20 June, 2017 20 June, 2017

Thoughts on the Round 5 Bloodbath

There were six South African surfers with a fighting chance on the morning of the final day of the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing presented by Hurley. Four heat wins from hoisting the trophy, two from a quarter-final finish. By the very next round, all six South African had exited. And it was hard not to question why, when so many Brazilians dominated the final rounds?

Having never been to Brazil, I can’t comment with authority on how they’ve become the dominant force in competitive surfing on the QS level, but I think I might have three quick points on how we can increase the number of Saffas making their way up the ranks.

Mikey Feb keeping it cool. Photo © Ian Thurtell


Don’t get me wrong, I love how laissez–faire our line-ups have become in Durban, because I’m not surfing for competitive reasons, but the old-school pecking order was and is much more conducive to nurturing the next generation’s champion. When you’ve got to earn your right to one of the bombs, that immediately makes the line-up more competitive. And for a grom aiming for the very top of the New Pier pyramid (and the Bay of Plenty before that), it really forced you to up your game. Either that or it’s down to South Beach for you, with the rest of the ballies, groms and kooks.

The Brazil Storm… Photo © Ian Thurtell


This point is based on a case study. The evidence speaks for itself and supports the idea that we need more brat packs to become a WSL force to be reckoned with. The study involved a particular group of groms. The Dairy Beach pump house was their castle and they were the kings of the bowl. The numbers in their squad did vary weekend-to-weekend, but there was always a core group of young rippers that included Davey Weare, Simon Nicholson, Warwick Wright and Travis Logie among their rank. While all four called time on their pro careers at different stages, they all brought back some epic trophies for their pump house kingdom. Observing the competitiveness and camaraderie they shared first-hand it’s no surprise. They drove each other to perform. This is not an isolated example though, and you can look to Warner Beach or Tube Wave, Supertubes and Long Beach for similar scenarios. Gather a like-minded group of aspiring young rippers together and they’re going to push each other, innovate, assimilate and raise their games collectively.

Alex Ribeiro pumped with passion after winning the Men’s 2017 Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing. Photo ©  Ian Thurtell


Let’s look at the ‘P’ word – passion! My distanced observations of Brazilian culture has drawn me to an unsubstantiated conclusion. Whether it be capoeira on the beach, a game of one bounce or football, or a twenty minute heat, they do so with passion, and it’s no wonder they produce some amazing talents. By tempering a show of passion, aren’t competitors shooting themselves in the foot? And it’s the surf fans that are responsible for this. By instilling the notion that claims are lame, young pros are being trained to under-perform. Let them rev their engines and watch their performance levels soar. Yes, the relationship between ego and top-level performance may come into question, and lines may start to blur when it comes to gamesmanship vs sportsmanship, but to make your way to the very top you’ve got to nurture that passion and not put a blanket over it.

While the second point should have no bearing on the every-day surfer, the first and third require some bending from the stoked masses. Most will agree that they like things just the way they are though, but I was asked to share some ideas and you can use them or lose them.

*Written by Zigzag Editor Calvin Bradley

**Images © Ian Thurtell


  1. Name PatFlan
    20 June, 2017 at 2:55 pm · Reply

    Talent is the holy grail. All the rest can be learned or coached. But, I ask with concern, how hungry are the participants?

  2. Kev J
    21 June, 2017 at 10:05 am · Reply

    The Brazzos have to grind it out from the flavellas …they surf their way out of the flavellas with their pals ….that is why they stick together and have so much passion. Saffa’s do not have that kinda connection …..in their minds they will fall back on plan B and going to Tech/Uni and do the 9 to 5.Nothing wrong with that to have a backup plan but it dilutes the hunger as PatFlan says.The obvious cost in doing the QS adds to this….. because let’s be honest SA has no real money or industry to support these guys.

  3. Michael
    22 June, 2017 at 11:45 am · Reply

    Wrong,wrong and… Wrong again.
    Just stop and see who’s surfing when Durban is onshore 2ft and kak….no one…
    Just stop and see who’s surfing when its 4 to 6ft?….everyone…. Then go and see who’s surfing sunkist areas on same days,that look like France….nobody.
    Until those things change,we must just accept only a measly one hopeful in a generation…
    If you don’t agree with me, you don’t live in Durban

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