Stab Magazine | South African Big Wave fam turns down Big Wave World Tour!
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South African Big Wave fam turns down Big Wave World Tour!

Story by Theo Lewitt | Photos by Nic Bothma The collective focus of the surfing world has been glued to the Goldie for over two weeks. After watching a series of disappointing morning shows with high hopes of seeing our favs surf two-foot D’bah, we were left emotionally taxed. Our attention was scattered. Had the surf […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Story by Theo Lewitt | Photos by Nic Bothma

The collective focus of the surfing world has been glued to the Goldie for over two weeks. After watching a series of disappointing morning shows with high hopes of seeing our favs surf two-foot D’bah, we were left emotionally taxed. Our attention was scattered. Had the surf world not been drawn in as such, it might’ve noticed something far more interesting brewing in Cape Town.

After disagreement with Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) contest organizers, the Cape Big Wave Trust (CBWT), an organization in place to protect the interests of South African big wave surfers, has unanimously voted against hosting the event at Cape Town’s local big wave arena, Dungeons, this year. In an interview with Barry Futter, CBWT’s spokesperson, the organisation’s intentions were made quite clear: Unless presented with a clear support structure for the South African big wave surfing community, they would not submit their home break to the media circus that surrounds any global event.

Vice President of the WSL BWWT, Gary Linden, recently gave Wavescape his perspective of things:

“Once I got word that this was not going to be acceptable to the locals at Dungeons, we reviewed internally, and I proposed personally to Barry that we would allow for six locals and a wildcard to make seven South Africans. This was before the meeting where the vote was taken. I offered to come to Cape Town and meet directly with the group in the hopes of responding to all concerns and coming to an acceptable resolution for all. The response was that I would be wasting my money. After the news of the vote, I again offered to personally address the concerns by coming to Cape Town and meeting, clearly indicating that there was significant room for negotiation. This offer as well met with the same response as the previous and at that time we decided to cancel having the event.

“Personally this was very disturbing to me as I had been the Director of Big Wave Africa for nine years and since the last one ran in 2008 I had been searching for a way to get the contest back. Keep in mind that it is extremely difficult to find anyone to put up the type of money needed to finance an event of this magnitude and this participation cannot be taken for granted. The benefits to the big wave surfing community far outweigh the negatives and I feel the loss of this opportunity to be tremendous. The current means of qualifying for the Tour heavily favor the locals where events are held as this is a direct path to compete. There is in place as well our #proveit video submission qualifying program from which the top six are invited to compete in our Qualifying event. James Taylor was selected from this video competition and although the actual surfing event did not happen due to lack of surf he is in good position to be invited to some of the events this year.”

Linden said that “The WSL was given a 100 percent NO.”

Ok. So let’s dive onto the other side for South African big wave surfing’s angle. Local standout, Josh Redman, was part of the decision and offers some levelheaded explanation: “There were about around 30 of us in the decision making process. We all thought that there should be more in it for the locals. These guys dedicate their whole lives to surfing out there. Just like with any other big wave spots around the world, there’s a tight crew that surfs these waves. They’ve earned the right to paddle out there in a contest vest and surf their home break against the world’s best.”

NicBothma-Dungeons-GrantBaker

Twiggy Baker, South African big wave surfing’s poster boy, gots nothing but love for Dungeons and would adore an event there. But, he also sees the big picture.

In terms of local talent, Redman “couldn’t imagine an event at Dungeons without Mike Schlebach, Frank Soloman, Andrew Marr, James Lowe, Matt Bromley, and Chris Bertish” in the mix. “Each of those guys deserves to be out there.”

For surfers like Redman who are not yet on the BWWT but have proven themselves to be major threats in big wave arenas around the world (namely at Jaws this winter), denying themselves an opportunity to charge at home wasn’t easy. “For me, it was really hard to vote against something like this that I’ve been dreaming of for a long time, and I know this decision for the event not to run would probably affect me more than most guys. It was hard to vote against it, but I stand behind our vote.”

While the event will not be on the schedule for this season, the CBWT is completely open to re-negotiations for the coming years. Redman contends that “to open up the doors to the tour again, we all just need to see some better conditions for the local guys and a little bit more in the way of clear qualification criteria.” Continuing on the same thought, “moving forward to other events, the locals just want to know that if they do well in the one event in their hometown, that they’ll get a clear spot into other events, not the uncertainty that maybe they’ll get a wildcard. They need to know that before they open up the doors to the tour.”

Being a big wave surfer from SA offers plenty of challenges to qualify for the BWWT. The brawlers on tour make their presence known by chasing the biggest swells of the year around the globe. For the South African guys, “we live here on the other side of the world, so traveling becomes really difficult,” admits Redman. “Our currency makes it pretty hard as well… it’s about twelve Rand to one dollar, so the budgets run dry pretty quickly when you’re doing overseas trips, and I think that’s what you really need to be doing if you want to break onto that tour. So, if we don’t have a good season here, then it’s pretty quiet for us.” All the more reason to make sure a breakthrough performance at home is duly rewarded with opportunities to compete elsewhere.

While there was talk of the BWWT limiting the number of local wildcards to four surfers, down from the previous year’s six wildcards, Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, former BWWT world champ and a part of the CBWT decision process, cleared the air on that matter in a recent Facebook post. “The vote had nothing to do with the number of surfers invited. The WSL came back to us with seven places for South African surfers. I would have loved to surf an event at home, and it would have given me a great chance at a second title. But, we need to respect the vote of those who have the best interests of surfing in South Africa, Cape Town, and in particular Dungeons, at heart. We can’t get tied up in our own personal interests.” The positives of the event, as planned, weren’t worth the expense to the local surfing community, in the eyes of the CBWT.

Redman hopes the guys negotiations can continue this year, remedying the current stalemate to get the contest back up and running next year. “Obviously time ran out this year, but we’ve just gotta look forward to next year and hopefully work out some better conditions for the local guys.”

NicBothma-Dungeons-JamesTaylor

James Taylor. who was selected via the #proveit video submission last year, looks unreasonably casual as the Dungeon door slams behind him.

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