IF you think surfing competitions are just for youngsters, think again.
Sixteen of South Africa’s top senior surfers – aged between 35 and 55 – gathered in Port Alfred to try to surf their way into the national masters team that will do battle at the world championships in South America next year.
Although the champion “Border ballies” team booked a berth in every age group they competed in at the Masters Trials, the team fell short of a clean sweep in all divisions as they did not have any surfers in the ultra-competitive over-50s age group, which was won by evergreen Durban surfer Chris “Silver Fox” Knutsen.
Homegrown stars like retired world tour campaigner Greg “Bigfoot” Emslie in the over-35s and Wayne “Monkey” Monk in the over-40s won all four trials heats they surfed, while four Border surfers in the over-45s – Andre and David Malherbe, Kevin O’Brien and Gareth Sepp – had to fight it out for two spots in the national masters team.
In the end, the “Herby” brothers came out tops, with Andre pipping David by a mere 50 points – with both again making the team for the world champs.
After more than 40 years of surfing Springbok team trials, 55-year-old veteran Knutsen showed he still has what it takes to win another Grand Kahuna title at the world masters champs in Ecuador next year when he whipped the younger guns in the over-50s division.
Having already won three over-50s world titles, the Silver Fox – who was the oldest surfer at the trials – is hoping to notch up another win next year so he can leave all four of his children a framed champion gold medal and the vest he wore during each of the finals.
“Even though the guys are getting on in age, the older divisions are still ultra- competitive and it is getting tougher to win gold as more youngsters who just turned 50 take me on.
“I missed my fourth gold by a whisker the last time round when I came second and I think this is the last chance to realise my dreams,” he said.
It is hoped the world masters champs organisers will add more divisions in years to come to accommodate veterans like Border surfer Dave Fish, who still rips at the age of 60 but finds it hard to compete against surfers 10 years younger than himself in the over-50s.
According to Knutsen, the fitness levels of older surfers are improving all the time as they do more cross-training to try and raise their game.
Competing in Springbok surfing trials since the age of 12, Knutsen says he still enjoys the thrill of doing battle with other top surfers in competitions, more than 40 years down the line.
“It is nice to see old friends, but the real appeal is going overseas to surf in exotic locations against the best in the world and maybe coming home a world champion again.”
The SA Masters team is: over-35: Greg Emslie (Border), Gary van Wieringen (Southern KZN); over-40: Wayne Monk (Border), Carl Roux (KZN); over-45: Andre Malherbe (Border), David Malherbe (Border); over-50: Chris Knutsen (KZN).