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Tue, 14 August 2018

For 19 years, winemakers have run the Vintners Surf Classic, with last Friday's epic edition at Stilbaai signalling a bold plan to raise R1million for a cancer treatment charity, writes Spike.


MOTLEY CREW: The surfing winemakers pose for a pic after the finals. Photo Nice Touch Media

big-red-wine-2018While it wasn't quite the thumping 12 foot carnage of last year, it was a bumper turnout of 67 surfers from all walks of the wine industry who enjoyed a classic winter's day, and the usual wine barrel bonhomie, interlaced with bouts of surfing in clean 3-4' lines pushing down the point, with some five footers on the outside as the surf improved with the pushing tide.

The weather wasn't great, with heavy squalls in the morning washing over the mud-spattered, white double cabs lining the carpark, but the weather cleared in the afternoon in time for wine tasting, beer drinking and the normal rootstock banter. More importantly, the wind stayed offshore the whole day.

And what about the world-class waves the next morning at a fishy surf spot: 6-8ft and gangbusters in an epic landbreeze and walling low tide. About 20 frothing vintners boosted their odds of survival at the break, which normally lies fallow due to frequent flyer fears of visits by Sir Fin and Mr Torpedo.

Divided into Women, Juniors, Seniors and Ballies, the age groups rely on a sliding scale depending on numbers, but it is roughly teens to 30 odd then 30 to 40 odd, followed by the ballies, who are over 40.


PURPLE PEOPLE EATER: Cobus Joubert brought some Wawa retro boards. Photo Nice Touch

However, the metric for the demographic does shift somewhat. Either way, for the 50+ grouping, the consistent arrival of 'young guns' as they reach the ripe age of 40 is beginning to impact on old ballies' chances as they get older! Perhaps there can be a new category of 55+ called the Bullets?

Any hoo, the Vintners Surf Classic will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, and there will no doubt be something special on the cards, perhaps a World Vintners Games featuring hundreds of winemakers from places like California, New Zealand and Australia. Heaven forbid. One regional vintage is enough.

Once again, at the jol afterwards (which entailed a return to the infamous Stables) the Big Red magnum was dished up, a 1.5 litre Bordeaux blend comprising the entry fee (five litres of wine per winemaker), which generally makes about 100 magnums. Traditionally, this annual batch is blended and bottled and gifted to contestants and sponsors on the day.


IN AND OUT: I need your bright green vest for the next heat bru. Photo Nice Touch Media

In addition, Jeremy Walker of Grangehurst Wintery (who works with Wavescape to create the Red Barrel and White Curl blends under the Wavescape Wines label), gets winemakers to donate another 25 litres of their top wine to create a semi-commercial iteration of the Big Red magnum to raise funds for a cancer charity called Surf4Life.

Surf4Life was founded in 2011 as a fundraising event by surfer Taryn Pratt, who had cancer and required treatment. A number of wineries donated wine. An auction was held, and R63,000 raised. After Pratt's medical costs, leftover monies were donated to hospice, another cancer victim and various community upliftment and cancer treatment initiatives.

Sadly, Pratt passed away, but her friends in the surfing comunity formalised Surf4Life as an ongoing charity to honour her memory, while helping the community.


WIN WIN: B. Newton Johnson (ballies), T. Barnard (ladies) F. Rabie (juniors) P. Walser (seniors)

"After the initial auction, we had the idea, based on the Big Red concept from the surfing event, that we could produce our own semi-commercial version of the Big Red to raise funds for Surf4Life," Walker said.

These 10 premium bottles will be signed by the likes of Kelly Slater and other top WSL surfersUnder his stewardship, they put together a 2014 vintage comprising 1,250 litres of shiraz, cab savignon and pinotage donated by more-or-less the same people who rock up at the Vintners Surf Classic every year. The wine has been maturing for four years at Grangehurst Winery in five barrels generously donated by various coopers, and was bottled this year. About 700 magnums have been bottled, plus five x three litre speciality bottles and five x five litre bottles. These 10 premium bottles will be signed by the likes of Kelly Slater and other top WSL surfers to up the ante.

The 2014 vintage is available from next week. Sales are expected to fetch about R300,000 for Surf4Life, Walker said. "The 2015 vintage is sitting in nine barrels at Grangehurst, and we will start bottling in the next few weeks, certainly by the end of September. We release each batch when its four years old, so the 2014 vintage comes out this year, and the 2015 vintage comes out in 2019, and so on."


BIT OF CORKAGE: Gunter Schultz smacks one off the top over the closeout. Photo Nice Touch

However, the ultimate aim was to make the batch much bigger - one barrel or 225 litres of good wine per 30 winemakers - so that the economy of scale covers costs and a modest profit to the winemakers - rather than relying on donations. A barrel of wine is a lot of wine to just give away.

Thirty barrels of wine would make 6,750 litres or 4,500 magnums. That would entail a sales revenue of more than R2 million, half of which would go to Surf4Life.

A magnum of the 2014 vintage costs R630 and you can get it through Vineyard Connection on 021 884-4360 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or see www.vineyardconnection.co.za


A huge thanks to all the sponsors of the event, especially RR Technologies and Reef for helping make the day so special. Also the members of Stillbaai United Church for supplying the food on the day. To Stables for hosting the evening prize giving. And then especially to all the local Stillbaai surfers for allowing us to host this contest on their breaks. R5,280 has been donated by the contestants towards improving and maintaining the facilities at the breaks.

Trizanne Barnard
Sarah Harvard
Lucinda Heyns
Nadia Barnard

Faan Rabie
Jan Solms
Heinrich vd Walt
Christo le Riche

Pieter Walser
Gunter Schultz
Francois Hanekom
JT vd Westhuizen

Bevan Newton Johnson
Miles Mossop
Sebastian Beaumont
JP Rossouw

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