There has been more blood spilled at Longbeach in the last week than in the last few years combined. The blood isn’t from thugs beating each other up in the carpark, spilled over drugs or alcohol, nor even surf rage. No, the blood is from fellow wave-riders and spilled over waves, mostly through negligence, carelessness and driven by selfish attitudes. How did this situation arise in a place that is supposed to bring us shared joy and stoke?
Surfing is meant to embody the “Aloha Spirit”. In Hawaii, this means far more than a friendly greeting or farewell. It’s about love, peace and compassion. Aloha is mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. This concept of Hawaiian Aloha is the blue print that is supposed to govern every lineup, and beyond.
You need only look at Longbeach this past week and the two incidents below to discover that things are seriously out of control. Our lineups seem to be dominated by selfish, self-conceited individuals intent only on getting what is “mine” with little or no thought of others. And leaves me questioning, like the Black Eyed Peas song, “Where is the love?”
This isn’t the first, nor probably the last time an out of control surfboard will hurt someone out at Longbeach. Speaking to Matt Bromley’s dad John, serious surf injuries out at Longbeach have been happening since the early ’70’s. “Carl von Holdt became a quadriplegic around 1970-71 when old man Pops Dawie Sauerman lost his board and it hit Carl in the neck,” reflects John. Can you imagine? The trauma for both victim and perpetrator in an accidental incident of this nature. Unfortunately no matter how sorry we are – no matter the remorse felt, our feelings of compassion can’t reverse the impacts of an accident like the above. Accidents can and do happen, but we can also do our utmost to guard against the possibility by assessing ourselves; our equipment, our ability, our surroundings to better protect oneself and those around us.
Early on Saturday morning (24 November) resident local Kerry Motherwell was connected by a longboarder while paddling out and waiting for his first wave. Kerry hadn’t even wet his hair before the unknown assailant plied into him. In his own words, “I was sitting on my board waiting for a wave when this chap who was further out than I began paddling for a wave. But instead of directing his board and himself toward the beach he appeared to be aiming directly at me. When I realised this guy wasn’t about to alter his course I immediately tried to get my board out of the way, but by that time he was starting to go down the wave, he stood up and he just rode straight over me. There is no doubt in my mind that he thought he could somehow take off and still avoid me. Unfortunately, he couldn’t. Totally reckless in my opinion. His fin hit my foot, severing everything from the skin to the bone and even took off some ankle bone which they had to reattach in hospital. It was an hour and a half surgery and a plastic surgeon had to reconstruct the ankle. I have no idea how much it is going to cost me, but the guy just got back onto his board after he hit me, grunted and paddled away, leaving me to bleed out in the lineup.”
Speaking to a fellow Kommetjie surfer Linda Ash who was out for her birthday surf with her son, “I just saw people scrambling out of this guy’s way and then I heard one hell-of-a-thump. It sounded terrible. I saw him checking his board before swinging around and just paddling back out without any concern for poor Kerry. I promise you, it wasn’t ten minutes later when I saw him paddle for another wave, just as out of control as the first and went straight over a youngster. Speaking to another surfer and my son, I said this guy is a danger in the lineup and someone should speak to him. Shortly after he caught his last wave, went straight through the middle of everyone and left.”
Then late on Tuesday afternoon (27 November) young provincial ripper, Levi Kolnik was severely injured while surfing main-peak Longbeach. World-champ longboarder and mother of two talented groms Simone Robb was shooting photographs from the rocks when the incident unfolded… “Basically, the guy on the yellow surfboard took off right on the backline and he was weaving through a crowd of about 10 or 15 people and I think Levi was paddling out or paddling in when the guy hit Levi from behind and the log stopped dead – you could hear the crack from the beach.”
Usually, people just paddle away after incidents like these in the water, but that person who hit Levi actually paddled him in, walked up the beach and helped him. “I love surfing Longbeach,” says Levi, “But it’s pretty difficult when there are lots of people out and you’re trying to find waves, so I try to sit more on the inside. Just before this happened we saw a set coming so we started paddling out and that’s when I saw the guy. I shouted as he stood up, but there were people on his left and right and I tried to move out of the way. That’s when he hit my leg. He went full-stop into my leg. His board landed up on the inside as it didn’t have a leash. He grabbed it, paddled out to me and asked me if I was ok. He then pushed me in, helped me through the shorebreak and then took me to Chris (Bond) who called my parents and the ambulance.” Levi had to be rushed to the hospital, required surgery that night to repair the severe damage to his leg and will be out of the water for several weeks.
“Longbeach has always been crowded as far as I can remember,” reflects Simone. I recall coming here when I was 15 years old and it was crowded then. The water was always cold and there were always issues in the water. There has never been order in the lineup at Longbeach. There used to be order out at The Dune and Outer Kom when Adrian Gouws’s dad Peter was surfing, but since then there has been zero order in the water anywhere. It’s a dog eat dog world out there. Longbeach absolutely has no rules. I just tell my kids that if you see idiots coming towards you stay away from them and bail. It doesn’t matter if your boards get dinged, your head and body mustn’t. That’s it.”