Kwazulu-Natal’s Carmel Billson and Connor Botha were the rage at this year’s General Tire Lifesaving South Africa National Club Surf Championships.
There was also no stopping the Durban Surf Nippers, who claimed the overall combined surf and pool title for the sixth time in seven years. The only time the kids from Durban Surf haven’t triumphed was last year when inclement weather and the cancellation of several races meant there was no surf championship winner.
Harties Reflection won the Nippers pool championship but they hardly featured in the surf championship.
Fish Hoek were also strong in the Nippers surf championship and the senior Fish Hoek return was again champion-like.
But it’s the Kwazulu-Natal women, led superbly by Marine’s Billson and Durban Surf’s Mandi Maritz who powered their way to victory.
The week-long surf and pool festival, which combined the Masters, Nippers, Juniors and Seniors, accommodated more than 1700 athletes from 40-plus clubs across the country. Port Elizabeth’s Kings Beach and Newton Park played host to the surf and pool championships respectively.
The biggest star of the week was Billson who dominated in the pool and surf.
Billson’s feats are like no other female currently competing in South African lifesaving. She was the leading female at the recent National Club Stillwater championships in Bloemfontein and earlier in the week her 48 points from the pool events was the most in the open female division.
Her form at the senior surf championships was as potent. She took six first places in individual and relay events, two seconds and was never outside the top five. No one had as demanding a schedule as Billson, who triumphed despite competing in the pool and surf championships.
Billson, who has been the Lifesaving South African female athlete of the year three times in the last four years, won the coveted female open Iron, the run/swim/run and surf swim. She currently has no equal in the sport in South Africa.
Umhlanga Rocks’ teenage sensation (Connor) Botha announced his arrival in the most emphatic way in becoming the first teenager to triumph in the men’s surf open division.
Botha, just 17, is the son of legendary South African international lifesaver Dylan Botha.
And at the 2019 nationals he confirmed that his career in competitive lifesaving will be as industrious and celebrated as his dad’s.
Botha beat Fish Hoek’s Nic Notten into third place in the surf swim after also winning the run/swim/run.
Notten would rebound with a win in the prestigious open male Iron race.
Durban Surf’s Beach flags and sprint specialist (Mandi) Maritz proved a class above the rest in taking gold in the flags and sprint. Her double of 2019 was a repeat of her 2018 double and showed just why she has consistently been ranked in the top three internationally. She also won silver in the flags at last year’s world championships in Adelaide, Australia.
Fish Hoek’s Notten brother and sister duo of Nic and Anna also enjoyed a rewarding national club championship. Both won three golds on the penultimate day of the seven-day extravaganza.
There was also gold for South Africa's most celebrated senior male flags and sprint champion Ryle de Morny.