Thu, 16 January 2020

Former Cape Town surfer and longboard maestro Michael Grendon became a Kiwi media celebrity on the weekend after he rescued two girls swept to sea in a rip current, writes Spike.

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ROLLING ROLLING: Michael Grendon surfs in the Rolling Retro in 2011 Photo Pierre Marqua

"It was hardly David Hasselhof," he said to media after he did a "hell of a cartwheel going down the dune" to get to three girls swept out to sea at Patea Beach on the coast of South Taranaki, North Island.

Grendon, who emigrated to New Zealand and surfed for his adopted country at the ISA World Longboarding CHampionships last year (he was the best performing Kiwi in the men's division), was on a family outing to go surfing and spotted the girls in difficulty from a nearby clifftop. In a story on New Zealand news portal www.stuff.nz, "one girl was rescued close to shore by another man, but the rip was pulling the other two out to sea".

"I could see that little head bobbing; I could see the drama unfolding," said Grendon, one of the best longboard surfers to come out of South Africa. Grendon and his wife Janine "piled their three children into their vehicle and drove along the road trying to find beach access". Grendon put on his wetsuit, grabbed his longboard and his kid's body boards, and paddled out until he reached the girls.

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KIWI LONGBOARDER: Grendon surfed for New Zealand at the worlds last year. Photo ISA / Evans

While the girls lay on the body boards, he used the ankle cord of his longboard to tow them to shore. By the time they made it to shore, the rescuer and his two charges had been swept south of the Patea River mouth, so he had to take each girl separately across the river, where anxious family members and police were waiting.

"There was a lot of hugging and kisses when we got them back," he said. The family of one of the girls has apparently asked for their address so she can send him a thank you letter.

South African surfers will remember Grendon for multiple longboard trophies and national titles in various competitions, as well as specialty events like the Rolling Retro in Llandudno, as well as some spectacular renditions of surf craft at the whacky Long Beach dress-up event of the Kommetjie Festival. In 2011, he successfully climbed a ladder attached to a longboard - a feat that also earned him headlines around the world.


LONGBOARD STYLE: Grendon has many logging titles to his name. Photo ISA / Evans

Grendon and his family live in Stratford, a town 60km from Patea. They had actually gone to another beach to surf and swim, but it was too windy and they had ended up at Patea just as the drama unfolded.

"We never go south, it was a bizarre outing that we ended up there," he said. "It was just right place, right time. Five minutes later or earlier, we would have been back on the road."

Janine said her only worry had been whether her husband would make it to the girls in time. "I felt quite emotional - we have daughters," she said. "If I'd gone in there, I wouldn't have come out again, but Mike is a water man. They were very lucky."

Indeed, an amazing coincidence to have one of South Africa's best watermen on hand just at the right time.

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