Clear skies, light breezes and a rising swell are predicted for the start of the massive Quiksilver ISA World Surfing Games, presented by the Gateway Theatre of Shopping and hosted by the City of Durban.
The opening ceremony for the event, the ?Parade of Nations? featuring the contingents from the 30 national federations that are in Durban for the biennial ?Olympics? of surfing, and the culturally significant ?Sands of the World? ceremony, will see the participants march along the Lower Marine Parade, starting at 9am, before assembling on North Beach in front of the central podium.
The ?march past? will be led by Ama Quik Quik, comprising students from Manor Gardens Primary School, while traditionally clad Zulu youths from Sondelani Primary will ?guard? the dignitaries on the main podium in an elaborate ceremony choreographed by Durban?s Themi Venturas.
After the mixing of sands from the beaches of each of the participating nations, to the sounds of the Caribbean Connection, the first heats of competition will enter the surf at the three contest sites at 1pm.
The huge 10 metre swell currently devastating the Southern coast of the country is too Westerly to sweep onto the Durban beaches, but surf prediction guru, Steve Pike from Wavescape, has forecast that the waves at the contest venue will increase from the current 2-3 foot to 3- 4 foot on Saturday, and up to 6 foot on Sunday. This will give competitors in the opening rounds of each of the seven individual medal disciplines the opportunity to display their entire repertoire of manoeuvres.
Due to the double elimination format used throughout the event, staying in the winner?s stream by finishing 1st or 2nd in each heat is a major advantage. Once a competitor has failed to finish in the top two in a heat, he/she is relegated to the repecharge stream that entails contesting almost twice as many heats in order to reach the final. Failure to finish in the top two in a repecharge heat results in elimination from the contest.
The premier accolade at the event, which attracts the greatest number of participants worldwide every second year, is the ISA World Team title, which is determined by the accumulated points earned by each team?s members. The defending champions are Brazil, who broke the dominance of the Australians (six time team champions) and the Americans (4) by capturing the 2000 crown in their home waters, a feat the South Africans will be hoping to emulate in the Durban beach breaks.
The Hawaiian team is seeded second this year, followed by the Aussies, South Africa and France, with the latter again sending a powerful squad that demonstrates the growth of surfing on the Bay of Biscay coastline. Sixth seeded Tahiti has a sizable 30 person squad attending the event, although each nation is permitted a maximum of 15 competitors, while Portugal, who placed seventh in 2000, will only have one representative this time around.
Spain (8), New Zealand (9) and the USA fill out the top 10 seeded countries that are likely to be fighting out the team crown at the finals stage in 10 days time (June 1-2).
The weather will be good, the waves are rising, and the teams and individuals are ready. Let the Games begin!