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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa
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Tue, 11 July 2017

Jordy Smith and friends joined locals and visiting surfers for a memorial paddle out to honour Jack O’Neill at Lower Point yesterday: part of a series of paddle outs around the world.


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MAKING A SPLASH: Jordy leads the traditional memorial splash of the paddle out. Photo AVG


For the man who pioneered the wetsuit, it was fitting that the weather had arrived in JBay. It was a freezing, cloudless morning at Lower Point. Surfers were trussed up in their best rubber as they launched through the keyhole into the fresh southwest wind blowing up the point.

Memorial Paddle Outs were staged worldwide, with Jack’s hometown Santa Cruz leading the proceedings. Over 2500 people joined the celebration there in what was the biggest memorial celebration the surfing world has seen to date. People were on surfboards, in boats in the water, and lining the cliff, as 1977 Surfing World Champion Shaun Tomson from South Africa made a speech honouring the man.

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YOUNG AND OLD: Locals and visitors joined together to paddle out for Jack. Photo AVG


In JBay, Jordy Smith led the proceedings. “Jack O’Neill was such a visionary and a pioneer,” said Jordy. “Apart from wetsuits and all he did there, he was a forward thinker on so many different aspects of our surfing life. I wouldn't be able to surf in Cape Town if it wasn't for him. He opened so many doors for people to be able to enjoy the ocean and it’s something that we can be grateful for.”

Jordy had the pleasure of hanging out with the man a few years ago.

“I remember hanging out with him at his house in Santa Cruz a few years ago,” said Jordy. “After a surf he asked me what the water was like. I told him that it wasn't too bad, not too cold and he smiled and said to me, ‘you’re welcome.’ That’s all he said. It was the craziest thing. It was so funny, and something I’ll remember forever.”

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TIME HONOURED: The memorial paddle out is one of surfing's solemn traditions. Photo AVG


Jordy paddled out into the small surf at Lower Point with a wreath, and surfers followed him out and joined the circle. It was a fitting tribute to the man who pioneered the wetsuit and did so much more for the sport.

“It was very heart-warming to see the locals, the groms and everyone else turn out for the paddle out,” said O’Neill South Africa’s Paul Canning. “O’Neill South Africa would like to thank everyone who came down to pay tribute to Jack.”

Surfers are gathered in JBay for the Corona Open JBay Championship Tour event. The waiting period for the competition starts tomorrow Wednesday 12 July. The Corona Open JBay is the showcase event at the JBay Winterfest, a multi-sport and music festival in Jeffreys Bay from July 12-23. More details at www.jbaywinterfest.com.

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WATCHING THE LIP: Some waves were even caught in honour of the man. Photo AVG


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