We’re up at sparrow’s fart, maybe even a touch before the sparrow farted. It’s early, dark and cold. damn cold. Contest director Dutchie enforced an earlier start time because of the blanket of fog which enveloped the contest area yesterday. The parking lot is once again brisk with activity earliest in the morning. Driving up to the contest site you can’t believe there’s anyone in the parking lot let alone surfing. Commitment. There are no fair weather surfers here. The duvet of mist which forced the contest into a premature end yesterday has lifted and Dutchie makes a quick call to get the action underway. And like a steam train rolling, we’re off!
Heat one of the morning and coach Llewellyn, Mr FTB, is whistling and frantically directioning on the beach. But he’s in good spirits. His student Jake Elkington is in heat one and he has a 6.75 under the belt. The highest wave score of the heat thus far. Jake plays a shrewd game of chess with priority. Taking the two best waves of the heat and converting them to scores. He exits the water and is visibly delighted. He projects a remarkably polite scream with a hint of a British accent towards his coach, Llewellyn, Llu responds with a victors growl of his own, less polite and one that puts hair on the chest.
Heat two of round 4 and Dylan Lightfoot takes control from the start. Out the gates swinging for the hills, deep bottom turns, powerful off-the-tops. The judges take a shining to his performance and award him an 8.50. He quickly backs his 8.50 up with a 6.40 courtesy of a smooth air-reverse and leaves the rest of his competitors scrambling for second place. Like a well oiled German machine, Dylan controlled the heat from start to finish.
Taking a page out of Dylan’s book, Luke Slijpen in the pro junior semifinal starts his heat off strong. The first wave of the heat, all the boys scratch for it. It goes underneath them, and like a spider with a web waiting for a fly is Luke Slijpen. The wave breaks right where he sits and he swings around and straight into a gem. He converts wave one into and 8.25. Excellent surfing, smooth transitions, speed, power and flow. The judges froth. Luke backs his excellent ride up with a 4.15 and solidifies his position in the junior finals.
Onto the women’s semifinals which has turned into an (almost) international affair. Heat one features a Brazilian, two Australians and a German (who probably grew up in Portugal). The Brazilian, Anne Dos Santos, had been using her backhand all event to find her way through heats. And semifinal one is no different. Straight to the bottom and straight off-the-top, her backhand attack is her weapon of choice and it’s reliable. As reliable as public transport in a first world country. And not Metrofail. Piper Harrison squeaks in behind Anne by the slimmest of margins ahead of her countrywomen Sophie Fletcher.
Semifinal two features two ladies from the ‘land of the rising sun’ a Spaniard and the last remaining South African in the women’s side of the draw, Natasha Van Greunen. For a rather slow morning of surf, suddenly, Yoyos comes to life with a flurry of waves and the women indulge themselves. 20 waves ridden between the four girls, the judges sweat bullets delivering their verdicts. But it is the Japanese girls who eliminate their Spanish and South African rivals. Choosing the best waves, the Japanese two display superior flow, excellent timing of turns and they almost always finish their waves off. Not only are they brilliant competitors but superb surfers too.
Final of the junior men’s division included Luke Slijpen, Luke Thompson, Angelo Faulkner and Jackson Butler from the USA. And how we love pro junior finals. The boys go big and they don’t mind high-risk endeavours. Jackson Butler and Luke Thompson get off to a quick start. The #ManBoy quickly finding himself a 6.75. Jackson Butler on the same train of thought surfs a flurry of waves. He surfs fast and loose. Easily despatching fins out the back. It was a close duel with all competitors just over 1 point differences between 4th and 1st. That was until Luke Slijpen stood up on his final wave and dropped a hammer on the boys. Swinging on wave number four, Luke found a left that stood up and offered multiple vertical attacks on the lip. And Luke went to town. Vertical on the first, carving in the pocket on the second. The first turn brutal, a tail sliding off the lip and the judges sent him well into the lead and the onto the win.
Onto the women’s final where the Japanese two took on Piper Harrison from Australia and Anne Dos Santos from Brazil. Piper Harrison started off with a bang, dropping a 7.75 straight off the bat and backing her high 7 with a 5.40. But if we’ve learned anything from the Japanese girls is that they ain’t intimidated by high scores. They just proceed with the task at hand unfettered by the situation. With a solid lead, it was Piper in the driver’s seat, but Hinako Kurosawa began to reel her in like dirty fish. First dropping an 8.10 and then a 7.00. And just like that Hinako snatched the win from Piper.
The final heat of the day saw Jbay local, Dylan Lightfoot take on South Coast local Koby Oberholzer. Dylan and Koby displayed varying approaches to competition, with Koby quickly getting the ball rolling and surfing his way into a rhythm. Such a natural talent is Koby, smooth and spicy at the same time, his surfing like a matured Shiraz from a good year. It was Koby’s first QS final and he looked more than comfortable in the situation. Koby dropped a 4.75 and a 5.50 to start off with while Dylan sat and waited. But then the set came and Dylan’s decision to wait validated dropping a 7.50 for precisely placed powerful turns on a set wave. Like a surgeon performing a transplant, Dylan surfed his second scoring ride with German engineering precision. Beautifully composed excellently executed. Dylan mentioned in the post heat interview how he had been working on his mental game and it showed today. Not to be outdone, Koby took off on his final wave, which he surfed with oh so much flair. The lines he draws so uniquely Oberholzer, his choice of manoeuvre perfect for the section. A surfer so wave savvy, so mature. When Koby stands up, he looks like a man who has revolved his life around the ocean. He understands it nuances and sees things others don’t. But the score falls shy of the requirement. As the commentators count down, Dylan looks delighted! His second QS win of the season and a great contest to do it in.
We conclude an amazing event put on by Vans with the Red Bull Shred Fest, a celebration of innovation where anything amazing gets rewarded which the #ManBoy, Luke Thompson wins courtesy of a huge tail waft reverse. Till next year, over and out from the Vans Surf Pro Classic.