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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa
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Mon, 13 November 2017

Things are hotting up in Hawaii as three hungry surfers gear up for a helluva showdown. Craig Jarvis predicts a fiery finale while previewing where surfing is headed in 2018.


Trio-of-Finalists

TWO WITH A PLUS ONE: Looks like its down to these three in Hawaii. Photo WSL


Without fail, the Hawaiian leg every year offers drama, makes careers, destroys others, and sometimes puts a death to the picture. Surfers drown at Pipe, at outer reefs, or go missing at Waimea like Ace Cool. The North Shore is gnarly.

Apart from that, the North Shore will decide a world champion in women and men. It will decide a rookie of the year, and it will decree who will be competing on the premier Championship Tour in 2018, and who will be relegated to the shit-fight that is The Grind. There is always plenty happening for the six weeks that the WSL hits Oahu. Let’s dive in.

For the South Africans, we have Jordy Smith in the throes of a title race. Ranked 3rd now on the Jeep Leaderboard, Jordy has a legitimate shot at his first world title, but the two surfers above him are no slouches. Gabriel Medina at number two is ravenous for the glory of a second world title, after being out of the race for a year or two. He loves being in the limelight, and his hunt is equally about the crown and about the rapturous applause, the idolization and the hero worship he receives back home.

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RED ZONE: Hawaii is a gnarly place on character-testing levels. You need gonads. Photo WSL


John John is in the yellow jersey, and he is comfortable in it as a defending champion, and pretty much the best surfer in the world right now. He is an absolute standout in all the waves of the North Shore, BUT he does not have a Pipe title to his name. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? You decide.

On paper, he appears to be the most likely to win the crown, but the Pipe Masters is a volatile event and there’s no telling who could win. One year Bede Durbridge won by surfing high tide rights, and doing closeout floaters on the shoreline, so it’s not always about death pits and blow-outs.

John John is the defending champion of the QS 10,000 Hawaiian Pro, the next event up in Hawaii. It starts on November 12 at Haleiwa, soon followed by the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach. But Jordy Smith is the defending champion of this QS 10,000 event. Interesting times.

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MELTING CHOCOLATE: Benign imagery belies a brutal underbelly. Photo Brandon Jarvis /Unsplash


All South African eyes will be glued to the webcast over these two events as Cape Town surfer Mikey February makes his move to qualify for the Championship Tour 2018. February sits 11th on the QS rankings, and has 14,750 points to his name. He needs to go north of 18,000 to cement his slot, but he is a standout at Haleiwa and absolutely charges at Sunset Beach, so it should be an cinch.

Should Mikey falter at the finish, Jordy will be the lone South African soldier on the tourMikey is all we have in the mix for the 2018 season apart from Jordy. That's a bummer. Our next best surfer on the QS is Beyrick De Vries at 68th, and Davey Van Zyl at 87th. On the women’s side we have Bianca Buitendag at 18th with no chance of qualifying either. Should Mikey falter at the finish, Jordy will be the lone South African soldier on the tour.

Another bummer is the Waimea situation, with our big wave surfer and current world champion Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker part of the crew who will not get a chance to compete in the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Event. The contest had been canceled due to an irreconcilable disagreement between the Aikau family and the event sponsor Quiksilver.

The details of the spat have not been revealed, but sources have mentioned that the event will not be returning any time soon. With such few big wave events worldwide this is a tragedy and a travesty to big wave surfers and fans alike. The disagreement seems to be a financial one, and it’s sad that it could not be resolved as the Eddie is probably the most iconic big wave event in the world.

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LAVA FONDUE: A fiery finale or will it just convert to steam? Photo Buzz Anderson / Unsplash


The big news is that Kelly Slater is a start at Pipe, and is down to surf in heat 8 of round 1, against Kolohe Andino and Joan Duru. Slater has been sitting around and watching as well as working feverishly on his wave tank at Lemoore ever since breaking his foot at Boneyards during a free surf at this year’s Corona Open JBay. His return to competition at Pipe could be the start of a number of things, but quite frankly his career move thereafter is anyone’s guess.

Ke11y works better, especially for an oke pushing 45 years of ageIf he wins Pipe then it would be an awesome swansong for the 11 times world champion, retiring on a high note, but one can never tell if he actually is ready for his swansong. Is Ke11y a better brand to finish off with than Sla12er? What about Slat13r? Ke11y works better, especially for an oke pushing 45 years of age.

Whatever his retiring insignia is, will be highly irrelevant when his Surf Ranch starts rolling out worldwide. As we start looking at the 2020 Olympic Games and as countries start kicking into do-or-die win at all cost campaigns to bring home Gold, so the interest in his wave pools will spark. The wave pool revolution is upon us, and I, for one, can’t wait. Who fancies a wave tank in Jozi?

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