Last week, winemakers swapped their grapes and dusty boots for surfboards and barrels of a different kind. The annual Vintners Surf Classic in Jongensfontein saw some of the top winemakers of the Western Cape in friendly competition for the unique title of ‘best winemaking surfer’. Family and friends flocked to the beach with a bit of vino in the veins to bear witness to some surf-enology and who would claim the title. We heard it through the grapevine that this is what went down…
Winter, Waves and Wine at the Annual Vintners Surf Classic
Friday 12 August saw the 17th annual Vintners Surf Classic run in excellent conditions just outside Jongensfontein on the Cape south coast. The ocean was full of surprises – from the good in great surf competition conditions through the day to the not so good in a close encounter with a Great White…
It was a wind-free day and the waves kept coming for the 50-plus field of surfers vying for the title of best winemaking surfer. While the competitors battled it out, families could watch from the top of the hill overlooking the bay, where great music and food was free flowing, not to mention some fine bottled refreshments.
At the end of the day, Gunter Schultz once again won the 2016 Vintners Surf Classic Seniors division. Bevan Newton Johnson took the “Ballies” (veterans) title and the Juniors title went to Christo le Riche. Sarah Havard won the Women’s title, while another prize went to a previous women’s winner, Trizaan Barnard, this time for “Wipe-out of the Day”.
“This year had some stunning waves,” said Christo from Le Riche Wines “The conditions were big enough for good surfing, but not too big, so everyone could enjoy themselves. Our Juniors section had some hot competition, with a girl (Boland team surfer) making the final for the first time as well. In the end the battle was between Chris Boustred (reigning champ) and myself. I am glad I could oust him in the end, as I don’t think I could have handled another year of banter from him.”
Bevan Newton Johnson, marketing manager for internationally acclaimed Newton Johnson says the competition is the “best thing that happened to our industry besides for wine. The most fun had with colleagues, mates and wine on the beach. I really enjoyed it and was stoked the waves came my way.”
The awards evening was, as ever, filled with good humour and most importantly, incredible wines from some of the top winemakers of the Western Cape. Wetsuits, surfboards and watches made up the amazing lucky draw prizes. The “Stand up” prize went to knee-boarder Sebastian Beaumont who stood up to take part in the competition; while the “Head Cruncher” award went to Gordon Newton Johnson for a wipe-out that led to a knock to the head on the rocks.
But most deserved was the “Close Encounter” award that went to Nick van Zyl for his close shave with a Great White shark while free-surfing in a bay next door. The fact that he was there to collect the prize meant the dramatic event was fortunately a memorable story in the end.
For many years now, the “Big Red”, a magnum of red wine made up of wines contributed by the participating winemakers, is the icon of the Surf Classic. This year saw an auction of a Kelly Slater-autographed bottle of Big Red raise over R10,000 for the Surf for Life charity.
“It was a great event and we are proud to associate ourselves with South Africa’s top wine makers,” commented Grant Stringer of Reef SA. “The Reef Vintners Classic is a true celebration of the spirit of surfing and friendship.”
The organizers come with true credentials and include Gunter Schultz, Christo le Riche, Miles Mossop, Johan Reyneke, Sebastian Beaumont and Steve Rogers.This is an event that South African winemakers book into their calendars a year in advance.
“No wine tasting, marketing or sales trip can come in its way. It restores the soul. Keeps us loving what we do; both making wine and surfing,” says Sebastian Beaumont on behalf of all the organisers.
“A weekend like this where we had 3 days of very cool surf, was incredible. The contest just gathers the gang and we all have a great time hanging out. I don’t know of another contest like this in the wine world. Best wine competition I have ever entered and all it costs is a few bottles of wine.”
The organisers and surfers are immensely grateful to the generous sponsors:
Reynolds Rocha Wine Technologies; Reef SA; Thales Wine Services; Winetech; Consol Glass; White Space Design; WinPak; Citizen Watches; Cool Dandy; Cult Premium Bottling; Vineyard Connection; Rolling Wood; Country Digital; BOS Ice Tea; Thys Lombard Photography; The Best Tile Company; Spec Systems
*Images by: Thys Lombard Photography