Juniors rip JBay at RVCA Junior Challenge

Words: Jazz Kuschke ǀ Photos: Luke Patterson / RVCA

The finest junior surfers in the country gathered in Jeffreys Bay over the past weekend (2 - 4 May 2014) for the second edition of the RVCA Junior Surfing Challenge. The event took place at a surf spot known as Lower Point and saw the largest field outside of an interprovincial contest, featuring boys U10, U12, U14, U16, U20, and girls U14 and U20 divisions.

Photos by: Luke Patterson / RVCA

The RVCA Junior Surfing contest was sanctioned by Surfing South Africa and carried a 2 Star PST (Professional Surf Tour). What does all of this mean? Short answer, the action was hot! Here’s the low-down.

The big winner

Local boy Matt McGillivray claimed the U20 division in emphatic style, beating some top names in the process and winning himself a spot in the coveted JBU Super Trial event presented by RVCA. Were he to win that event, he will receive a wildcard to compete in the ASP World Tour event in JBay, in July.

"I knew all the other guys were so good," Matt said as he walked up the beach, positively beaming after the final. "So I was just going to go out there, have fun, do my best. In the beginning, everyone was sitting very far up, so I tried to come a bit lower down the Point to get one or two to start off. Local knowledge definitely helped in these conditions," he said.

The contest site

Lower Point lies down the line from its more-famous cousin of Supertubes and is the mellowest of the breaks on the renowned Jeffreys Bay stretch. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a soft, powerless spot. Depending on the sand build-up in the reef (it breaks over a combination sand-and-rock bottom), it offers long right-hand walls punctuated by steep, carvable sections and, on just the right tide, barrels too.

The small swell over the three contest days didn’t offer up any barrels, but a spring tide and consistent three-foot (1 metre) swell meant conditions were more than contestable all weekend. The tricky conditions also separated the more experienced contest surfers from the weekend warriors.

The standouts

James Ribbink
Well-known South African big-wave surfer Jason Ribbink’s son Jason took the pressure of surfing in his sponsor’s event and is billed as ‘the next big thing’. Watching him dominate the U10 and U12 divisions illustrated that rare quality of a competitor who isn’t fazed about all the hype or everything else going on. He just wants to surf and he’s going to do it on his own terms.

Sophie Bell
KZN’s Sophie Bell shone in the U14 girls division, laying down some impressive turns in the difficult conditions and out-surfing her compatriots with ease and style. She looked like a clear winner from day one and convincingly won her division.

Slade Prestwich
The big man threw his frame around with abandon on the small running right-handers and was unlucky not to get away with a win in the final. "I’ve been surfing Scottburgh for the last two weeks, which is similar to Point, so I’ve kind of had some practice. Been a bit bigger than this though," he joked.

The standard

With the U20 boys being offered the chance at a wildcard slot into a World Tour event, there was a certain urgency visible in their surfing. This also seemed to trickle down to the other divisions.

So they all took to the air, with some spectacular aerial heroics by Max Armstrong, the U12 winner Koby Oberholzer, and Sebastian Williams, who is out from Mexico for the contest season. Another notable thing was how many surfers were surfing two divisions, choosing to compete in a division up to gain experience against older competitors. This could put undue pressure on a surfer (not to mention tire them out completely), so not everybody necessarily feels the same about this.

High-performance coach Llewellyn Whittaker, whose charge Jordy Maree made the U16 final and finished joint fifth in U20, has his own views. "In South Africa, with as few contests as we have, I think it’s very important to surf as many heats as you can. I think it pushes you to surf better and surfing in an older division pushes you to step it up against more experienced competitors. Provided you stay focussed on your goal division, of course," said Whittaker.

Photos by: Luke Patterson / RVCA

The vibe

It was about a lot more than just contest jerseys, five-minute sirens, prizes and bragging rights. There were loads of peripheral good things happening in and around the contest. Think painting walls, board art, table tennis, good music, and flowing Red Bulls. The Plascon paint wall jam session was epic. Some of the groms didn’t quite get the memo that the paint had to go on the wall and will be spending the next few days trying to explain to people why they have pink hair and blue feet.

And then there was the Nixon Weird Board Surf-off. Eight surfboard shapers from around the country were tasked with shaping a weird board, to be surfed-off by the junior surfers in a fun mini-event: Thys Strydom, Eric Stedman, Glen D'Arcy, Glen Rowe, Anton Butler, Simon Fish, David Stubbs, and Josh ‘Dutchie’ Louw, who shaped an asymmetrical thing of funkiness. "It has different characteristics for either heel-side or toe-side," commented Dutchie.

At the end of the day

Concluded RVCA South Africa’s Arno Lane, "You have the beach, the big lawn. Lower Point is a natural amphitheatre and the ideal place to have a contest. Just to see all the parents stoked and hanging at the beach all day makes this event successful."

For more information
and all the results, visit www.facebook.com/RVCA.South.Africa