PE surfing legend who made mark as a helmeted youngster dies at 61
As a young boy, he injured his head surfing and, to avoid a ban by his parents, he agreed to wear a construction hat while out on the waves – and so Wyndham “Turtle” Morris got his nickname. The Port Elizabeth surfer and surf shop owner died on Friday, aged 61.
Friends of the legendary Morris said yesterday he had made a major impact on surfing in Port Elizabeth, referring to him as the voice of the sea.
As a member of the South African national surfing team, Morris competed internationally.
He owned a surf shop in Parliament Street.
Port Elizabeth surf shop Surf Centre owner David Lipschitz, 63, said he met Morris in the early 1970s and surfed with him for years.
Morris also worked for Lipschitz in his shop in the 1980s.
“Turtle was probably the best longboarder of his time. In his later years he was still very good at it,” Lipschitz said.
“He ended up quite sick with lung cancer and had to slow down on the surfing.
“He was very young at heart. He passed down his talent to his son [Jamie], who was also superb at longboarding.
“Turtle broke many records. He represented South Africa in the longboarding world champs in France [in the early ’90s] and was recognised internationally.”
Lipschitz said Morris was the first person he ever saw doing a 360-degree manoeuvre on a longboard. His technique in nose-riding – standing on the nose of the board – was impressive, he said.
Nelson Mandela Bay watersport enthusiast Richard von Wildemann, 33, described Morris as the voice of the sea in the Eastern Cape.
Von Wildemann said that before the start of social media apps, Morris provided daily surf reports.
“You would call him and there’d be a voice message of the goings-on at sea,” Von Wildemann said.
“The reports were vibrant, he had an excitement about what he was doing.
“Turtle was a surfing champion, he travelled the world. He met and competed against one of the greatest surfers in history, Nat Young.
“He was a nice, humble guy who was very well loved.” Von Wildemann said legend had it that when Morris was young and learning to surf at Millers in Port Elizabeth he injured his head.
His parents wanted to ban him from the sport, but he was given the option of surfing only if he wore a construction worker’s helmet.
The young boy, still in primary school, hit the waves wearing a gigantic helmet that made him look like a turtle.
Eastern Cape journalist and avid surfer David Macgregor said Morris was an extraordinary surfer and an amazing guy.
“My son loves surfing and Turtle really was encouraging to young and old. This is a huge loss, he truly was the legend of South African surfing,” Macgregor said.
Morris is survived by his wife and three children.