If you didn’t manage to make it down to Seal Point this past week, then you definitely mist out. There was no fogging around though, and with the waves ranging from difficult to 3 foot over the 6 days, it was clear to see that the surfers were ready and serious about the national titles. Jokes (and weather patterns) aside, the 2019 SA Longboard Champs is always a great contest to be around and this year was no different. With a record number of provinces and contestants involved, and sponsors lining up outside the doors, it was a great success both in and out of the water.
Words and Images – Kody McGregor
Day 1 saw the opening rounds start with sunny skies, fun waves and long noserides, with the fast running walls of Seals perfectly allowing for the 9ft+ boards to sit in the pocket. As the day progressed the wave conditions continued to deliver, and everyone was looking forward to a great week ahead. That’s when mother nature decided to make things more interesting.
Day 2 arrived and a fog bank rolled in, settling neatly over Cape of St Francis. Just outside of town it was your classic sunny African day, but take a step into Capies and it was grey and cold. To make things even more intriguing the mist hung around for the next 72 hours making life very difficult, and for 4 days straight the contest directors and judges did all in their power to keep things rolling. Anyone who has ever been to Seals will know that it’s a perfect spectators amphitheater, with the water’s edge being incredibly close to the grass embankment and road, and so to not be able to see the ocean is quite something.
For the first time (that I’ve ever known), heats went on hold and days abandoned because no-one could see the water. At one stage the judges had moved to their 3rd location to try and finish a heat but had to postpone until the next morning. That being said the waves were still fun though… I think. With 2 days left in the schedule, the fog casually moved away as if nothing had happened and the business end of the contest continued without interruption.
Day 6 began with sunnier skies, really fun waves, and even longer noserides. For the first time, all the divisions surfed on one day and so the crowds were eager to see the finals of the Champs. The juniors started us off and its clear that the future of longboarding is safe in their grommie hands. They are all very comfortable on the nose and with smooth cutbacks to add, its going to be exciting watching them battle it out for years to come. Moving on to the Senior Ladies and Divas, they gracefully navigated the difficult and fast walls of the point using their experience and style to wow the crowds. With the change in the age gap of the divisions, and sometimes surfing against opponents 10 years their junior or senior, it was really awesome to see them competing with respect and love for each other and surfing.
The Kahunas and Legends followed and these divisions are always classic heats. They have next level wave selection and smooth flowing lines which just adds to their repertoire of turns and noserides. Some of the men have been surfing for longer than most of us have been alive and I only wish that one day I’ll have the same energy and excitement as these guys. The Masters and Grand Masters have also had a change in age gap specification, yet the competition was still incredibly fierce. With the technical skills of the opens and the experience of an older generation, these guys have it all. High-performance power and traditional logging techniques, it’s always awesome to watch them in action, and this contest was no different.
The finals day always leads to the main divisions of the Open Ladies and Men’s, and even though conditions were deteriorating slightly, there was no shortage of action and excitement. The ladies final was a hotly contested affair with a mixture of South Africa’s finest. With KZN, Eastern Cape and Western Cape all represented, they had a slow start but heated up quickly with some great surfing. It was very tricky to call who had won but in the end, Ophelie Ah-Kouen, a Reunion Island surfer currently living in KZN, came out victorious. The men’s final featured 2 surfers who have already been crowned SA Champs in the past, an amazing and super stylish logger and an u18 who had flown through the previous rounds.
It was truly a great final to watch, with hang ten after hang ten there was some amazing surfing in what was very tricky but highly contestable waves. If you thought the ladies was difficult to call, the men was nearly impossible but Justin Bing came through it as Champion adding another title to his already swollen cabinet. Thanking my lucky stars that I’m not a judge, it was a great ending to what had been a very exciting week.
Despite the crazy, once in a lifetime weather conditions, and the uncontrollable stop/start nature of the contest, the longboarders went on with their business with no complaints and really made for a special and memorable event. A special thanks must go to the Seal Point Boardriders, Eastern Province committee, SALSA committee, the contest organisers and directors, judges, sponsors, spectators and to all the contestants themselves. Without this massive group effort, the contest would not be possible, and it would be a sad day if this event did not run.