The death glare from hell! That’s what we awoke to on day 2 of the VW SA Open of Surfing presented by Hurley. You needed a heavy duty welding mask if you so even considered setting your gaze upon the ocean. The poor judges. And damn that priority judge probably had a splitting migraine 5 minutes into the first heat. Somebody get that man a Panado! He drops three of those pills! Perhaps it will help set his head straight. Anyway, I digress, here’s what went down on day 2 of competition.
The Pipeline has distinct moods. Surfing the Pipeline annually is like meeting up with an old school friend you used to be close with. You pretty much know exactly what you’re in for. Yeah, the conversation topics may have changed, but he’ll still chew your ear off in the same tone about a different thing. In the morning, Pipeline is weak and without form, as the tide fills, it gains form and (a touch more) power and as the tide draws back out, the wave loses all its power and gets painfully flat. The first heat of the day, Sheldon Simkus somehow finds himself an excellent score. Like Moses in the desert extracting water from dry rock, Sheldon found himself a banger where there was none. Thrashing out multiple attacks on the lip. The judges, who are usually reserved in the opening heat of the day, threw caution to the wind awarding Sheldon an excellent ride.
As the tide filled in, the waves finally found some form, the next noteworthy performance came from the Mexican wave whisperer, Sebastian Williams. When Sebastian paddles out in a heat, we hope and pray his mind and soul also decide to paddle out with him. Because when they do, it’s like a ray of African sunshine after a cold and dark and miserable European winter. The sun warms the heart and replenishes the soul. Wave three, Sebastian took off, cracked the lip, massive rooster tail, looking light and fast, way faster and lighter than his competitors, into a check turn and a massive rotator on the shore break. Damn. So much talent. All he needs to do is surf and we’re enamoured.
Round 3 of the women’s and QS leader, Isabella Nichols started right where she left off yesterday. Unhindered by the small powerless waves provided by the Pipeline. Surfing smooth and loose she controlled the heat from start to finish, flying through the flat sections and obliterating the closeouts for a 6.00 and a 5.50.
As the tide inched it’s way up the beach, so the waves began to break closer and closer to shore. Until next minute the girls were (pretty much) scratching for straight closeouts on the beach. And pleasantries exchanged for brutalities in the fight for a wave offering a score. It was rough. Pressure on! And interferences many.
First to fall to interference was Sara Wakita of Japan. The heat began with a long lull, no waves. And when some swell finally showed up on the shores of the Pipeline, there began a frantic scramble for a scoring ride. In the mayhem Sara Wakita dropped in on Eveline Hooft, one scoring ride removed from a heat score total. But beware the wounded dog, Wakita kept her head high and paddled into the wave of the heat; a bowly left that allowed her to go top-to-bottom multiple times! And she didn’t squander the opportunity, turning in a 7.50 for her efforts. Wakita moved to second. But Eveline needed only a small score to take the advancing spot off Wakita. Paddling side-by-side, Eveline cut Wakita off and the head judge called a paddling interference on Eveline. And just like that, Wakita made a heat with only one scoring ride in a QS 3000.
Next to fall was South Africa’s sweetheart, Bianca Buitendag. Bianca incurred a non-priority interference in heat 5 of round 3. Inspired by the lack of waves, coach Llewellyn made his way up the tower to address the authority, stating not enough scoring opportunity to continue with the competition. The head judge considered. And agreed to put the contest on hold for an hour to overcome the high-tide and commence once there were more ridable waves. But after an hour the situation had declined further and the directors called competition off for the day. We all promptly packed our bags, waxed our boards and headed straight for the wild side of Port Elizabeth, where the winds were light offshore and the waves double the size.