Quintin van Jaarsveld
Another masterclass in a career full of them saw Port Shepstone legend Heather Clark (pictured) clinch the national women’s Over-30 title for the second successive year at the Mercedes-Benz South African Surfing Championships at Nahoon Reef at the weekend.
The 53rd edition of the national showpiece began at Nahoon Reef on Tuesday and reached an epic climax at the same break on Sunday. Two days were held at Nahoon Corner courtesy of some huge storm surf that hit East London midweek.
Over 150 surfers from eight districts competed in the championships, which were held in great surf over the six days.
Clark showed why she’s the “Queen of South African surfing” as she replicated her 2017 results by once again taking out the women’s Over-30 title and placing second in the women’s Open final.
The cream of the crop were welcomed by 4-5 foot surf on finals day, which saw Clark retain her women’s Over-30 crown in style courtesy of 9.67 and 8.5-point rides in the final.
Tasha Mentasti of Eden Surfriders was the runner-up, Michelle van Kempen of Nelson Mandela Bay finished third and Nicki Seligmann of Cape Town was fourth.
“I’m over the moon,” Clark told eHowzit. “You always want to defend your title and I always want to return to a break and equal or better my previous performance there, so I’m super stoked.
“I managed to score some good waves, which gave me momentum and put me in good spirits, but I never relax in a heat because I know anything can happen. I had great support from my Ugu Surfriders team and even the girls in the water were cheering for me, so it was super cool.”
The women’s Open final saw the meeting of the past, present and future as “Fergie”, the most decorated South African women’s wave-rider of all time, went up against 2017 champion Olivia Brand of eThekweni and Buffalo City and South African junior team mates Zoe Steyn and Tayla de Coning.
Teen sensation Steyn seized the day and became the youngest surfer in the 53-year history of the championships to win the women’s Open title. Former world number three and 14-year Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour veteran Clark finished second, De Coning third and Brand fourth.
Clark, who won the first of her eight women’s Open titles at Nahoon Reef in 1989, was full of praise for young Steyn, saying, “I would’ve liked to win the Open as well, but I at least managed to pick up another second like last year, and Zoe deserved the win. She’s a force to be reckoned with and she’s going to win a lot of South African and world titles in the future.”
The 47-year-old goofy-footed great awarded the coveted Surfer of the Contest trophy she won last year to Steyn, who’ll go on to represent South Africa at the ISA World Surfing Games in Japan in September and at the ISA World Junior Championships in California at the end of October.
Clark, who’s giving back to the sport by grooming the next wave of champions at her surf school, also secured a second prestigious prize as she was awarded the Dave Fish Trophy by last year’s winner Greg Emslie for her unrivalled consistency.
“I’m very happy, proud and honoured to win the Dave Fish Trophy. We surfed together at the World Games a few years ago, so it’s special and a real honour because there are so many surfers in the men’s and ladies who surfed really well all week.”
Clark spearheaded the Ugu Surfriders team consisting of fellow women’s open surfer Jesse Powell and men’s riders Gary van Wieringen, Simo Mkhize, Justin Maisch, Cody Coetsee, Derek Horlock, Ryan Klynsmith, Chad Delport, Carl Roux, Daryl Adamson and Warren Wareing.
Van Wieringen missed out on the Over-40 title by one point to defending champion Emslie. The latter’s Buffalo City team mate, Tristan Johnson, was third and Warwick Heny of Nelson Mandela Bay came fourth.
Other strong showings from the South Coast collective (pictured below) included Wareing reaching the semis and Powell, Mkhize, Coetsee, Maisch and Roux reaching the quarterfinals of their respective divisions.
Meanwhile, Jordy Maree, a late replacement in the Cape Town Surfriders team, celebrated his birthday on Saturday and won the men’s open championship on Sunday when he posted a 17 out of 20 heat score to edge Chad du Toit of eThekweni Surfriders, into second place.
Maree joins the long list of surfers who have used a backhand attack to secure victory at Nahoon Reef. Last year’s champion, Brandon Benjamin, also of Cape Town Surfriders, used his backhand to become the 2017 champion.
Tyrell Johnson came third in the final with his young Buffalo City teammate Thomas Lindhorst, taking fourth.
In the Over-35 men’s division, Cape Town Surfriders team captain Neil Zietsman won his first ever national title when he beat Alan Johns of Ilembe Surfriders into second place. Tyrell Johnson of Buffalo City incurred a technical penalty which dropped him into third place ahead of his brother, Orrin.
Wayne Monk of Buffalo City edged Ryan Ribbink into the silver medal slot just seconds before the siren sounded. Ribbink’s eThekweni teammate, Warren Dixon, came third and the copper medal went to Tristan Johnson of Buffalo City.
Adding to Buffalo City’s list of successes was a victory for Gareth Sepp in the Over-50 division final over defending champion David Malherbe and his brother, Andre, who was third. Sean Jerram of Cape Town had to settle for fourth place behind the three Buffalo City surfers.
Nahoon Reef local Nick Pike took more gold for Buffalo City when he won the Over-55 title ahead of Stephen Hair of Eden. Pike’s teammate Toby Mare won a bronze medal and Volker Mielck of Cape Town, won copper.
In the Over-60 final, Jeremy Zinn of Cape Town Surfriders pulled out all the stops to beat defending champion Gordon Harmer of Buffalo City. Kelly Kellerman of eThekweni was third and Andre Venter of Nelson Mandela Bay came fourth.
All the winners won coveted Surfing South Africa floating trophies, gold medals and R1000 in cash.
Buffalo City won the Masters Cup for the 13th year in a row, beating Cape Town Surfriders into second spot. Then came eThekweni, Nelson Mandela Bay, Eden, Ilembe and Ugu Surfriders.
The East London team retained the President’s Cup for the highest scores in the Open Divisions. eThekweni came second, followed by Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Ugu, Ilembe, Eden and Cape Winelands.
The Champions Cup, which is presented to the team that scores the highest combined points total, went to the dominant Buffalo City Team. eThekweni came second, Cape Town were third followed by Nelson Mandela Bay, Ugu, Ilembe Eden and Cape Winelands.
Photos by Menize Clark