1 October, 2018 1 October, 2018

What’s Next for SA Junior Surfing?

We’re not floundering by any means, but we’re also not dominating as a surfing nation. Maybe that’s because we don’t have a wave tank/pool/tub to practice in, or maybe it’s because we’re in a recession and can’t afford to go for airs in case we break boards, but we probably should be doing better. Copper at the ISA World Games might signify 4th place, but copper is copper. 

Over on the QS – the series that will develop our future CT Championships – we’re also not owning it, by any means. We might have a South African Commissioner, a judge, and a WSL photographer, but we don’t have surfers winning events. At the recent and somewhat crucial EDP Billabong Pro Ericeira 10,000 QS event in Portugal, we had 6 South African starters, but the best performance was by Matt McGillivray, who made the fourth round. 

When it comes to the present and the future of South African surfing, the one thing that can be banked on is that our surfers need our support, and we need to back them however possible, and wherever possible. We are often guilty of being fair weather fans, and when the Springboks of any sport are flailing we climb in and all start whining like 2-stroke engines when we should be reaching out with already-mentioned support.   

It was a privilege to be at the Billabong Junior Series Finale at Seal Point on the weekend and to be a part of the workings to ensure a smooth and effective surf contest was pulled off. It’s always great working with a team that knows what to do and how to do it. The waves were great on the whole, with the last day suffering from a bit of onshore, but it was still highly contestable. Here are some random thoughts about the future of South African surfing and where we are heading as a surfing nation.

Photographer: Kody McGregor Surfer: Ceara Knight

• No one was really going to the air. As the whole professional world of surfing is going beyond ‘conventional’ airs and looking for bigger innovation in the air there was no one trying anything in the skies, even on the final day in the onshore – perfect for wafts. Three days of rippable right-hand waves and the number of decent airs stuck can be counted on one hand. Something is wrong with that picture, and perhaps it could be explained further before and during event such as this by head judges, commentators, coaches, and judges. Going to the air should not be reserved for Expression Sessions an Air Shows; it should be part of every surfers wave-for-wave contest strategy. 

• There is a girl-power storm approaching, and they all surf goofy. Kai Woolf has long been recognized as an incredibly talented surfer, with a strong backhand from growing up surfing Supers and Point in JBay. She’s friendly and cool, and everyone looks up to her. She is currently joined by Zoe Steyn, the next powerhouse goofy-footer possessing the skills and desire to win heats. Right behind them is Ceara Knight, the Scarborough goofy who knows how to win heats with her fast backhand surfing and power-first turns, all done with a smile on her face. These three girls could well be the future of female surfing in the country. 

• There is still a lot of pampering and praising going on, which is great and what parents do, but the coaches and mentors need to keep it real, and work harder on getting their kids to understand the basics. Contest strategy and mental strength mean nothing if the surfers are not getting decent scores. First is technique and high scoring rides, and then one can work on strategy and tactics, and only then maybe throw a few high fives around. One just has to look at recent QS 10,000 winner Ryan Callinan and his coach Richard ‘Dog’ Marsh, and see that there is no soft love there, despite the hardships that Ryan has been through. If it means winning a 10,000 QS and requalifying for the CT, then they are doing something right with tough love.. 

Photographer: Ian Thurtell Surfer: Ntokozo ‘Surprise’ Maphumalo

• The judge’s decision, as it has been for the last 50 years, is set in stone. Intelligent conversations with the head judge, after the fact, will help everyone understand what the judges are looking for and what is needed to get the high scores. Having bad words with the contest director or with the head judge, and then mumbling insults as you walk away, is not going to help your kid’s future. It happened both ways at this contest – parents and coaches came and had open and intelligent conversations in the tower, working with the head judge and contest director to understand what the criteria and the dynamics were, while others came up and insulted the same people because they didn’t apparently know what they were doing, and ‘little Johnny did the two biggest turns of the heat, and you’re idiots’ etc.. 

• There’s something happening in the U12 Boys division that needs to be watched, quite closely. Kai Hall won the event with some relatively massive turns and a big score of 9.33 for one set wave. Joel Fowles is a very mature backhand surfer who would be able to beat surfers older than he is. He surfs with the power generally associated with surfers in older divisions, and he looks set for a bright future. The Billabong Junior Series was won by Ntokoza ‘Surprise’ Maphumalo, a feisty but friendly young goofy-footer from Durban who is set to blow minds as his surfing develops. He is small in stature and is a little awed at some of the places that he has never been to before and never surfed before, but he forms part of this little gang that could take our surfing to the next level as they step up, grow up, fill out and realize what they have in front of them.    

Photographer: Kody McGregor Surfer: Kai Hall


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