Athletes ride the wave of the historic SA Para Surf Championships

Athletes ride the wave of the historic SA Para Surf Championships
Camden Harwood, winner of U12 'All Inclusive' division at the SA Para Surf Championships at Muizenberg beach. (Photo: Keanan Hemmonsbey)

It was the first time the event returned to Muizenberg since the inaugural SA Para Surf Championships in 2017 and was the first stop of the newly launched Global Para Surf League.

The SA Para Surf Championships took place last week at Surfers Corner, Muizenberg, in Cape Town with a record number of entries and a fair crowd cheering the athletes on.

It was the first time the event returned to Muizenberg since the inaugural SA Para Surf Championships in 2017 and was the first stop of the newly launched Global Para Surf League.

Future global Para Surfing League event destinations include the US, Costa Rica, Spain, France and Wales.

Last weekend’s SA Para Surf Championships also formed part of qualification for the World Para Surfing Championship, which takes place in California at the end of the year.

The SA Para Surf Championships and the Global Para Surf League as a whole serve as an opportunity for the para-surfing community to encourage para surfing to be added to the Paralympic Games — surfing was added as a sport to the Olympic Games for the first time in Tokyo 2020.

“Para surfing is one of the most inclusive sports that differently abled people like me can achieve and reach major accolades. As a community, we continue to push towards our goal of having para surfing included in the Paralympics to be hosted in Los Angeles in 2028,” said Similo Dlamini, Para Surf Kneel Female division champion.

“The event was the first time an African country has been part of the Global Para Surf League. Competing with some of the best of the best on home surf breaks has been an absolute treat.”

Natasha Williams placed second in the ‘All Inclusive Stand Female’ division at the SA Para Surf Championships. (Photo: Keanan Hemmonsbey)

Alwande Mthembu, winner of the Para Surf ‘All Inclusive Stand Female’ division, on Day 1 of the SA Para Surf Championships. (Photo: Keanan Hemmonsbey)

Sabelo Ngema placed second in the SA Para Surf Championships ‘Visually Impaired male’ division. (Photo: Keanan Hemmonsbey)

Braving conditions

The weekend-long event in Muizenberg saw the weather change constantly which made riding the waves unpredictable at times.

Nevertheless, all the athletes braved the conditions, with about two dozen volunteers in pink-clad vests offering assistance.

“The event would not have been possible without the support of a dedicated team of volunteers, water safety personnel, coaches, supporters … their contributions were invaluable, and they deserve special thanks for making the event a success,” said event coordinator Roxy Davis.

The event began early on day one in standard 2-3 foot waves that held for most of the day in a steady offshore wind.

After a day of heats in the various para-surfing divisions, an expression session — without divisions — commenced featuring some of the top para surfers from around the world including South African Team member and International Surfing Association (ISA) silver medallist JP Veaudry.

Veaudry rose high and exhibited a full range of skills on the board, to the enjoyment of the ever-growing crowd, but Nasr Esau took first place with his effortless surfing closer to the shoreline.

“It has been both an honour and privilege to be part of this year’s SA Para Surfing Championships,” said Veaudry who came first in the Para Surf Stand 2 Male division.

“I am thrilled to have defended my SA title at this year’s hugely successful event that was enjoyed by all the athletes. A big thank you to the event organisers, sponsors, supporters and spectators.”

The final day of the competition began with strong onshore winds and a strong choppy current pushing to the west. But it cleared up at the end of the day, with the clouds parting as the champions were crowned.

“The event made me feel proud to be a part of the para surf community,” said Tyler Pike, winner of the South African Champs Para Surf Kneel Men’s Division. 

“The cheering on the beach was infectious and it’s humbling to see such support from volunteers to make surfing accessible to others and how fellow para-athletes encourage and support each other as well.” DM 


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