2014 World Waveski Titles

Words: Stephen Farthing | Photos: Rory Taylor

The world’s best waveski surfers converged in Durban, from 26 April to 4 May 2014, to battle it out for the 2014 World Waveski Titles, and it was Renan Leloutre, from France, who was crowned the 2014 Open World Waveski Champion at New Pier.

Photo credit: Rory Taylor

There were some amazing performances in the eight straight days of competition. The conditions, although not perfect barrels as depicted in surf magazines, were contestable every day and provided enough size and power to showcase the dynamic aerial manoeuvers typically associated with this sport. Apart from the odd sprinkle of rain and strong wind gust, Durban put on its finest sunshine for most of the event and had crowds lining the pier.

For the uninitiated, the World Waveski Surfing Titles comprises of three areas: Open, Age divisions, and Team events, where riders try to perform radical moves in the most critical section of the wave to outscore their competitors.

The event kicked off with the Team event preliminaries, and it was clear from the start that the French meant business, with both teams progressing through to the finals along with Australia and South Africa. This set the scene for things to come as the French aerial game was on show.

Moving into the Open competition, the preliminary rounds saw competitors hit the water to see who would meet the top 32 seeds. Former South African World Champion, Nicki Carstens, following a ten-year absence from the sport, blitzed the early rounds, proving that he still had what it takes to win. This resulted in Nicki then having to pit himself against the former World Champion Michael Orsmond, originally from South Africa, and defending World Champion Virgile Humbert, from France. Everyone went for broke and the scores were close, but in one of the biggest upsets in recent years, the defending World Champ was out of the running.

Moving into the final round of 16, the heat structure changed from four man to man-on-man heats. Another match up that stood out was between the two in-form surfers from France, Pablo Arrouays and Clement Guilbert. Big aerials were the order of the day, with Pablo landing a corkscrew aerial, but it wasn’t enough to beat Clement in the highest-scoring heat of the event.

What tends to happen as riders get eliminated from the Open division is that the Age division competition heats up. Another highlight performance was from South African Ian McLeod, who attempted to do what his father, John, did in 1986 to win the Master's division – and he was successful in doing just that.

Moving on to the Women’s division, the defending Champion, Sandra Pienaar, from South Africa, was attempting to repeat her efforts in Portugal three years ago. It was always going to be a battle here as the top four women riders in the world had turned up and, as expected, all reached the final. A special mention should go to young Shannon Copeland, from South Africa, who was gallant in defeat in the semi-finals.

Photo credit: Rory Taylor

Moving into the finals, conditions had backed off from the previous days and it was a pity the organisers couldn’t dial up perfection, but we had waves and it was on. The Masters were on first and Ian McLeod’s wave-sense shone through, jagging the wave of the day and smashing it to the beach, never once looking back. Nicki Carstens surfed solid for second place, while Stephen Farthing took third, unable to defend his title from Portugal three years earlier. Grant Kendrick, another South African, finished fourth.

Wiley old South African Willy Graser was in a class of his own defending his Veteran title.

Kieron Davies, from the UK, added a Grand Master title to his 2004 Masters title, narrowly defeating Cisco Nascimento, from Australia.

Mathieu Babarit, from France, added the Senior’s title to his long list of titles, which include Open titles in 2003 and 2006.

Clement Guilbert, from France, took first in the New Age division, with another massive aerial display. Nathan le Bars, from France, won the Junior’s Title against a fast-finishing Tian Podges, from South Africa.

In the Women’s final, Sandra Pienaar used her local knowledge to position herself on two set waves for a massive score, defending her title. Mel Hardy from Australia took second followed by Coralie Jousett, from France, and Jackie Dillon, from Australia.

Down to the Open division, Renan Leloutre, from France, was up against local-favourite Andre Burger, from South Africa. Wave selection was always going to be the deciding factor here as both riders were equally matched. Renan found that wave, scoring a 9.77 and France took home the title.

In the Team event it was evident the French were on a high following Renan’s victory and they totally dominated.

Congratulations to Darryl Moodie’s team and the supporting sponsors of Tsogo Sun, Ushaka, Durban Tourism and Polo, for organising such an amazing event. The World Waveski Titles is earmarked to return to Durban in 2018.

More information
For more information and all the results, visit www.worldwaveski.org