Images credited (c) Ian Thurtell / Accelerate Sport
Victoria Bay celebrated high performance surfing in pristine conditions last weekend in an international championship. Top local and international competitors faced off in the three-day inaugural Vic Bay Classic. Record numbers of spectators, both locals and overseas tourists, lined the point and pier of the local beach to witness superior quality surfing action.
George Municipality logged over 1800 visitors at the seaside resort during the City Surf Series event, held from Thursday 20th until Saturday the 22nd of June. The tournament was also streamed on the World Surf League online platform, reaching over 11 000 viewers at one point. Event organiser Accelerate Sport, who hosted the event for City Surf Series, attributes the unprecedented success of the championship to Victoria Bay’s world class waves. “Victoria Bay is one of the most consistent right-hand point breaks in South Africa,” said Edward Gregory, CEO of Accelerate Sport. The event was the first time in 25 years that George’s local beach featured on the South African WSL Qualifying Series. However City Surf have promised to return; “We would love to come back next year,” added Gregory, “being able to surf high performance waves with just four opponents in the water is incredible”. Gregory further acknowledged the support provided by George Municipality, in terms of financial assistance, municipal infrastructure, refuse removal, law enforcement and media coverage.
“Surfing related tourism has become a very valuable asset to our local economy,” says George Tourism Manager, Joan Shaw. “The Vic Bay Classic provided a huge boost to local businesses in what is traditionally considered our ‘low season’,” she continued. “We hope this event will continue to showcase our beautiful beach as a year-round surfing destination,” Shaw added. Many of the guesthouses in Victoria Bay were filled and further self-catering accommodation in George and Wilderness benefitted from increased bookings.
The popular right-hand point-break produced formidable waves over the duration of the competition, with many clean 4 to 6 foot sets. Over one quarter of the 120 strong field of competitors were international surfers. Entrants from the UK, Holland, Germany, Spain, France, Australia and New Zealand competed in order to contest points towards the international WSL QS rankings. These rankings are then used to qualify and seed surfers in WSL events worldwide. Many of the international competitors have vowed to return to Victoria Bay for more waves, citing plentiful accommodation and safe, clean, fun waves as a huge drawcard.
Local surfer Bianca Buitendag took the Women’s title with her trademark backhand attack, netting a prize purse of R24 000. The George athlete’s intimate knowledge of Vic Bay proved to be a massive advantage; “Having grown up here and with all the local support, it was a really great event. We get waves like this almost every week, so I felt right at home,” said Buitendag.
Durban’s Slade Prestwich bagged the Men’s title, along with R30 000 prize money. The little pocket bay proved to hold a special place in his heart; “It feels so good,” said Prestwich, “to win my first QS is great, but to win at Vic Bay is really special.” The Classic was the seventh tour date for the World Surf League’s Africa Qualifying Series Tour and the final date for the 2019 City Surf Series.
The Vic Bay Classic also rolled out a transformation programme in an effort to draw marginalised local youths into the sport. Surfing South Africa promoted a ‘Learn to Surf’ outreach project in collaboration with Caltex EC and the NSRI. Ocean Pledge called on surfers and spectators to lead a change for the ocean by tackling a beach clean-up. The NSRI offered education workshops about ocean safety and ocean awareness.
More information, results and images are available on www.worldsurfleague.com. Information about accommodation, surf camps and surf lessons can be accessed from the George Tourism Office at 044 801 9295.