It was a significant finals day. With Billabong merging with Quiksilver, who knows what will happen with the Billabong Junior event at Seal Point. What has been an institution in South African surfing for so long might just be done and dusted. A shame indeed. Seal Point greeted us with anger, howling Antarctic winds, gloomy weather. The sun was in hiding and big mounds of water were wrapping around the point and into the bay. We began the prize-giving under the Billabong marquee tent, but the weather gave one last growl as if to show its disdain for the end of the series- the crumbling of an institution. The wind howled and the hail came pelting down.
Here’s a rundown of finals day.
U12 Girls – Chaaaaarging!
OMG these girls chaaaarge! The waves at Seal Point were about three foot on the sets. And man, those young girls charged! They were taking off way out the back on waves that were triple overhead. It looked like a big wave surfing event from the shore. It was as if we were watching a bunch of men grappling the Dungeons in Cape Town.
It was a five-woman final but to be honest it was a ding dong affair between Anastasia Venter and Gabi Herbst. Anastasia Venter started off strong, grabbing the bull by the horns, taking control early. Finding bombs from the back and laying it on rail like a BOSS! But Gabi, not to be outdone, made a late charge. She dropped a 9.00 point ride. One of the highest of the day. Issuing the wave with a huuuuge, searing down carve. The equivalent of witnessing a full-grown man down carve a 12 foot set at the Dungeon. Then, as the heat counted down, Gabi found another bomb from the back and layered it with a couple of smooth rail gouges. The judges awarded her 8.35 and the heat win. It was a humdinger of a final, the most exciting of the day and it had us on the edge of our seats! Who would’ve thought that the U12 girls could do that!? Well, it’s safe to say the kids are all right.
U12 Boys – First the parents – now the offspring
While enjoying the U12 boys final, contest director Jono Hutchinson aka the fire engine, sat down and said, “First the parents surf against each other and now the kids.” – referring to David Emslie and Josh Malherbe in the U12 boys final.
The heat began slowly. As the U12 Girls heat finished and the U12 boys started, a massive wind and rain squall tore through the Seals lineup, flattening the waves and sending the U12 boys tiny frames flying. The squall moved along and the boys could finally surf waves.
Rory Dace, the local boy, set off with an early lead, dropping a 5.15. But Toe, son of Foot was not be outdone. The home-run swinger. Dave started swinging for the hills and he connected one. Home run. A couple of swift, powerful backhand cracks to the lip and the judges awarded him an 8.00. Dave swung again for a 7.00. And just like that, David Emslie won his first junior event. The toe doesn’t fall too far from the foot.
We love David’s surfing, it’s not the most refined, but it’s raw, powerful and audacious. And we’re certain those kinks aren’t something the great Mr Emslie can’t iron out.
U14 Girls – The Process of Refinement
As you move through the age groups, you see how style is refined with age. You may be doing the same manoeuvre, but the jump from U12 to U14 is a jump of refinement. Turns fuller, rounder, deeper bottom turns to more critical off-the-tops.
The U14 girls final wasn’t the highest-scoring affair. But we were highly impressed by the winner, Sarah Scott’s performance. Sarah showed mature wave choice, only acquiring the prime cuts on sale at the St Francis Butchery. And she surfed them oh-so-smoothly. Like a hot knife through butter. Swooping carves, deep bottom turns. Highly refined. Coming from a surf family, Sarah Scott has a bright future ahead of her if she carries on going the way she is.
U14 Boys – The Style Division
We’re calling the U14 boys The Style Division. The U14 boys have such sick styles. In South Africa we don’t have surf camps, so kids aren’t taught best practice. They just sort of make their way around via surf movies etc. I mean how many great surfers from SA have been picked up by major brands and sent into the world of free surfing because of their unique styles. Frankie Oberholzer, Craig Anderson, Mikey February the list goes on…
The U14 boys is a fantastic division because their surfing hasn’t been overly refined by coaches and competition but they’re smart enough to utilise the competition format to their advantage.
From day one we were taken aback by Nate the Great’s fantastic style and approach. He’s so comfortable on a wave, so easy, so collected, hints of John John. Nate was the standout from his opening round straight to the final! His carves are beautiful and whippy. He draws exquisite lines and never looks rushed or lacks speed. This must be Nate’s first big win on a national level and if he keeps working hard at his trade, it certainly won’t be his last. Nate the Great’s got a bright future, but he must never forget hard work and commitment. It must be like a lamp leading his way forth in the darkness.
U16 Girls & U18 Girls – There’s Only One Queen
Halfway through the heat Zoe Steyn nailed a massive rail gouging backhand off-the-lip. It was so filthy that it had Tash gasping in amazement. Tash was commentating, but her response was purely reactionary. She couldn’t help herself. She was amazed. Next, one of the judges walked out the booth and said, “The judges are having a spiritual experience in there.” – referring to Zoe’s surfing. There isn’t much more we can say about Zoe’s surfing that hasn’t already been said. It feels like her performances force our hands to write about her every day. And to be honest, when she has heat totals of 19.25 with a perfect 10 in her scoreline what the else are we to do but celebrate the queen.
Zoe dominated both the U16 & U18 girls finals, bolstering her competitors. Besides Bianca, who we never get to see surf, she’s become a yardstick upon which to measure women’s surfing on. Like a scale. The Zoe Steyn Foot or the ZS Cube. Zoe Steyn is the future of female surfing in the country and that’s no lie.
Special mention must be made of Ceara Knight. Ceara was out of rhythm in both the U16 & U18 girls finals. We would’ve loved to see her do her best surfing in both heats, but such is life, sometimes you find yourself on the wrong end of the sets. And there’s not much you can do about it. That being said, Ceara is an incredible surfer with a filthy mean backhand whip!
U16 Boys – Luke Thompson, Mr Solid
In business, being able to rely on someone else is priceless. To hand over a task and know that the job will get done on time, every time and with excellence is invaluable. In surfing, Luke Thompson is that man. So solid is Luke that you could build a house on the foundation of his performances. You just know what you’re in for. Luke will inevitably find the best waves and surf them excellently.
Today Seal Point was slow, windy and there were few waves offering heat winning scoring rides. That is when wave choice comes into play. Your decision to go or not to is of pertinence. In a low-scoring affair Luke Thompson chose three waves and managed to find two scoring rides from the three.
Luke Thompson is a solid competitive surfer and there aren’t many flaws in his approach. His style, his competitive savvy, his rail game, it’s all gold. But if he wants to improve, he should focus on the older divisions. He should view himself as their equal and try to take his elders out! That’s where it’s at baby!
U18 Boys – The Terminator
Team Billabong recently took a trip to Mozambique with the Du Preez’s to shoot content. During the trip, the boys exchanged nicknames for each other according to physical or personality qualities they possessed. They called Joshe ‘Hoppy’ because his frizzy hair was constantly bouncing around, Mitch Du Preez got the name, ‘Mega Mind’ due to his larger than normal noggin, Grant was termed Vin Diesel, due to his ability to round up the crew with lightning-fast efficiency and drive long distances at high speeds through the night, Angelo was self-titled ‘The Man’ For reasons known only to him and Bryce was given the name the Terminator – because every morning Bryce ran from the house to a spot called Backdoor a couple kilometres away to check the waves. We thought this a wonderful time to bring this up because the way Bryce conducted himself this weekend, we have renamed him ‘The Terminator’!!
Throughout this event Bryce displayed incredible poise. Using priority like a seasoned vet, surfing with power, with confidence, with variety: no longer a grom, like a man. On land you couldn’t imagine a sweeter human being: kind, humble, gracious but Bryce keeps his sword sheaved only to unleash it once the hooter sounds and the lollipop swings green. This is Bryce’s final Billabong Junior event – and what a worthy end to a wonderful junior career.
During the awards ceremony, the whole crowd hollered and cheered for Bryce. There wasn’t a soul in the building that was indifferent to Bryce’s victory. The crowd cheered for so long and so loudly that Captain Kai eventually had to calm them down to finish the ceremony. It was a chicken-skin moment. And one we’re certain Bryce won’t forget anytime soon. Here’s a great example of how hard work eventually pays off. Well, done Bryce.