipient Bernie Shelly - star of the eloquent short film The Ghost Ship - was there. So was the 'last great surfing hippie' Bruce Gold, in Cape Town for an operation.


JOIN THE CLUB: The volunteers blindfolded themselves in the VS1 heat. Photo Graeme Field

Conditions were not easy. A chunky and relentless 4' swell was bending in from the big surf on the other side, further broken up by the effects of a stiff SE onshore. Contest Director Alex Milne had his work cut out. The Ixperience Expression Session was a little challenging at times, with a strong rip and many waves pouring through, keeping the legions of volunteers on their toes to ensure people didn't fall off their boards ... and if they did, that someone was instantly on hand to fish them from the soup.

Unbridled yells of sheer joy and bliss easily pierced the rumble of the surfAs Coffey said, "I loved how the expression session people come to the beach in their absolute finest. Full of pride and swagger, and loving it. They are adaptive surfing is really about. Getting people into the water for a day in the waves. What a thrill to be out in the sunshine on a day like this."

And it showed. Unbridled yells of sheer joy and bliss easily pierced the rumble of the surf. The grinning flash of white teeth was more radiant than the sun-brightened foam.

The visually impaired division saw three volunteers take up the challenge to surf against Danito Mondlane, the only entrant, by blindfolding themselves. Fellow compatriot and last year's winner in Danito's division Erryn Geddie could not be there because the Grade 7 learner at Clifton Prep in the Kwa-Zulu Natal midlands was being honoured for a brilliant maths result.


PRONE POWER: Daniel Nel heads towards his partner Elsje Neethling. Photo Graeme Field

His mom Susan said that Erynn attended the KZN Awards Ceremony on Saturday afternoon where he was awarded 2nd place in KZN for the Horizon Maths Competition, and won a laptop. "He received a standing ovation when he went up to collect his award (which we had to tell him about afterwards as he couldn’t see it!)."

And you think you have to deal with shit? Well, the volunteers got a 'glimpse' of what it means to be blind, if only for 20 minutes. An event like this teaches you to take nothing for granted. It's a win-win for everyone.

The success of a day like this is built on the background work of so many people. This year there was a strong presence of medical staff, with a sports physican, a physio and an OT ... all on standby to help. Veteran physio Helen Millson, who some might remember for her years working with the Stormers rugby team, kept a beady eye on the surfers.

The way the divisions are classified are a work in progress, and her expertise after careful consideration of the various physical challenges faced by the surfers could help the ISA and overseas adaptive bodies settle on more streamlined classifications. There is some confusion at times about where the line is between amputees and people with various forms of hemi-plegia and cerebral palsy, particularly in the AS1 and AS2 categories.

All in all, it was an awesome day.

Thanks to Triggerfish Animation, iXperience, Surf Emporium, REEF South Africa, Surfing SA, Robin de Kock. Johnny Bakker, Mohair South Africa, Hawk 62 Aviation Quiksilver, International Surfing Association, Alex Reynolds, and Wavescape.

Stand Up 1 Men (AS-1M)
1st - JP Veaudry
2nd - Ant Smyth

Stand Up 1 Women (AS-1W)
1st - Grace Anderson
2nd - Janine Prinsloo

Stand Up 2 (AS-2)
1st - Caleb Swanepoel
2nd - Tyler Pike

Prone Men (AS-4M)
1st - Daniel Nel

Prone Women (AS-4W)
1st - Elsje Neethling

Prone Assist (AS-5)
1st - Albert Rust
2nd - Ashtan Davids
3rd - Charmont Botha

Visually Impaired (AS V1)
Danito Mondlane

Winning Region - The Cripple Cup
The Cripple Cup - Cape Town Surf Riders

Expression Session
Most Waves - Graham Humphries
Longest Wave - Welile Mbonja
Best Maneuver - Nolothando Makalima
Biggest Wipeout - Vovo Vee
Highest Stoke Level - Lwasi

Category Key
AS 1 - Surfers who ride waves standing up or kneeling - Below the knee amputation or upper limb impairment/amputation.
AS 2 - Surfers who ride waves standing up, or kneeling - Above the knee amputation or upper limb impairment/amputation.
AS 3 - Surfers who ride waves in a seated position.
AS 4 - Surfers who ride waves in a prone position.
AS 5 - Surfers who ride waves in any non standing position and need help to paddle into waves and while in the water.
AS V1 - Surfers who have a visual impairment.


0 #1 docric 2017-08-08 10:15
Nice job guys. That face says it all.
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