THE three-day surfing spectacular that took place at Port Alfred’s East Beach from Friday April 6 to Sunday April 8 was a massive success and, according to locals, the clutch of world-class international professional surfers has helped improve the standard of surfing in the area.
The Royal St Andrews Hotel Port Alfred Classic, presented by Quiksilver, was the first World Surfing League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 1000 event, sanctioned by Surfing South Africa (SSA) to be held in Port Alfred in more than 20 years, and had South Africa’s top surfers frothing at the prospect of earning valuable international ranking points here at home. Added to this, there was a total of R80 000 in prize money with R12 000 going to the overall winner.
The event was part of this year’s Amanzi Festival, 10-days of action and spectator entertainment that included many water sports and other events over the Easter weekend and through last week to the WSL event last weekend.
On day one the conditions at East Beach were idyllic, until the westerly wind picked up anything that wasn’t fixed down and sand-blasted the surfers who were only too happy to get off the beach and into the water. With the waves standing at attention some great surfing was made possible and. Nicole Pallet, the WSL Africa women’s champion, managed to excel with the highest wave score, an incredible 9.25, last Friday.
The men’s longboarding event saw Ryan Lightfoot win his heat over former WSL number two, Steven Sawyer, who has just come off a five week injury lay-off and was a little rusty.
The women’s longboarding contest saw an upset when Marishka Myers knocked out top South African surfer Christy Gilmore.
On day two of the competition the wind had died down and the waves were spectacular, the type of waves surfers dream of, and the surfing took off with Jordy Maree showing some fine form, and some fine back-handed makeovers and, despite an interference being called on him, out-thought the opposition with his priority, capturing the heat and taking the day as the waves began to diminish as the day drew to an end.
On day three, the waves were not quite as good as on the previous day but still great for surfing. With virtually no wind to speak of and a big swell predicted for later, the surfers enjoyed some fine waves.
The men’s longboarding final began as the swell began filling in, and Matthew Moir picked up the win.
Veteran Greg Emslie, who was South Africa’s longest running Championship Tour surfer, won his heat with a score of 14.50, showing that surfing is not just for the youngsters.
In the Men’s QS 1,000 Final, Jordy Maree faced off against Australian Jordan Lawler. Maree showed grit, much to the delight of his screaming fans, and was awarded 7.25 for his best wave, and a back-up wave of 6.45 to give him the edge over the Australian.
CEO of Accelerate Sport Edward Gregory said that the event had been a great success.
This is the second in the city surf series allowing locals to gain valuable QS points here at home and is preparation for the upcoming 2020 Olympics when, for the first time, surfing will be an Olympic sport.
“This is a great location for the event,” said Gregory. “We are looking forward to next year’s [Royal St Andrews Hotel] Port Alfred Classic. It would probably be better if we held next year’s event mid-week to allow competitors to relax over the weekend in anticipation of the next event.”
Local longboarders David Macgregor, Kye Macgregor and Richard Heny and shortboarder Andrew Laverge were out in the first day, when the waves were very small and gale force westerlies discouraged spectators from attending the event.
“The locals would have preferred 4-5 foot, head height waves. The waves were slow and there was a lack of back up waves to make up differences in scores, which were very close, only a one- or two- point difference,” said David.