Etienne Potgieter has things pretty sussed. By night he works as a cargo pilot and by day he surfs more than most students. From his pad overlooking the beachfront in Port Elizabeth he has a good place to weigh up the pros and cons of a trip to J-Bay in one direction, East London in the other, or straight out in front at Fence, his home-break. In between all this, the guy squashes in an unfair amount of international travel to some of the filthiest waves in the world. Not bad. This week, we decided to get the low down on his harrowing work schedule and talk about the year ahead.
Zigzag: Howzit Etienne. You’ve had two really busy years, back-to-back. 2010 and 2011 saw lots of Indo time, Euro-tripping, as well as many sojourns up and down the coast of Mzansi. Then it was more Indo and a mission to Namibia for good measure. Please tell us how you manage to juggle the rigors of being a pilot with getting more surf time than most BA students?
Etienne: Ja, the last two years have been pretty amazing. Namibia is the boom-bang. Sickest waves ever. The best answer to your question would be that I mainly work nights. This equals lots of surf time. It also means I’m pretty knackered most of the day. The dawny tends to be a bit of a long shot. Also BA students tend to be hung over most of the time so I generally always tend to get on it.
What’s on the agenda for 2012? You going anywhere special for ‘work’?
Well, it’s going to be a pretty busy year. First off the bat is a massive snowboarding mission to Japan. I always fit in a snow mission – it’s the only other thing I can do that doesn’t make me think about surfing. Going with a couple of mates and we are going to hit the back country powder in a big way. Very excited. Got an Oz trip planned towards the end of the year. Between that I have Nam lined up again and one or two missions either close or far, depending on what happens – I can’t really divulge the details just yet. What I can say is that I’ll be in boardies and getting very barreled. Oh, and I’ve already booked a Mentawais trip for 2013. Got to plan ahead!
Etienne ducks under the Fence.
What’s good about living in PE at the moment?
You know, I really dig PE. Not too big, not too small. Plus I don’t work here, so I get out regularly which helps. It’s nice and quiet where I live. I can scope the waves from my place and the surf community in PE is really cool. A good bunch of ous. Plus J-Bay is a 9 iron away! There’s generally always a wave around. Best of all, The Fence!
And what’s kak?
Kooks. Lots of them. Always in the way. Can’t run them over and you can’t kill them either. Go figure. Occasionally, a lot of wind and some rather big sharks. And flat spells. Luckily I mission a lot, so it’s not too much of a problem.
Our sources tell us that you’re substituting your surf time with some trail mountain biking. How is that going? And any chance that you’re going to cast your net into slightly more murkier waters and take up SUPing or riding a mini-mal when it’s small?
No no, that will never happen. Nothing gets in the way of a surf. The mountain biking is a fun way to stay fit when there really are NO waves. Plus I’ve got to get some power into these pins, boet. The gym does not work for me – I dont like to compete for mirror space. But now don’t get me started on the scourge of the stand up paddle menace.
As comfortable over as he is under the lip.
You’re comfortable in the barrel and in the air. Do you reckon surfing a spot like Fence has helped hone a variety of skills?
For sure, Fence has a lovely barrel section followed by the perfect ramp, so I would have to say it definitely has something to do with it. Actually, I’m lying. It’s a super kak wave. It’s really not worth checking out. True story.
You are notorious for getting a lot of waves out there (at Fence). What’s your secret to keeping the sponges and the snot faces at bay?
It may seem that way, but I wait for the sets generally, and after 22 years of living in walking distance you tend to get a trained eye, if you know what I mean. These days too it seems there is rarely anyone in the water that has surfed there longer than I have. I’ll never really understand boogie boarding.
What are you riding at the moment to tackle the summer? Anything different about your small wave boards?
Well, lately I’ve been on Dean Geraghty’s Pig and Convert models. They are flippen awesome. My boards have steadily gotten smaller over the last two years. My standard boards were 5’10” x 18 1/8″ and they’ve now gone down to 5’6″ x 19″. Super fun in pretty much all types of waves. I took one to the Mentawais in 2010 and I rode it a lot. But they are great in the small stuff. Wide nose for paddle power, short rail turns tight in the pocket, and rotates very nicely in the air. All round heaps of fun. Go get one.
Pre-flight systems check.
A couple of years back you took some initiative and got stuck into the wedge that formed alongside the new Coega harbour, on the outskirts of PE. What was that like, and was the shark factor there an issue? If the authorities hadn’t banned surfing there, would there be a second Fence to consider along the PE stretch?
Yeah, we got it a couple of times. Got chased out a good couple of times by lame rent-a-cops too. The one time we scored awesome waves and the dudes chased us out. When we were changing at the car the head of security drives up and starts kakking us out from a dizzy height. I thought I was back in the principals office. We almost got arrested. The guys there have made it as difficult as possible to get down there now. It requires a long walk or a jetski. But as for a new Fence, I don’t think so – the breakwater absorbs too much energy and the rebound is not big enough. Boo. Besides, if you saw the sharks I have seen around there when we fly over, you’d think twice.
Tell us honestly: would you rather:
A) Only surf Pipe for one full year.
B) Only surf insanely crowded, but cranking J-Bay for a full year on a paddle ski.
Eee gads! What a horrible prospect. Frustration reef or being strapped to an egg beater. Vomit. Honestly I think I’d go with option A. I dont think I could stand the shame of paddle skiing.Etienne hops over a Sunshine Coast wall.