SA champs to make waves in China
The tropical Hainan Island is set to explode into action with world-class longboard surfing this week, writes Fred Kockott
FORMER Cape Town street kid Alfonso Peters and Durban schoolgirl Christy Gilmour are among four top longboard surfers representing South Africa at the 2018 World Longboard Surfing Championships taking place on China’s tropical Hainan island this week.
Hainan is situated in the northern part of the tropics – virtually at the same latitude as Hawaii. With 1 500km of coastline, Hainan’s point breaks have been ridden by visiting Australian and Japanese surfers for decades.
The place is warm all year round – it has no real winter – and its soft beaches and tropical scenery have also made it a famous holiday resort in China, attracting as many as 10 million tourists every year.
There are two main surfing seasons in Hainan. The typhoon season from August to October and the Northeast monsoon season, extending from November to March, producing large swells and consistent waves in January and February.
As part of a strategy to expand surfing to new markets around the globe, the International Surfing Association (ISA) started engaging with China in 2010 leading to the hosting of the Hainan Riyue Bay International Surfing Festival in 2012.
Riyue Bay, also known as Sun and Moon Bay, subsequently burst onto the international spotlight and has since become the site of numerous international surfing events, including this year’s ISA
World Longboard Surfing Championship.
The event, from Friday until January 26, features top longboard surfers from 30 countries around the world.
In the men’s division, Alfonso Peters will compete for the ISA world champion title.
He will be joined by Durban’s Sam Christianson, winner of last year’s SA Open Longboard trials.
Peters, the winner of last year’s Tiger Milk Classic in Muizenberg, has already competed on the word stage, taking part in the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) World Longboard Championships (the professional surfing circuit) in Papau New Guinea last year.
For Peters, who once slept on the streets and committed petty crime to say alive, learning to surf 12 years ago was a turning point in his life.
“I lost my father at a young age and my mom was a heavy drinker. She’d sometimes lock us in the house alone with no food. I’d run away and stay on the streets,” Peters told the FunDza Literary Trust in an interview in 2016.
“Running away from home was like I was asking for attention – I began seeking love in the wrong places and friends were there to show me ‘the way’. They taught me how to steal in shops such as Pick n Pay and Shoprite.”
Peters was once arrested for stealing, but was not convicted.
But being held in a holding cell was a frightening wake-up call, said Peters
“I was sent to a shelter in Muizenberg … There was a school there that offered to teach surfing for free and I thought, ‘Why not try it?’”
It was a life changing decision.
Now competing on the international stage, Peters hopes to one day open his own surfing school that will teach young street children to surf.
For Danville Park Girls’ High School pupil, Gilmour, who has also excelled in swimming and hockey, the opportunity to compete in the ISA longboard surfing champs is the highlight of her sporting life so far.
“Surfing at this level against top international competitors is a huge break for Christy,” said her father, Grant Gilmour, a veteran longboard surfer himself.
“It was in Tofu in Mozambique – when Christy was six – that I first pushed her off onto her first wave. She has been hooked ever since.”
KwaZulu-Natal Longboard Surfing Association (KZNLSA) chairperson Stanton
Ashton said he was amazed by Gilmour’s progress in competitive longboard surfing over the past few years.
Gilmour came second in Open Women’s division at KZNLSA Champs 2015, aged 14 and won the South Africa U16 title in 2016. In May last year, she won the Open Women’s division of the South African Longboard Surfing Championships hosted in Durban.
She now joins Roxy Davis from Cape Town in representing South Africa in competing against the likes of Honolua Blomfield from Hawaii and Chloe Clamon from Brazil, who are both leading the world stage of longboard surfing.
Davis is a seasoned professional surfer and a seventimes South African Surfing Champion who has coached numerous Western Province surfing teams to victory at the South African Championships.
She has won national titles in both short board and longboard surfing, and also the Stand Up Paddling (SUP) events.
Davis has also competed in the previous World Longboard Championships, with her top placing being 9th in the world, and came 4th at the 2014 La Torche Pro Stand Up Paddle Board event in France as part of the World Stand Up Paddle Tour.
Sam Christianson, 20, left, and Christy Gilmour, 17, both from Durban, head off to China’s tropical Hainan Island this week to compete in the 2018 World Longboard Surfing Championship. They were recently presented their South African colours by chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Longboard Surfing Association, Stanton Ashton, at a function at Riverside Hotel.
Seven-time South African surfing champion, Roxy Davis, is setting out to win gold at the 2018 ISA World Longboard Surfing Championship.
Durban’s Sam Christianson is looking forward to ‘milking’ long waves at Riyue Bay on China’s Hainan island.