Red Bull Big Wave Africa 2002
Dungeons, Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa
June 11-30, 2002
Huge waves in Cape Town as big wave surfers gather
Huge waves exceeding five metres are predicted to reach the Western seaboard of the Cape Peninsula early next week as the select group of invited big wave surfers gather in Cape Town for the start of the 2002 Red Bull Big Wave Africa, the continent’s most extreme surfing event.
After reeling under the onslaught of nearly a dozen such swells that have battered the coast this year, including the 10 metre waves that destroyed the NSRI boat house at Bakoven and damaged the Crayfish Factory at Witsands two weeks ago, the Southern tip of Africa was confirmed as one of the world’s premier big surf locations when a 63 foot swell (nearly 20 metres), the largest since records have been kept, was measured at a Mossgas platform off Mossel Bay on 25 May.
The likes of 1999 world big wave surfing champion Paul Paterson from Australia, Californians Greg and Rusty Long, Hawaii?s Jamie Sterling and Dr Tony Butt, a transplanted British oceanologist who now lives on the Bay of Biscay coast of Spain, have already jetted into the city to prepare themselves and their equipment for the 20 day hallenge of riding the biggest waves the Roaring Forties can produce.
They will be joined by Grant Washburn, whose fearless exploits at Mavericks in California are the stuff of legends, Reunion’s David Stolk and the Durban contingent of Jason Ribbink, Rudi Palmboom, John Whittle, Richard Sills and new addition for 2002, Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, who arrive over the weekend for the opening function and competitor?s briefing on Monday.
Capetonians Cass Collier, Ian Armstrong and Mickey Duffus, the squad that won the team title at the world big wave champs in 99, along with former world pro am surfing champion Justin Strong, UCT student and 2000 Red Bull BWA winner, Sean Holmes, and fellow local big surf chargers, Conn Bertish and Ross Lindsay, complete the 18 man lineup for this year’s event.
The field will spend the next three weeks eagerly pouring over the high tech internet generated wave and weather prediction models for signs of the perfect conditions for the event to be staged at Dungeons, the deep water reef near Duiker Island just outside the entrance to Hout Bay, which produces the biggest rideable waves on the African continent.
While they will surf all the big wave breaks that the Peninsula is famous for, the contest will only be staged when the aptly named Dungeons is hit by swells that exceed 15 foot (five metres) in height, generating waves that rear up to double that size – the height of a three story building before breaking with awesome power into the icy, kelp infested water.
As Dungeons is situated in the Cape National Park, the area is a pristine natural environment teeming with sea life of all descriptions, including the magnificent Great White sharks attracted by the adjacent seal colony. The athletes will keep a wary eye open for these predators after a sighting last year that Ribbink declared to be the biggest animal he had ever seen.
The weather and wave prediction team will be headed by Steve Pike from Wavescape, the country?s premier surfing portal, with the whole contest infrastructure of boats, water safety crew on Yamaha Waverunners and in inflatables, medical staff, judges and officials being put on amber alert the day before conditions look perfect to stage the event.
A visual check from the Sentinel at dawn by contest director Gary Linden, big wave legend Jonathan Paarman, contest coordinator Paul Botha and Pike will decide whether conditions are right before the decision is taken to go.
Waiting for waves is an intrinsic part of the life threatening pursuit of big wave surfing and the although the Red Bull BWA event has produced only one champion in the previous three years – in 2000 when Sean Holmes was victoorious in epic 15 – 18 foot waves – the annual event has contributed substantially to the fostering of the big wave culture on the Southern tip of Africa through the interaction between the locals and the world-s best exponents attracted to the event.
All the action throughout the 20 day waiting period (June 11 – 30) will be available on the website www.redbullbwa.com which carries multiple daily updates and images, athlete profiles, wave and weather predictions, the event format, history and much more.
If the wave patterns so far this year continue, the 2002 Red Bull Big Wave Africa, which carries prize-money of R160 000 and is sanctioned by Surfing South Africa, looks set to write another chapter into the annals of the planet’s big wave surfing folklore.