We arrived at the Pipeline parking lot to overcast skies, threatening rain, howling onshore winds and a 1-foot swell. A ‘welcome to the QS grind’ slap courtesy of Pipeline. The froth-monster dawn patrol Pipeline locals discussed better days of how they once caught waves from the back of Rincon and kicked out past the Pipe, difficult to imagine by any stretch of the imagination, particularly on a day like today. But, the show must go on and contestS have been held in far worse conditions than offered today. And to be honest, we’re still surfing and surfing is still the best sport on planet earth. Imagine having to compete in a triathlon on a day like this? Thank you, but no thank you, we’d rather surf onshore slop any day of the week. Here’s what happened on the opening day of the opening event of the South African QS tour.
All images, Ian Thurtell.
If you drive down to Muizenberg on any day of the week, chances are you’ll witness Paul Sampson busting all sorts of airs during the day and showing volunteers a good time at night. Paul revels in waves that don’t offer an abundance of brawn, thus he and Pipeline are a match made in heaven. The freedom of movement Paul enjoys on a one-foot wave is comparable to a heavier set man like Llewellyn Whitaker on a 6-foot bomb at Supertubes. When others were bogging rail like overloaded donkeys, Paul was found prancing around like a spring chicken. A standout on day one of competition, Paul was also the only person to land an air. A neat little reverse that he landed with remarkable poise. We’re excited to see how the spring chicken measures up to the seeded surfers in Round 2. Maybe he’ll fly right past them as well.
Heat three of the men’s division saw the highly touted ex-commentator Stanley ‘the bailie’ Badger take on a couple of QS groms. Well into his thirties and maybe even bordering 40 years of age, Stanley showed the groms how it’s done. His high scoring ride included a big full rail roundhouse cutback with a whitewater flare off the rebound complimented by a delightful closeout bash. It was like a throwback to 1995, Taylor Steele surf porn, Shane Dorian and Ross Williams. Someone queue up an episode of ‘Friends’ or ‘Dawsons Creek’, turn up the volume of a Smashing Pumpkins track, Stan ‘the bailie’ Badger’s in town.
After the men’s division drew to a close, it was the land of the rising sun and her daughters that stole the show. The first Japanese surfer to turn heads was Shino Matsuda. Shino looked more comfortable at windy, onshore dribbly Pipeline than a fat American police officer wrapping his lips around a chocolate donut. Her slight frame along with her impeccable technique wooed the judges, and she quickly acquired the highest single wave score of the day. Her solid backhand bottom turns were nicely complimented by her vertical, whippy off-the-tops and the judges rewarded her accordingly; 8.75.
Not to be outdone by her fellow countrywomen, Ren Hashimoto had other ideas. Like Shino, Ren’s slight frame aided her campaign and like Shino, the tricky conditions on offer elevated her level. Bad waves be damned, Ren didn’t allow that stop her displaying classically good surfing; deep driving bottom turns to solid fins free off-the-tops. High scores were hurled at her from the judge’s tower, an 8.00 and a 9.65 amounting to the highest heat score total of the day. Boom. Before the open women’s division began, a certain judge discreetly whispered in my ear that we were about to see better surfing than the open men’s and that judge damn well hit the nail on the head.
To conclude the day, we enjoyed four heats of the pro junior men‘s. To the dismay of the open men’s and women’s divisions, the groms wrapped up competition in the best waves. The tide filled in and with it a touch more swell and a little less wind. The dribbly, powerless waves transformed into a fun rippable bowl right out front of the pipe. With the rise in surfable waves, we witnessed higher scoring rides.
Honourable mentions include Aya Gericke who led the charge in the pro junior division. He used his light-footed approach to traverse flat sections and belt the foamy lips without losing speed. Also, Rodrigo Saldanha who managed to make 1 foot Pipe look like Uluwatu. But I guess when you’re 4’8 and weigh around 55kg, one foot Pipeline is a dream come true.
That’s it from day one of the Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro. Check out our Insta stories for tomorrow’s coverage, the swell’s meant to rise, the wind drop and the sun is predicted to shine all damn day long! Sounds like heaven, baby.
Enjoy a gallery of the day’s action courtesy of Ian Thurtell.