JEFFREYS BAY has been buzzing. Everywhere you look, surfer dudes and dudettes strut past on a mission to surf or dry off.
But the ubiquitous winter beanies and cool branded jackets have been dispensed with.
Crystal clear skies and hot, berg wind weather, with temperatures in the high 20s, greeted the crowds milling around for the Jeffreys Bay Open of Surfing presented by Billabong, the anchor event for the inaugural Jeffreys Bay Winter Festival.
Every morning, the berg wind has blown across a consistent 2-4 foot east swell sliding down the reef at Supertubes.
Up to yesterday, they had managed to get the two last quarter-finals of the men’s event off and both women’s semis. But a gradual dropping swell saw a lay day called.
But while many eyes are glued to the crumbling surf along one of the world’s best known right-hand pointbreaks, there is a whole bouquet of events that have attracted a far wider demographic to this small Eastern Cape town.
There’s been a Funduro (a fun motocross Enduro), a catch- andrelease fishing event, and the Coldwater Classic swim in Marina Martinique.
An entertaining downhill skate event – called the Core Downhill Sokkie Jol – took place yesterday.
The brainchild of organiser Koffie Jacobs, all disciplines of skateboarding were represented in a race with obstacles such as ramps and cones that create unique challenges for the different boards used by some of South Africa’s best skateborders.
Longboarders may want to avoid the ramps. The shortboards won’t carve the berms and cones quite so stylishly… or fast.
The skate jol, with prizes for best disco dressed, was topped off with Smoke and Mirrors, a night LED skateboarding event on the same course. Wayne de Lange of Silver Bullet Productions told me that the night event was actually a TV commercial shoot for Arbor, a new skateboard brand coming into South Africa.
They had custom-built 15 LED light-suits that some of the South Africa’s top skateboarders would wear as they carved the same downhill run later.
Bright strips of LED lights down their legs, arms, over helmets and even on skateboards would be combined with smoke effects and headlights from cars at 45 degrees to the run line.
He says it was a world first, and set to be quite a spectacle.
To top off the Winter Festival, the final day of the surfing component was expected to finish today.
A new groundswell is due, which should send some lines down the fabled point.
Former world champ Mark Occhilupo is still in town, chilling near one of his favourite surf spots, despite being knocked out of the event in his quarter-final heat.
It was revealing to hear him say just how good this field of 60-odd SA surfers was, saying that it was really tough surfing against such a stellar line-up that includes the best of the current generation, but also a few stalwarts, such as 60-year-old Cape Town super vet Gavin Rudolph.
“The standard of surfing is really high. Gone are the days of the (W)CT when there were a couple of wildcards, like Shaun (Holmes), causing a few scares,” said Occy.
“The surfers in the J-Bay Open, which is endorsed by the ASP but has no elite or even prime status, has enabled us to peruse the best in SA in one event. It’s been an eyeopener to see how they surf and the moves they’re attempting, and pulling off.”
Running concurrent to the surfing today is a mountain bike event, with three stages – a 5km fun ride, a 40km, and a gruelling 85km technical track that organisers say will be a testing
the Trans training Baviaans.
The festival ends tomorrow with a 12km trail run that takes people over beach, through bush and along rivers.
After the Billabong Pro J-Bay was dropped from the elite world tour, the community has pulled together to build a festival that they have ownership of.
The inaugural event has been done on a shoestring, with all manner of local expertise – from social media experts, film crews, photographers, journalists, ground crew, security, and the organisers that include the JBU Surf Club – working on the whiff of an oil rag.
Although the swell has not played ball for the surfing in terms of the cranking Supers we know and love, there have been enough good waves, and good vibes, to keep everyone happy. Kind of like an Endless Summer in the middle of winter.
BODY ELECTRIC: Fifteen LED light-suits were worn during a unique night skateboarding event, doubling as a commercial shoot, in Jeffreys Bay this week, featuring top skateboarders, smoke effects and music.