Answering the call of the ocean
More than 200 of the country’s top longboard surfers, including world title holders and legendary veterans of the sport, descend on Durban next week for a seven-day action packed surfing extravaganza that aims to promote marine conservation.
The 2017 SA Longboard Surfing Championships gets underway at Durban’s Bay of Plenty on Monday, April 24, and continue through to Sunday, April 30.
While the winner and runner-up in the open men’s and women’s divisions will be selected to represent South Africa in the next World Longboard Surfing Championships, all contestants are in the running for Roving Reporters 2017 Soul Surfer Award in aid of ocean conservation.
The award will go to the contestant who best exemplifies the spirit of an ocean lifestyle, said event organiser and KZN Longboard Surfing Association chairman, Stanton Ashton.
“Surfers are by the very nature, ideal ocean advocates,” said Ashton. “So in hosting the event – the biggest of its kind in Africa – we want to create awareness about threats to the ocean and marine life.”
The 2017 Soul Surfer Award trophy comes with a cash prize of R1000 to be donated to a marine conservation cause of the winner’s choice as well as a custom-made Spider Murphy longboard valued at R4,500.
“The runner-up shall receive a limited edition Makotikoti turtle sculpture valued R1000,” said convenor of the 2017 Soul Surfer Award judging panel, David Macgregor.
Sentenced to five years in jail in 2011 for killing an endangered loggerhead turtle in the iSimangaliso World Heritage Site, 60-year-old Makotikoti Zikhali, has since made a series of limited edition turtle sculptures for sale in aid of developing environmental education at KwaHlomula Senior Primary – the school he attended but abandoned at a young age to help his family fish for survival.
Macgregor said the Zikhali’s story highlighted the role of art in promoting conservation.
Welcoming the introduction of the Soul Surfer Award, Sawyer said surfers were attuned to what was what happening in the ocean and generally had a deep understanding of the need to protect marine life.
“It’s important for people to understand our pollution situation. Unfortunately, we’re stacked with it, in and out the ocean. I do believe, though, that people are starting to live more environmentally friendly lifestyles,” said Sawyer.
As South Africa’s reigning longboard surfing champion, Sawyer shall shortlist 17 nominated Soul Surfers for Ocean Watch interviews with Roving Reporters. Click here to read about the nomination process.
In defending his open men’s championship title, Sawyer is likely to face stiff competition from Tom King (Western Province) and Durban’s Brad Weare, a previous title holder who has also represented South Africa at the World Longboard Surfing Championships.
In the women’s open division, Tarryn King, also representing Western Province is tipped as a favourite, but is likely to face a tough contest if KZN’s top-seeded women surfer, 16-year-old Christy Gilmour, makes it through to the final round.
Among the first junior surfers nominated for the 2017 Soul Surfer Award, is Kye MacGregor, a top South African junior shortboard surfer and reigning SA under 14 longboard champ who despises litter on the beach.
A stylish young longboarder with a mixed bag of old school and powerful progressive surfing, 13-year-old Kye Macgregor (jnr) can often be seen binning plastic and rubbish he finds on the shoreline.
“Pollution in the sea is bad because it kills the marine environment,” said Macgregor (jnr).
Click here to nominate a contestant for Roving Reporters 2017 Soul Surfer Award
- This story forms part of Roving Reporters Ocean Watch series supported by the Human Elephant Foundation and The Blue Fund – a joint Grindrod Bank and Wildlands initiative that promotes various marine conservation projects.
Fascinating new discoveries of abundant ocean life at depths between 80 – 150 metres are being made on Ocean Stewards expeditions along the KZN coastline. Photos: ACEP Spatial Solutions research project.