28 July 2006
South African surfers came up trumps in the Red Bull Big Wave Africa, claiming a 1-2-3 finish as John Whittle captured the honours, becoming only the third winner of the event in its eight-year history.
The reason for Whittle being only the third winner of the competition was that it requires certain conditions to be run – very special conditions, in fact. They don’t call it a big wave contest for nothing.
Thankfully, this year Mother Nature complied with the wishes of the organizers and a huge storm that started off the Antarctic ice-shelf delivered the conditions sought at Dungeons off Hout Bay: waves of at least 15 feet.
On Tuesday, the amber alert was given, warning the contestants that conditions with the potential for competition were approaching. On Thursday, it was green for go!
The four surfers to advance from heat one to the semi-finals were Carlos Burle of Brazil and the South African trio of Sean Holmes – the champion in 2000 – Jason Ribbink, and Andrew Marr.
Californian Greg Long, the champion in 2003, failed to make it beyond heat two. Emerging from that encounter with places in the semi-finals were South Africans Chris Bertish and David Smith, Australian Ross Clarke-Jones and and Grant Washburn of the US.
Hawaiian star Jamie Sterling progressed from heat three, along with a trio of South Africans: John Whittle, Mickey Duffus and Thomas King Kleynhans.
Holmes, Clarke-Jones and Andrew Marr won through from the first semi-final to face Whittle, Bertish and Sterling for the title.
It proved to be SA all the way with the title on the line as they kept the international surfers at bay to finish first, second and third. John Whittle grabbed victory and glory, Andy Marr took second and Chris Bertish third.
Whittle’s first prize was worth a cool R100 000.
The Von Zipper Biggest Tube award (worth R5 000), for taking on the biggest barrel, went to another South African, Jason Ribbink, while Andy Marr added to the country’s list of titles by claiming the R25 000 Sensi Threads Biggest Wave award.
Jamie Sterling was awarded the R10 000 Billabong Deep Throat Award for pushing the limits the most during the contest.
The Dungeons reef, the first sea bottom that the ocean swells hit on their path shore-wards, has the ability to produce the biggest waves in Africa.
The swells, generated across the South Atlantic Ocean, hit the Dungeon Reefs and rear up into giant right-hand breaking waves for brave souls to attempt to ride.
Apart from the enormous waves, a few other elements to add to the mix of bravery needed to tackle Dungeons: ice-cold water, thick undulating kelp beds that cover the inside waters, and abundant sea life – including a few sharks that prey on the local seal colony.