This is an interview with a surfer who’s faced great personal adversity to reach a goal and become a surfing champion. Avuyile ‘Avo’ Ndamase tragically lost his brother Zama in a fatal shark attack at Port St Johns’ notorious Second Beach in 2011 – the fourth fatal attack in three years.
A tragedy that would keep many out of the water indefinitely, Avo has used to motivate him to surf even harder, and his hard graft paid off with a big win in last weekend’s Future Stars division at the Quiksilver Pro Junior. We had a few words with the champ to hear his thoughts.
Howzit Avo, you put on a great performance to win the Future Stars division at the Quik Pro Junior. Tell us what this win means for you?
I got a second last year, so I’m really stoked to take it this year. Honestly, I would have loved to make semis or finals in the main event, but winning the Future Stars gave me a lot confidence to rip harder and make more heats. I also enjoyed some cool support and a lot of love from the boys and my main man Linx Logie.
From the beach it looked an inspired performance. What motivated you to victory?
My board has this huge ding in the tail and really bogs and stalls every time I do a turn – which gave me two things to worry about; My first worry was the crazy Papi and Nicholas backhand, and number two was myself, just the fact that I had my board to work against. But the memories of when I was a little kid shredding Second Beach on a board that had been snapped twice and had its middle plug missing, that motivated me. I was also saying to myself slowly, “Listen Avo, you’ve been in worse conditions than this and today you are here. If you want this board to go, then make it go!” Then just like that, boom, I got blessed with two sick waves and scored high sixes for each of the waves. Before the damage it was a really great board from Vudu Surf.
In 2011 you moved from Port St Johns to East London. What’s been happening there?
I was in matric last year, so I’m now working as a surf instructor for Jonginenge Eco Aventure and Environment Appreciation. I also work for Sugar Shack backpackers. I’m loving being an Eastern Beach local. There’s also some cool waves around the coast and the Reef is crazy – Slummies is spoilt with surf.
You tragically lost your brother, Zama, to a shark in your hometown of Port St Johns. How did his death affect your surfing, and how long was it before you were back in the water?
I pretty much moved straight to Slummies after that, and almost right away I was out at backline at Eastern Beach. The tragedy made me want to rip harder and do it for both Zama and myself.
Who encouraged you to start surfing?
When I moved to Second Beach in 2002 I made friends with a guy named Pitso Maza, who is two years older than me. Back then Pitso surfed anything from bodyboard to Malibu, and he got a lot of respect from the lifeguards and the locals. That made me want to be were he was. Once Pitso showed me how it all goes down, it wasn’t too hard, and the ecstacy I felt was too great – that’s when I got my first love, surfing, and it has never stopped.
That’s when surfing started to become popular in Port St Johns?
Yes, a year after I started Mike Gatke opened a surf school in P.S.J when he saw the stoke in us. He pretty much got us organised and influenced a number of kids, which included myself, Pitso and my brother. Mike helped with teaching kids and also put together a brotherhood called Iliza Surfing Academy – which sadly closed down in 2008 after we lost Luyolo Mangele to a shark. Most of the kids never surfed again and only a handful of us kept surfing. That was till Zama’s attack, after that surfing in P.S.J never worked out.
You’ve finished Matric, and you’ve also told us you’re currently working in Slummies. Can you tell us your plans beyond that?
Now I’m just working to make money for the next contest. I would love to get good sponsors and a good job overseas and do the WQS and see where that would take the Ndamase bros’ dream of being like the Hobgoods.
Let’s pretend you won the Lottery. Where is the first place you would book a surf trip?
I would go to the next 2 or 3 Star WQS event, wherever it is around the world. I’ll do that because of the drive and the dream in me every day when I wake up.
We wish you all the best with that dream, Avo.
Thanks, and shot for the interview.