The final day of the Billabong SA Surfing Champs delivered three new champions across Open Men, Women, U20 Boys and Girls respectively and Border, as team champions for 2011. Small, clean surf and a light offshore breeze greeted the remaining competitors on Sunday, the final day of South Africa’s longest running and premier domestic surfing competition.
Despite a slight drop in swell, all eight surfing provinces were out early in support of their team finalists, along with an ever-increasing weekend crowd.
The first Champion to be crowned was none other than the powerful goofy foot sensation of Sarah Baum, representing KZN, taking out the U20 Girls Division title. Sarah played the waiting game, choosing only to pick off the larger set waves from way up the point, and her patience was rewarded with an 8.07 and 7.83 to pip her closet rival Bianca Buitendag to win her first SA Surfing Champion title.
It was the age-old case of the best wave’s equalling the highest scores and unfortunately for Eastern Province pairing Faye Zoetmulder and Emma Smith, the waves never came their way and they were forced to settle with 3rd and 4th place respectively.
The U20 boys brought the crowd to their feet with arguably the most competitive and critical surfing of the event so far with a see-saw battle of high scores that saw the lead exchange hands a number of times throughout the 25 minute heat. It was invaluable local knowledge that prevailed as Nick Godfrey, who has spent more time surfing Seal Point than anyone else, locked in two solid scores of 6.83 and 6.67 to take out the U20 Boys SA Surfing Champion title.
J-Bay local Steven Sawyer went berserk on a set wave earning him the highest wave score of the final with 8.33, but just wasn’t able to find that much needed back up score. Western Cape’s Matt Bromley, who looked to be one of the favourites from Day 1, simply came unstuck in the final and had to settle with 3’rd place alongside Dylan Lightfoot (E.P) with a very respectable 4th. An understandably stoked Nicky Godfrey was humble in defeat, thanking the organisers for bringing the event to his home break.
It was then the turn of the Open Women’s to impress with the highly anticipated final that saw Tasha Mentasti and Chantelle Rautenbach, both from Boland, take on Michelle Imeson (SKZN) and Nikita Robb (Border). As the clock wound down, it became a two horse race between the goofy foot pairing of Chantelle and Nikita who traded the lead going into the five minute mark. However it was the Border standout and former Women’s Championship World Tour Surfer, Nikita Robb who was too strong as she hammered the final nail in the coffin with a 9.0 ride to take out the Open Women’s SA Surfing Championship Title for 2011. Nikita dedicated her win entirely to her team stating, “The people I need to thanks most is my team Border!”
Last up saw the most anticipated heat of the day take to the water with an unofficial old school versus new school match-up in the Open Men’s final. Powerhouse Klee Strachan (KZN) and South Coast style-master Casey Grant took on Wayne Monk and Greg Emslie from Border. Greg, coming off consecutive heat wins in all four of his previous heats set the pace early on with a handful of backup scores. However it was team mate and 41 year-old campaigner Wayne Monk who took the lead going into the final ten minutes with a succession of critical forehand power hacks all the way down the point.
Klee and Casey waited for the waves that never quite materialised for them leaving Greg to chase down the in-form Monk. With just under two minutes to go and Greg needing a solid score to move into first place, a set approached and the defending champ used all of his seasoned world tour experience to blitz his way into the lead with a massive 8.83 ride. Monk took off of the second wave of the set in an attempt retrieve his lead but it was all in vain as the score couldn’t remove Greg from taking out yet another coveted SA Surfing Championship Open Men’s title. “Wayne and I have heats to together often and he smashes me often so I was pretty scared in the final,” exclaimed a humble Mr Emslie.
Lastly it was General Manager of Surfing South Africa, Mr Robin de Kock who stepped up and awarded the Presidents Cup trophy to the overall winning team; an ecstatic Border team. And the Vuvuzelas kept on blowing as SAB awarded four cases of Carling Black Label to Border, as the team who exuded the most spirit and support over the full four days of the event.