Tempers flared and fists flew in Port Alfred on Sunday afternoon when an angry jet ski rider attacked surfers who tried to tell him not to drive recklessly near young bathers. Daily Dispatch journalist and Sunshine Coast surfer David MacGregor was on the beach enjoying a typical Sunday at Port Alfred’s popular East Beach when the mood quickly turned for the worse. Below is his report on the altercation.
ROAD RAGE ON KOWIE HIGH SEAS
Tempers flare and fists fly over beach safety
by David MacGregor
Emotions are running high at popular East Beach – one of the premier surf spots on the Sunshine Coast – after Joburg businessman Rudi van der Westhuisen ignored pleas to move further down the beach and attacked complaining surfers instead.
The Daily Dispatch and several other beach goers saw the burly jet skier punch one surfer in the chest before attacking another when he too complained about alleged public drinking and reckless driving in the surf zone.
Mike Varela was left with a bloodied mouth after he was hit in the face, headbutted and wrestled to the ground in a headlock before other surfers jumped in and restrained van der Westhuisen.
The situation almost spiralled out of control when an elderly gentleman – who said he was van der Westhuisen’s father – grabbed a tazer and tried to zap surfers who were trying to break up the fight.
Eyewitness John Burman yesterday confirmed he had officially complained to police about van der Westhuisen’s behaviour. These included reckless and dangerous driving, two counts of assault and public drinking.
Police are also investigating claims that van der Westhuisen’s off duty policeman friend, warrant officer Reinhardt le Roux – who was on the beach with him at the time – had tried to tell black township police who responded to the call to leave as the area did not fall under their jurisdiction.
During heated discussions with a posse of police and security guards in the car park, van der Westhuisen openly challenged surfers he was disagreeing with to come behind the dunes and fight it out.
“It was a horror story,” Burman complained.
Tensions between van der Westhuisen and the surfers have been simmering for years over the way he drives and also his ongoing refusal to jet ski elsewhere.
He yesterday said the fight broke out when he got tired of the “yap, yap” of the complaining surfers. He however denied drinking alcohol or attacking anyone – claiming he was defending himself instead.
“All these guys are talking kak, I have jet skied at East Beach for 22 years and was not breaking any laws.”
Angry Port Alfred mother Pania Heny said besides openly drinking alcohol on the beach, van der Westhuisen displayed “hooligan behaviour” by driving recklessly on his jetski near her children.
Visiting surfer Stuart Shelver said he was very concerned for the safety of his 11 year-old son Tim during a brief surf on their way home to Jeffrey’s Bay.
“My little eleven year old was extremely scared of this jet-ski, and wanted to get out of the water.
“If it was not for the altercation that happened when the surfers asked this guy to stop riding amongst the surfers, we would have gotten out of the water and gone home.”
He said the incident brought back memories of an accident a few years back when a young Johannesburg business man was killed by a jet ski on the main beach.
“Behaviour of this kind is a real danger and threat to the safe use of the beach for everyone.” He said the jet skier could easily have moved down the beach.
Police spokesman Lt Luvuyo Mjekula yesterday confirmed they had launched an internal investigation into the incident.
Attempts to get Ndlambe Municipal comment proved fruitless at the time of going to press.