Stab Magazine | John John's Africa
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John John’s Africa

Words by Ali Klinkenberg | Photos by Anthony Fox So you might’ve heard that Mr John Florence made a surf movie. It’s called View from a Blue Moon, and it’s the most expensive and visually spectacular surf movie ever. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here because throughout the arduous filming process, photographic evidence of this […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Words by Ali Klinkenberg | Photos by Anthony Fox

So you might’ve heard that Mr John Florence made a surf movie. It’s called View from a Blue Moon, and it’s the most expensive and visually spectacular surf movie ever. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here because throughout the arduous filming process, photographic evidence of this momentous cinematic event had been trickling into our inboxes. It’s Pipe, it’s Teahupoo, it’s big. It’s John and the best waves in the world where he continues to redefine backhand tuberiding, and it generally surpasses everything that’s come before. But, in pixels, it’s a bit, well, same-ish. But then, a folder labeled ‘Africa’ made our pockets vibrate. Long has the dark continent fascinated, and the shots inside featured dark-skinned children, long turquoise-blue pointbreaks (empty), and John . The photos were taken by Anthony Fox, a photographer from Cape Town who, get this, has a job other than snapping shots of professional fibreglass wielders, who acted as the Florence clan chaperone for this expedition. Stab weaved around the unfavourable time difference and asked Ant about the magical land known as Transkei, and asked, “could this be the next great surf travel destination?”

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Despite all the tubes and ankle-busting airs, it’s John’s beautifully awkward rail game that really excites. Prone to looking slightly funky at times, John compensates by cranking the close of the turn with maximum velocity. Few torque better.

“The Transkei’s not on the go-to list of surfers who visit South Africa,” says Ant. “But it’s got everything that you could want as a traveller.” The relative obscurity of the region is likely due to the Transkei’s history. During the height of apartheid the Transkei was forcibly made ‘independent’ of South Africa, rendering it internationally unrecognised and completely isolated. It was ushered back under the RSA banner in 1994, but remains undeveloped and rural. The main issue with travelling in the Transkei is access. “The region is mostly farmland, so navigating the thousands of gravel roads in and out of the Transkei’s pretty challenging,” says Ant. “The average vehicle will take a beating. Avoid travelling at night as there’s a good chance you’ll take a wrong turn or hit some of the free ranging livestock.”

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Shots like this sure makes one ponder how many similar set ups could punctuate the vast African coastline.

As you would expect, John John Florence and his entourage, which included mom Alex, brothers Nathan and Ivan, South African compadre Frank Solomon and Hawaiian Kalani Chapman, as well as assorted filmers and photographers, had the royal treatment. The royal treatment in this case being photographer Ant who had been to the Transkei before and knew where he was going. John was in South Africa hanging and surfing with pal Frank Solomon, as he tends to do when he gets a minute of spare time, when a quick WindGuru hit revealed promise. “We saw both good swell and winds so we went,” says Ant. “There are a few well-known spots on the map that get attention, but for the most part it’s very quiet still. We scored unbelievable waves with no-one around.”

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J-Bay? Winki? Nope. John’s usually a diehard trunks man, but for this blustery morning marathon he opted for the Hurly rubber. God bless the modern wetsuit and their non-restrictive ways.

One of the first things that springs to the uneducated mind when Africa’s mentioned as a surf destination is danger. But, Ant reckons that the stigma’s unwarranted. “Every place has its dangers, it doesn’t make it any worse because it’s Africa. Petty crime’s an issue nearly everywhere there’s tourists with cameras and cash. You just need to be aware like you would anywhere else.” And to reiterate, Ant classes his most terrifying African adventure as being of natural causes. “Getting caught at night in a severe storm off the coast of Mozambique for sure,” recalls Ant. “We were in a 70 foot steel hull ketch, and came seriously close to abandoning ship.” Not wanting to state the obvious, but abandoning ship off the West coast of Africa at night leaves you a very slight chance of survival.

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The perks of being Mom John are plenty, but trips like this have to be among the most pleasurable. Here Alex plays a subtle part in a breathtaking scene.

As for the future of surf Africa, Ant doesn’t see any reason why it shouldn’t rise as a surf travel destination, although admits that the hoards won’t flock overnight as the result of seeing John and friends utilising the natural assets.

“The African coastline has everything a travelling surfer could want, and there’s so much more out there,” says Ant. “The potential’s undeniable.”

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