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AT THE BEACH | To compete or not to compete — that is the question

Suffering yourself to contests and becoming more radical vs the fun of free surfing

Punching way above her weight, Louise Lepront on a high line ripping a top turn in powerful surf.
DYNAMIC DYNAMITE: Punching way above her weight, Louise Lepront on a high line ripping a top turn in powerful surf.


The problem with competition is there are winners, which means by default, there are losers too. Somebody is going to get the short end of the stick, but life is like that.

Sports competitions are a safe place to learn how to win or lose; how to get back up after being knocked down, or how to stay in the game and win from the back when the chips are down.

I love what coach Greg Emslie says, “Don’t let your wins go to your head or your losses go to your heart.”

And then there is Shaun Tomson who was asked in the prime of his career “Who is the best surfer in the world right now?”

He could so easily have answered about being the first guy to keep weaving, driving, pumping, changing his line and dynamically responding to speed and shape of the tube to complete more and more radical tube rides than anybody in his time.

All surfers before him were static or posed in the tube. Get in and park. Get a bit lucky if you make it out.

Tomson honestly redefined tube riding on his way to becoming world champion.

His fabulous answer — “The best surfer in the world is the guy who is having the most fun.”

With the advent of pro surfing, the glitz, the glamour, sponsorships, tours, endorsements, press, popularity and fame, it is interesting that the Cinderella child that emerged out of this is free surfing, soul surfing or lifestyle surfing. Those that are in it just for the joy of the ride and the love of all that is oceanic.

Some smart surfers like David Rastovitch, Donavon Frankenreiter and our own Frankie Oberholzer turned their backs on the stress and dog-eat-dog of competition and cut such a colourful and attractive, visible and compelling laid back lifestyle that brands picked them up and sponsored them to add to their credibility of cool.

Even though they were not busting contest results they were still in the magazines and videos showing the soul and adventure side of surfing rather than podium finishes.

Some brands lean in this direction like RVCA (balance of opposites) and Vissla, who lean heavily in the direction of art rather than contest.

Then there is Patagonia who campaigns tooth and nail for the environment.

Thank goodness it emerges that all personalities are valid and as I stood in the shaping bay with local surfer Lampeace the other day looking at his 1980s inspired twin fin he was shaping for himself, his words were “this is fun, isn’t this why we all started surfing?”

This weekend the The Sea Harvest Nahoon Open presented by Cell C hits the water at our premier break, Nahoon Reef, in the middle of the city.

There will likely be no twin fins paddling out in the heats. Interesting that the nitty gritty of pushing emotions to the side and getting down to business is called cut and thrust.

Surfboards with three fins are called thrusters and you are going to see a lot of them under the feet of the best surfers in SA this weekend as they converge on our home break on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for trophies, podium and R60,000 cash. This is how battle should be done rather than Russia and Ukraine.

Surfing is a great way to meet people up and down the beaches of SA if not the world.

Surfing contests push surfers out into all manner of waves. Sometimes it is bigger and wilder than you want to ride but the show must go on and all competitors suffer the same pounding sea that they might not normally have paddled out in if they were free surfing.

Growth is enforced and with the pressure of five judges watching every ride, surfers push themselves to their limits.

You do become a better surfer by suffering yourself to competition. By better, read competent, more radical or expert.

Generally, free surfing is more fun when ripping the waves apart rather than dawdling in a straight line.

Free surfing is radically improved after a steady diet of competition and at the end of the day, you are your own biggest opposition.

Are you surfing better today than you were yesterday?

If you are, you are the winner in your own arena and not far away from Tomson’s best surfer in the world.

Alan Eason’s photo of Under 14 Ugu surfer (Southern Natal) Louise Lepront passed by me as she warmed up at Nahoon Reef earlier this week.

Mom Catherine tells me that usually Louise is at an advantage in the smaller waves because miss Lulu is dynamite in a small package.

Well, our local reef is known for its grunt and young miss Lepront was punching way above her weight, driving a high line and a solid, controlled carving top turn in the pocket of a powerful wave. Kudos to you young lady.

Coached by Quinton Jones and surfing often with goat Heather Clark, Louise’s future is very bright and her dreams should not be far away from similar achievements to golden girl Bianca Buitendag.

SA and Border Buffalo City are spoiled at this time for exceptionally good management and coaching and we are drowning in talent like Louise.

Our national junior team has been selected for international competition (more about this team soon) and they are fabulous ambassadors and athletes.

Go show the rest of the world what you are made of guys and girls.

Go make us proud. I am so looking forward to your results.

If you want to see what top surfing looks like, go to Nahoon Reef today and tomorrow for the finals. This is what top competition looks like.


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