South African surfers have traditionally struggled on the world competitive stage, and for good reasons.
The obvious one is our currency, with its reputation as the runt of the world numismatic collective, which makes it a lot more expensive for our youngsters to travel.
The other is time zones, with events often held in places obscenely far from the tip of Africa. But we’re clawing our way back, with the excellent news this week emanating from Hawaii, when South Africans took third, fourth and fifth at the HIC Pro presented by Vans at the globally renowned break Sunset Beach on the North Shore.
It may have been only a 3,000 point WSL Qualifying Series (QS) event, but the Saffa contingent were up against some of the best in the world.
As the pro surfing season moves into the business end – the final events in Hawaii – many top pros are surfing as many events as possible to accumulate points to stay in the mix next year.
Of the four South Africans who made the top 16 – an unheralded number in the cut and thrust of competition in Hawaii - three made it into the semi-finals and two into the final.
Beyrick de Vries (uMhlanga) and Slade Prestwich (Durban) took third and fourth while David Van Zyl (Glenashley) got equal fifth.
Not since the heady days of South African dominance on the world stage 42 years ago have two South Africans made it into the final of a professional surfing event in Hawaii - a first since the world professional circuit was inaugurated in 1976.
The results by De Vries, Prestwich and Van Zyl - with Matthew McGillivray (Jeffreys Bay) making the quarter-finals – confirms that we’re finally learning how to win away from home, just like the Springboks (hopefully for today!).
The likes of former CT stars Dusty Payne (HAW), Nat Young (US) and Ricardo Christie (NZ) surfed the event because it was the official trials event for the prestigious Hawaiian Triple Crown series (three major events) on the North Shore.
De Vries famously earned a perfect 10-point ride at the 2013 Vans World Cup – “a wave that was hailed as the best barrel ever surfed in competition at Sunset’s west peak”.
According to reports, the SA contingent’s skill and commitment this week stood out from the opening day. De Vries took down all three of the above - Payne, Young and Christie -as well as eventual winner Hawaiian Kiron Jabour, on his way to the final.
His 1,680 points for third, his best result of 2018, sees him crack the top 50 on the QS rankings, jumping 14 spots to 49th.
Opening round stand outs were Prestwich, Dylan Lightfoot (J-Bay) and Van Zyl. The former two won their opening heats, while Van Zyl qualifies for the Triple Crown events after winning three consecutive heats before falling in the semi for his equal fifth.
McGillivray holds on as South Africa’s highest QS ranked surfer. He advanced through two rounds, including an absolute nail-biter in Round 4.
He and Van Zyl came from behind in the dying seconds to overtake Noe Mar McGonagle (CRC) and Hawaiian stand out Joshua Moniz to grab the first and second spots needed to advance.
With two big QS10 000-rated events still to be held, McGillivray lies just 4 000 points shy of a top 10 berth on the QS that will guarantee him a spot on the elite CT for 2019.
Prestwich posted his best QS performance in his fourth.
The Durbanite moved 49 places to a career-high 104th on the QS, but the main thing is that he will probably qualify for the Haleiwa and Sunset Beach legs of the Triple Crown. Times a’changin’ for the good!
Expect hot weather today, with calm winds followed by a light SW in the afternoon. Some fun 2-4’ west peaks in the smooth morning seas on exposed coast. Muizenberg small 2’ and clean with mild cross-shore in the afternoon.
Tomorrow, a stiff NW blows as a cold front scrapes over the peninsula bringing ragged seas, but no swell, and light scattered showers from mid afternoon growing slightly more consistent into the evening.