South African surfing is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and Fernando Aguerre, President of the International Surfing Association, has sent a message of congratulations to Surfing South Africa, the recognized governing body for the sport in South Africa. “It is with tremendous pleasure that I congratulate Surfing South Africa on their 50 years of life. Surfing South Africa has been a member of the ISA since 1965 and today remains a vital and energetic member of our organization. South Africa has hosted several ISA World Championships and remains one of the top surfing destinations in the world. Through Surfing South Africa many South Africans have made their mark on the world surfing stage and a number have been recipients of ISA Surfing Scholarships over the years”
The ISA President added “I am privileged to recognize Surfing South Africa and its accomplishments over the past 50 years and sincerely wish them the very best in the future”
Having started its life in early 1965, organised surfing in South Africa has certainly made its mark over the past 50 years. As a member of the international surfing brotherhood, South Africa has played a major role in the growth of the sport both and out of the water. As early as the mid 60’s when surfing started to pick up speed and spread its message across the world, South African surfers and the country’s waves were right at the forefront of this global movement. Thanks to the iconic surf movie Endless Summer the waves of Kwazulunatal, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape were exposed to the world placing South Africa on the bucket list of surfers from every corner of the world.
This exposure led to South Africa making its mark as the host of many memorable surfing contests. Leading the way was the Gunston 500 which was first held at the Bay of plenty in Durban in 1969. The Gunston was not only a major surf contest but also became a major South African sporting attraction during the July holiday season attracting crowds of thousands to the Durban beachfront. As surfing in South Africa gained momentum other events such as the 1978 ISA World Championships at Nahoon Reef in East London were held followed by the Spur Steak Ranch Surfabouts, which used a mobile venue and featured most of the World’s best surfers during the mid 1980’s and the spectacular Billabong Pro contests held in Jeffreys Bay. Then came the highly successful Quiksilver ISA World Surfing Games in Durban in 2002 and the Mr Price Pro contests which replaced the Gunston 500.Thousands of provincial, national and international events featuring all the disciplines from surfing, longboarding, bodyboarding, SUP and kneeboarding have taken place at just about every possible surf spot along the country’s coastline while across the disciplines recreational participants are numbered in the tens of thousands.
Since 1965 South Africa has produced thirty World Champions and has won six team World titles. The all medal count since 1992 sees South Africa lying third behind Australia and Brazil. South Africa has not only produced some remarkable surfers over the years but has also contributed to the successful administration of the sport. A number of the past Presidents and Vice Presidents of the ISA have been South Africans while an extraordinary number of international administrators, technical officials and coaches have also made their mark on the world stage.
In addition South Africa has produced and continues to produce some of the best surf photographers in the world while over the years many of the leaders in the global Surf Industry have been South Africans.
July remains a significant month for South African surfing and this year all eyes are on the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong and the JBay Open, a WSL World Tour event featuring the best 48 surfers in the world. Both contests are registered with Surfing South Africa and play a role in the celebrations that will mark Surfing South Africa’s 50th anniversary over the next six months.
Other attractions that are part of Surfing South Africa’s 50th celebrations include the AGM of the World Surf Cities Network which is taking place in Durban this week as well as the 50 Years of Surfing in Durban Exhibition, presented by eThekweni Municipality, coordinated by the South African surfing Legends and supported by Tsogo Sun. This informative exhibition, which can be viewed between 10am and 4pm at the Pumphouse on Dairy Beach in Durban until August 30th, has been painstakingly compiled by legendary surf photographer Pat Flanagan and will take visitors on a journey of how surfing has evolved from the 60’s to now.
Down the road a bit from Durban, the JBay Winterfest is taking place in Jeffreys Bay and includes a host of activities and attractions alongside the JBay Open and the Billabong Junior Series event and then the focus moves back to uThungulu in KZN in the first week of August when the Citroen SA National Surfing Championships take place in Richards Bay. This 50th edition of the South African Championships will combine with the 10th South African Masters Championships and will feature seven teams of surfers from around the country competing for South African titles as well as team bragging rights. Among the surfers competing are eight World Champions, at least twelve current National champions, as well as number of national team members and provincial champions. Richards Bay will be hosting the tournament for the very first time.
Over the next six months the Surfing South Africa’s 50th celebrations will focus on the 50th South African Surfing Championships, the Coreban SUP Championships in Cape Town, the SA Bodyboarding Championships in Richards Bay, the Billabong Junior Surfing Championships in Jeffreys Bay, the Quiksilver Get Free contest in Port Alfred, the Billabong Women’s Surf Challenge in Ballito, several Adaptive Surfing Days, the Earthwave Beach Festival as well as participation by the South African Junior Team, Adaptive Surfing Team and Masters team in their respective ISA World Championships. Go to www.surfingsouthafrica.co.za for more information.
The last word on this special time in South African Surfing history comes from SSA President Mark Hoffman. “South African surfing has come a long way over the last 50 years.There have been challenges, hurdles to overcome and difficult times but the successes and achievements of all our athletes over the last five decades have made us a surfing nation of note. I am grateful to everyone who has played a role in taking this organization forward over the past 50 years and appreciate what our surfers and officials are doing today, as they prepare the sport for the years ahead. I am proud to be the President of Surfing South Africa as we celebrate our 50th anniversary.”