Black Toothed Grin
Sixteen handpicked South African bodyboarders soared to new heights during the Tand Invitational held recently at a remote ocean slab on the West Coast near the sleepy seaside village of Paternoster.
With a name like Tand – Afrikaans for “tooth” if you’re an expat who has forgotten your mother tongue – the puns about this surf spot get spat out thick and fast, just like the spittle that sprays from the gob of this spot when it chunders on to the reef. Sorry.
The wave breaks like the jaw of some ungodly sea creature as it slams shut. No wonder we bandy about words like “jaw”, “overbite”, “maw”, “toothy grin”, “dental surgery”, and “implant”. Heck, even common and garden surfing jargon takes on new meaning when you say: “Off the lip”.
Organisers of Tand were waiting for the right conditions for the reef known as Tand to come alive so that it could host the cream of Saffa bodyboarding. Set over one day, the invitation-only event is the reward for surfers who have earned their spot via a series of stringent criteria, not least riders with the ability to face down challenging and consequential waves.
And as the spray settled, it was Wesley Coetzee from KwaZulu Natal who emerged the victor, clutching a R20,000 winner’s cheque. Alex Nutt from KZN, secured a well-deserved 2nd place. An impressive display from IBC World Tour contender, Robbie Berman, earned him 3rd spot on the podium, while the indomitable Hankus Loubser rounded off with 4th.
It was one dark and stormy day. Lightning bolts seared the grey gloom with stabs of light. Rolling thunder cracked through the cane fields. Oh no, wait. That’s a lyric from Gang Gajang. Replace cane fields with sand dunes, and add a sprinkling of renosterveld or whatever fynbos they have up there.
Setting up the live stream in off-grid Tietiesbaai, which is far from civilization, was beyond difficult. And yet the live-stream reached the world flawlessly, which is nothing short of a miracle. Incidentally, the bay was named after Hottentot Captain Titus, who drowned here. Due to the unique colloquialism of the area – aided by the shape of the rock around them – Tietiesbaai morphed from Titus to Tieties.
The inaugural heat at 11am was greeted by a building swell and a receding tide. Luke Bruton, the impressive super grom and Tand local, emerged victorious, while the skilled Walker Bay Pro junior champ, Hugo Naudé, from George in the Southern Cape, claimed solid second. Sacha Specker, esteemed 2012 world Drop Knee champion and former Tand winner, secured third, while local talent Aden Kleve from Kalk Bay Reef finished fourth.
The first two riders advanced to the semi-finals, while the remaining two contenders were knocked out.
The ocean went on a go-slow for Heat 2, which commenced at a leisurely pace. This compelled riders to vie for position to hook high-scoring waves. Loubser showcased his prowess, mastering wave selection and the art of pure power surfing, which led him to a commanding victory, leaving Berman in second. Andrew Raath and Marc Webster, who had advanced to the event via wins in the David Lillenfeld Pro Am, were knocked out.
Heat 3 juxtaposed the seasoned expertise of Henk Esterhuysen and Johan De Goede against the vigor of younger guys Jaco Calitz and Alex Nutt. Brushed into shape by the offshore wind, the barrels began to throw far and wide. Alex, also from Durban, emerged victorious over Calitz. Esterhuysen and De Goede savoured several exhilarating tube rides to conclude their contest on a happy, if losing, note.
The final heat was nerve-wracking. The scores were so tight, it was hard to tell who won. Allan Horton initiated the day’s first outstanding score with a daring take-off deeper than anyone else and threaded through an insanely elongated tube ride to earn him 9/10 from the judges. Regrettably, he couldn’t find a backup, which could have secured a heat win. Wesley Coetzee from the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal, however, seized the opportunity and unearthed the gems of the heat. He took the heat by the slightest of margins over Luke Staniforth. Benjy Oliver, although finishing fourth, showed extraordinary resilience, and humor. He walked away from the event with the wipeout of the day. His inaugural trip over a barnacle-encrusted slab left him unharmed.
The first semi proved to be a slow affair, with a few rare mutant waves that detonated over the slab. Berman emerged victorious over Nutt, who skillfully executed a massive backflip on the main bowl, securing the event’s second excellent score and earning him a remarkable 9-point ride from the judges. Unfortunately, Bruton and Staniforth could not find the waves they needed.
Semi 2 stole the spotlight as most exhilarating heat of the event. Loubser unleashed his inner beast, capitalizing on his priority and scooping the highest heat total of the contest. Three massive barrel rides, complemented by a combination of backflips and spins, got him an impressive 17.16 out of 20. He outshone Coetzee, who secured a commendable 14.17. Meanwhile, Calitz and Naude had to sit back and watch his bodyboarding masterclass.
The grand finale of the Tand Invitational 2023 saw the lead change hands multiple times. Loubser’s strategy to wait for rare set waves proved to be his downfall. Coetzee picked up the hidden gems and clenched his maiden Tand victory. Nutt secured a well-deserved 2nd place, receiving a generous cheque of R5,000.
Robbie Berman achieved a significant milestone in his career, claiming 3rd spot and earning R3,000. Hankus, concluding his day of bold charging, secured a respectable 4th finish, walking away with a cheque of R2,000.
Organisers made a heartfelt thank you to the sponsors and all the supporters, media, and fans who journeyed up the west coast to witness the event live. Immense gratitude is owed to those who tuned in and supported the event’s live stream.
Thanks also to Hand Picked Bodyboards , Ryan Boon Meats, Smit Steenwerke, Buell Wetsuits, Comfort Cool Air Conditioning, Jackery Power Supplies, Red Bull, Urban Hippy, WhatgoesaroundSA, Paternoster Holiday Rentals, Paternoster Express, Wiara Coffee, Kiff Labs, Marqua Digital Design, and Mumbles.