16 April, 2020 16 April, 2020

A Return to Zagland

Let’s roll back the clock to 1999. Big budget surf videos were a thing and Zigzag had just broken into the game, commissioning the evergreen, up ‘n coming duo of Neil Webster and Nic Bothma from Amaza Surf Images to produce a surf video magazine series, loosely dubbed Zagland.

Here, the original Kommetjie dagga hobbit and South African surf videography trailblazer, Neil Webster, takes us down the rabbit hole and talks us through some deep South African surf nostalgia.

All five Amaza Surf Images / Zagland videos are now available on Vimeo for the princely sum of $15 for the lot, or $2 each. Throw the man some bones.

Big wave surfer ….. from South Africa rides a wave at an offshore reef known as Dungeons in Cape Town, South Africa 06 August 2009. Surfers took full advantage of some big swell generated after a strong storm from a double cold front swept across the Cape bringing heavy rain and big seas.
Photo© NicBothma

Zigzag: How did the Zagland series come to life?

Neil Webster: The ASI (Amaza Surf Images) surf project came around because I had just expanded from shooting Stills with Nic Bothma to the newly invented digital video (DV) which was a huge leap forward from the very large and expensive Betacam system. It was also the beginning of digital editing which was more affordable than the big edit studio’s that controlled the industry. Nic Bothma and myself had connected with Ian Armstrong and Cass Collier and where documenting their big wave love affair, we tried to provide both a stills and video solution to surf companies so they could expand beyond just print. The internet had just begun so there was no online potential yet we had to make VHS video’s to sell around the country in Surf Shops. I had just got married and had a daughter so one had to become a bread winner instead of a surf bum.

What was your methodology?

Being young and both surf addicts it was easy, connect with the best surfers in SA and travel around and shoot. At the time Frankie and the Bester (Byron Howarth) were top of the pops thanks to their Rip Curl Search sponsorship and in Cape Town Cass, Ian and Mickey Duffis were pushing the level of thick-lipped, mean waves. We wanted to help showcase surfing from other area’s and video was our best solution.

Photo© NicBothma

Give us a snapshot of surf culture in SA back then?

Surf Culture was based in Durban with all the big companies Quiksilver, Rip Curl, Gotcha, Island Style, Bio Tribe, Frontline… the main surf board shapers and Zigzag. This made it very difficult for non-KZN surfers to make as much impact. But as Billabong expanded under Cheron in Jbay and the one horse town exploded into one of the hippest surf towns in the world, thanks Derek Hynd and the rip curl crew. Justin Strong and Dean Gergharty look at becoming global surf board makers with Town & Country plus sunnies and shoes where becoming big business. Reef, Banzai and Frontline were the wetsuits we used.

Who is featured?

Everyone from the era and a few more, like Sean Holmes, Cass Collier, Ian Armstrong, Mickey Duffus, Frankie Oberholzer, Byron Howarth, Travis Logie, Davey Weare, Simon Nicholson, Greg Emslie, Royden Bryson, young Ricky Basnett, Jordy Smith, Josh Redman, Derek Hynd, Slater, Curren, Gigs Celliers, Jason Ribbink, Jamie Sterling, J.O.B, Warren Dean, Brad Gerlach, the Bertish bros… too many to mention but that’ll give you a taste.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be dropping teasers for each video online… so watch the space.

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