‘Steezy’ makes long­board look easy

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - STEVE PIKE de rigeur

SOUTH Africa has just added an­other world cham­pion to its grow­ing list of surf­ing su­per­stars.

And it couldn’t have hap­pened to a nicer guy. Steven “Steezy” Sawyer this week won the WSL World Long­board Cham­pi­onship at the Tai­wan Open of Surf­ing.

It’s an amaz­ing feat – ex­cuse the pun since “walk­ing” to the nose of the board is if you want to win long­board­ing events – con­sid­er­ing that Sawyer had to beat long­board­ing leg­end Kai Sal­las from Hawaii in the fi­nal and an­other leg­end, Tay­lor Jensen, in the semi­fi­nal. Jensen was the reign­ing and three-time world champ, and is not a guy you can knock over very eas­ily.

Sawyer will re­mem­ber the quaint vil­lage of Jinzun Har­bour in the prov­ince of Taitung, Tai­wan for many years to come as the place he won his maiden world ti­tle, and hope­fully for us suc­cess-starved fans, many more to come. His lan­guid but ex­plo­sive surf­ing style and hum­ble na­ture en­deared him to the crowd in Tai­wan, and the sup­port was deaf­en­ing at times as he marched steadily through the field.

He is an in­cred­i­ble tal­ent, and even the more so be­cause he lacks the ar­ro­gance and games­man­ship of oth­ers in this genre of surf­ing. He is al­ways pos­i­tive and never over­bear­ing, and you’ll never hear him vloek­ing any­one in the wa­ter, or scream­ing at judges.

Not many peo­ple can be as com­pletely at home on a long­board and a short board as young Steezy. Nor can they count win­ning a WSL Qual­i­fy­ing Se­ries event AND earn­ing a wild­card into the 2017 J-Bay Open Cham­pi­onship Tour event.

Steezy, who is also a rather good gui­tarist, joins a long list of surf­ing troubadours who surfed com­petively, such as Jack John­son and Tim Cur­ren, or if you cast a wider net, rock stars who surf, such as Kirk Ham­mett from Me­tal­lica or Perry Far­rel from Jane’s Ad­dic­tion.

But of course, a tad more ap­pro­pri­ately for our dis­cus­sion, Steezy joins a se­lect group of South African-born WSL World Cham­pi­ons that in­cludes Shaun Thomson, Wendy Botha, Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker and Jordy Smith (Ju­nior Champs).

The Sawyer fam­ily are an in­sti­tu­tion in J-Bay. His mom, Cara, is a calm, nur­tur­ing mom, and his dad, Des, a top surf­board shaper. Steezy was chuffed: “My dad has been shap­ing me in­cred­i­ble boards re­cently and they worked so well all event.”

Spare a thought for Sal­las, the los­ing fi­nal­ist, who de­spite 15 years of com­pet­ing at the World Long­board Cham­pi­onships, has not won a maiden ti­tle, but re­tains his iconic sta­tus in the long­board­ing world.

JU­NIORS SHINE

The long­board­ing event in Tai­wan moved straight into the WSL World Ju­nior Surf­ing Cham­pi­onships (fea­tur­ing Un­der 18 ju­nior surfers), a first in WSL his­tory to have the two events run at the same venue. The women’s event has al­ready been de­cided, with Kirra Pinker­ton (USA) the win­ner. The best placed South African was Kai Woolf who got as far as Round 3. Two Lukes, as in Sli­jpen (Hout Bay) and Thomp­son (Dur­ban), are through to Round 4 in the Men’s.

ME­D­INA HOME RUN?

As we head into the fi­nal event on the Men’s CT, with Stephanie Gil­more al­ready bag­ging the women’s world ti­tle, you have to think that Gabby Me­d­ina from Brazil has it in him to win his sec­ond world ti­tle. He was just 20 when he took the first, in 2014. Like him or not, he’s still young, but has added ex­tra hunger and raw am­bi­tion to his al­ready prodi­gious tal­ent, and he al­ready has a 4,740 point gap over his only two chal­lengers, Ju­lian Wil­son and Filipe Toledo.

WEATHER TIP

A respite from hot and windy sum­mer come through with mild west­er­lies, fun swell and even wel­come rain this week, but to­day we see a tran­si­tion back to de­fault. Light SW breezes bring on­shore bump to a 3-4’ swell on the west side, while a clean 2’ swell in Muizen­berg gives way to fresh on­shore SSE into the evening, with to­mor­row pump­ing SE again. How­ever, to­mor­row’s straight clean off­shores and 4’ surf sug­gest some clean green bar­rels, while Muizen­berg suf­fers an on­shore blast of murky white wash.

| WSL

Steven Sawyer on his way to win­ning the Tai­wan Open World Long­board­ing Cham­pi­onship.

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