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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Wed, 27 June 2018

If you did this in Spain, what would happen? Slashed tyres? A broken board? A wet kiss by a hairy gypsy? Spike watches Don Quixote charge windmills in the sand. Photos Grant Scholtz.


HEY BRU! Tommy Kruger exits a long tube only to find a figure in front of him. Photo Scholtz

Tommy Kruger pulled into an epic wave at Skeleton Bay the other day. Dropping sharply in on a bowling beast on his backhand, he swept straight into a barrel. Flying along the line, pigdogging to his heart's content, he comes out, then pulls into a long barrel.

As he comes out of the tube at speed, a figure looms 15 metres down the line, perched on top of the wave. It's Don Quixote of La Mancha chasing windmills! Sadly, the Spaniard makes the drop. Sadly for Kruger too. His exquisite high speed line is abruptly chopped short.


AG NO MAN: Tommy Kruger watches with disbelief as Don Quixote charges another windmill.

To evade a high speed entanglement with man, board and fins, Kruger has to find a way to slow down and take evasive action. Now anyone knows that when you're riding the donkey, you have to go full tilt to stay with the wave, and to stay safe on the wave.

That lip chucks buckets. Over extremely shallow sand. With a brain-thudding pop. Ask numerous people, including an expert surfer like Shaun Holmes, what can happen if you get on the wrong side of this wave. She kicks like a mule. Speaking of which, Don Quixote rode a mule while believing himself to be a knight-errant in a medieval story of great chivalry, and bravery.


WARNING WARNING: Collision imminment. Warning. Warning. Collision imminent. Photo Scholtz

Actually, Don Quixote didn't ride a donkey. He rode a crazy old horse called Rocinante (who was just as mad as his rider) but that's besides the point. Right beside the point, along a treacherous freight training tube metres from your simmering moer koffee in the back of your twin cabbie.

Instead of slamming into the mad Spanish buffoon, who was part of a large Spanish contingent that included Aritz Aranburu and Natxo Gonzales though he was not part of the latter two's crew, Kruger turns sharply away from impact.


NOOIT BRU! Don Quixote was prone to comedic hubris, like this ou but only more serious.

The two surfers come within a whisker of a gnarly meeting of minds, fins, boards and bodies, with probably a dose of leash-wrap, lip smack, and sand burn enema. That's because Kruger takes the line of discretion as the better part of valour. On most other waves, you'd probably be able to ride up to the guy and push him off the wave, or at the least vloek him severely from just behind him for an unnerving moment of truth.

Now, perhaps he didn't see Kruger, but that is no vindication of his behaviour. Like in rugby, when the attacking player may contest an opponent leaping up to catch a ball (as long as he does not recklessly endanger the guy's safe landing), he should have been vigilant that someone wasn't in the oncoming tube. "Sorry I didn't see you," simply does not cut it out there.


BLERRY BUSTUD! Kruger (burnee) narrowly avoids colliding with the burner. Photo Scholtz

So Kruger is left angrily embroiled in a foaming dustup up with a violent section of white water that spits him out onto the beach, while Don Quixote continues merrily down the line, riding the wave of his life.

Word on the beach was that if this had been in Spain, and a South African or Namibian had done that to a local, the consequences would have been way more severe. Apparently, the surfers was severely reprimanded by the pro Spanish surfers who had seen the incident, while also having to walk the gauntlet back up the beach bombarded by hostile glares, angry grumbles and the occasional hoot of derision.


BUST BRU: Don Quixote, right, looks dejected after a bollocking from his mates. Photo Scholtz

Some time later, after Don Quixote finished the long and weary walk back to where the bakkies were parked, photographer Grant Scholtz captured the dejected looking knight-errant standing a little away from his crew, with his head down, as though found guilty by a beach court.

If that was the only censure he had to endure, he got off lightly. The desert is a tough and unforgiving place, and the surfers who come here time and time again know that. They have invested a lot of time, emotional energy and money to be here. They've felt the harsh end of the wedge, when the lonely mists of insanity muffle the raw thump of nature so cruel, a wild Max Max set on infinite sand where dead seals putrify and black-backed jakkals prowl.

For those who have paid their dues, the salty taste of sweet perfection beckons. It must be very frustrating when people rock up and jump to the front of the queue like they own the place.


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