Wed, 27 February 2019

As we move into the nitty gritty of this surfing year, Craig Jarvis underlines some reasons to be hopeful by reminding us how good 2018 was for South African surfing.

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BODING WELL: Adin Masencamp just too 5th in a QS6,000 event in Brazil. Photo WSL / Smorigo

We're off to a good start with Adin Masencamp recently taking 5th place at the Oi Hang Loose Pro in Brazil, making it to the quarter finals in an elite field, and moving to 13th on the QS ratings, one off the World Tour cutoff for 2010.

We can only build on the performances from 2018, and we should be proud of how our competitive surfers fared last year. To remind you, at the Stance ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championships held at Lo Jolla Beach in San Diego, South Africans Anthony Smyth and Grace Anderson took Gold and Silver respectively in December. Both surfers competed in the premier AS-1 division, and were commendable in their performances as well as team participation and spirit.

South Africa came 9th in the team division that was won by USA from Brazil and Chile. Smyth took the title from young Brazilian Jonathan Borba in a tactical final, while Anderson was beaten by Kazube Uchida from Japan. South African 1977 world champion Shaun Tomson was on hand doing commentary and was there to congratulate the two surfers personally.

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SAFFA HUGS: Ant Smythe is congratuled by Shaun Tomson on his medal last year. Photo ISA

JBay surfer Matt McGillivray was the highest-placed surfer on the World Qualifying Series, ending up placed 30th in the series that saw the top 13 surfers qualify for the 2019 Championship Tour (including double qualifications).

Matt was a standout at Sunset Beach in Hawaii with some gutsy performances on big waves that saw him get some serious cred from locals, spectators and webcast viewers alike.

His other results on the QS included a first place at the Seat Po Netanya presented by Reef that was held in Israel, a 2nd place in the Mitchum Buffalo City Surf Pro presented by Reef Wetsuits in East London, and 1st at the Vans Surf Pro Classic in lamberts Bay and a 3rd at the Jordy Smith Cape Town Surf Pro presented by O’Neill.

Matt was also the WSL Africa wildcard into the Corona Open JBay, surfing off in the main event for invaluable competitive experience. Finishing up 30th on the tour will see McGillivray seeded into the bigger events next year, and it’ll bring him a step closer to qualifying for the big leagues.

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WINNING: Lets hope for more of this in 2019. Matt McGillivray last year. Photo WSL / Masurel

Talking about big leagues, the inimitable Jordy Smith had an excellent year, and if some of the weird calls by the WSL judges had gone his way this year, it would have been a very different story.

His result at JBay Ulus had a question mark to it, losing by a mere .47 of a point to rookie of the year Wade Carmichael in the semis, while his result at Uluwatu also reeked a bit fishy, losing to Julian Wilson by .7 of a point in a result that saw online soldiers typing furiously in indignation at his first wave underscore.

His performance at Pipe this year was brilliant, silencing his naysayers that he has yet to find his groove at big Pipe by charging the big sets and making some thick tubes. His loss to Gabby by .44 was a bitter pill to swallow, but Jordy is a sportsman and a gentleman and walked away with pride and a 5th place on the Jeep Leaderboard.

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MIKEY FREE SURFER: Michael Febraury landed a deal of a lifetime for him. Photo WSL / Cestari

Kommetjie’s Mikey February did not have a good rookie year on the Championship Tour however, and was relegated back to the QS for 2019. Interestingly enough was that in the process of losing his berth, he got offered an excellent head-to-toe sponsorship from Vans, walked away from Quiksilver, and further solidified his deal from Channel Islands Surfboards.

As part of his multi-year Vans deal he is not required to get competitive results and just needs to surf, travel, get some photos and have fun doing what he loves. Mikey saw the notoriously critical WSL fans warm to him and his funky style, as well as the fact that he kept things tidy and remained cool to the core while his contest results were faltering.

He actually had a good year of performance surfing, including a fifth place at the Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o and looked good at most of the Championship Tour venues, but was also unlucky a few times with calls going against him, and had very little going his way. Either way we will be seeing much more of him in the future.

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TWIG ON A BOUGH: Grant Baker is dwarfed by a massive wave. Photo WSL / Cestari

In a pleasant and fairly dramatic surprise, JBay’s Steve Sawyer is the 2018 Men’s World Longboard Champion after winning the longboarding division at the Taiwan Open Of Surfing at Jinzun Harbour in early December.

Sawyer beat longboarding legend Kai Sallas from Hawaii in the process. The goody-footed Sawyer was on-fire throughout the event, but saved the best for last by outpointing the Hawaiian for victory and the world title. Sawyer is also a noted shortboarder who won the JBU Supertrial in 2016 and thus won a wildcard slot into the main Corona Open JBay event.

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker has two big wave world titles under his belt, and at this stage looks dead set on claiming a third. With two events down for the year in the three-event tour, Twig is currently in the lead ahead of Billy Kemper and Kai Lenny.

TWIG FOR PRESIDENT: If Mavs does not run by end of March, Twig gets his third title Photo WSL

Durban surfer Twiggy put on an incredible performance at massive Nazaré to take the win from youngsters Lucas Chianca from Brazil and Natxo Gonzales from Basque Country who actually placed 726th on the men’s QS tour this year as well. At the Jaws Challenge Twiggy had a solid event and caught the wave of his life on the opening day, but failed to perform in the final and ended up in 5th place.

The event was somewhat controversially won by Billy Kemper, who was awarded the victory without actually making his waves in the final and with fellow competitors urging the WSL Big Wave Tour to re-examine their judging criteria for big wave surfing.

Fair call – as big wave surfing performances get incredibly technical and as big wave surfers get more confident, it might be an idea to look at the CT rules, where if a wave isn’t made to completion it fails to get a good score. If the Mavs event doesn't run by the end of March 2019 then Twiggy will bring his third big wave world title back to South Africa.

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