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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Mon, 8 May 2017

Fifty years separated the youngest and oldest as a clan of kneelos gathered in Elands Bay recently. Former Bok legend Lawrence Atkinson penned a piece. Photos Sean Thompson


WESKUS MOVES: Still some life in the old ballies yet. Photo Sean Thompson

South African Kneeboard surfers (better known as kneelos) travelled from around the country for a gathering of the clan over Workers' Day weekend at Elandsbaai on the Cape West Coast.

And what a weekend that was. Based at the Witmosselpot - a surfer bar/ chilled restaurant/ backpackers/ surf shop and the centre of Eland’s surfing social life - the kneelos travelled and surfed together at some of the incredible kelpy, cold water surf spots scattered around this wave mecca.

The age difference between the youngest and oldest kneelos searching for waves and a laugh was 50 years, and they were bonded by their love of a hollow wave and for many, over 30 years of friendships. Some remembering their youth while the younger ones learned from the masters.


KNEELOS NEVER DIE: The Weskus delivered some great kneelo surf. Photo Sean Thompson

Some members of this clan have travelled together to ride waves in the USA, Australia, Portugal, Indonesia and Madagascar. This time, they were fortunate to have a surf photographer, Sean Thompson, to record their skills, camaraderie and wipe-outs.

Gigs Celliers, the international star of the group, stood up at an informal function to welcome everyone and gave a brief history of the sport and its influence on the ‘other’ (stand up) version of surfing.

As part of the razzmatazz, Gigs invited two elders of the sport, Paddy Laroque and Lawrence Atkinson to join him up front. Then he unveiled two historic boards from the early 1980s. Somewhere and somehow, he’d spirited these iconic boards out of the mists of history.


OLD SCHOOL: Gigs Cilliers found these old boards from the 80s to hang in the store.

Gigs told Spike a little more about the boards on his way to Brazil to commentate for the WSL at the Oi Rio Pro: "The old boards I handed out were circa '83 so classic thruster with a bit of Ozzie slab type of width. Lots of vee. There was no real knowledge in those days about concaves. They are 5'6" or 5'7". Channels and quads were also in the mix. Found them years later in the 90s at the second hand stores. Lots of these have probably been snapped up cos they good these days for teaching second and third generation kids."

"I basically just stitched together a little history lesson cos I got lots of 60s longboards and cut downs from the era in the ceiling of my girlfriend's restaurant up in Elands. Sorry boys, she is taken."

"I spoke about the Georg Greenough influence of kneeboards and their short board influence on the then longboard status. The South AFrican Kneelos were amped but stuck inside the apartheid bubble with very or little knowledge of the Ozzie leaders. But there was a strong rivalry between Natal and WP, and some from the Border region. We produced world champ material completely excluded from the world at the time."


SIMPLE TRUTH: Up the West Coast, all the clutter disappears. Photo Sean Thompson

Paddy muttered to himself, “Gobsmacked! Absolutely gobsmacked. How did Gigs find these boards?”

Lawrence said afterwards, “I just had a silly smile on my face and everyone else in the room disappeared. I walked in a daze over to one of my favourite and most memorable boards ever. What was it doing here?”

These historical boards now are on display, with many other iconic surfboards, in the Witmosselpot.


Barry Barrels Horn
0 #1 MrBarry Barrels Horn 2017-05-10 13:03
Hi, missed ot this cool occasion!Good to know that the style is good and alive.And some kief waves were had, as well!
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