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

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS -

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.

PIC­TURE: FRED KOCK­OTT

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.

PIC­TURE: GRAEME FIELD

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.

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