Red Bull Big Wave Africa Gets Huge Surf

Surfers prepare for huge waves in Cape Town

Following the practice session at Dungeons on Friday that left several athletes nursing bruises, strains and mild concussion, and a weekend spent enjoying double overhead waves at various big wave breaks around the Cape Peninsula, the 18 invited big wave specialists in the 2002 Red Bull Big Wave Africa are preparing themselves for the arrival of the biggest waves in the three year history of the extreme surfing event this week.

Swells of up to 10 metres, generating waves almost double that height as they rear up over the reef at Dungeons near Hout Bay, are expected to batter the Western seaboard of the Peninsula throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, prompting the event organisers to put the athletes, water safety crew and infrastructure providers on standby for the possible running of the contest.

?This is the biggest swell that?s been predicted during the waiting period in the three years I?ve been involved in the event,? said contest coordinator Paul Botha after consulting with surf forecasting expert Steve Pike.

?Bring it on,? was the consensus amongst the South African and international big wave exponents waiting for the swell to exceed the minimum criteria of 15 foot (five metre) for the event to be run, including Durbanites John Whittle and Richie Sills and Hawaiian Jamie Sterling who suffered injuries in the extremely powerful waves at Dungeons on Friday.

?I feel humbled by the power of the ocean,? was Sills? comment today after surveying the damage caused by the huge swells that struck the Crayfish Factory at Witsands three weeks ago. The 22 year-old with a reputation for charging the infamous Pipeline in Hawaii strained his groin and aggravated a previous knee injury when his body was contorted under tons of white water during a wipe-out on Friday and is treating himself with muscle relaxant tablets and creams.

?I?m feeling much better and took it easy over the weekend while the rest of the guys rode the Factory. By tomorrow I should be fine,? he added.

Hawaiian livewire Jamie Sterling has fully recovered from the mild concussion he suffered on Friday and is ready to charge whatever the ocean produces over the next couple of days.

?The swell had more brute strength than usual on Friday and the gusty offshore wind made it difficult to get down the face of the waves,? said Sterling who spent three weeks in Cape Town during last year?s event. ?The wind got under my board and I ended up falling head first onto the deck of the board before going under the water and blacking out momentarily,? he said of the wipe-out that put an end to his practice session.

?I?m 100% now and ready for the next session, no matter what the size,? he commented when told of the huge swell predicted for the next 48 hours.

The event is officially on Amber Alert and a visual check will be made from the slopes of the Sentinel mountain at first light on Tuesday with a decision on whether the event will run or not to be made at 8am.

A change to Green status will see the whole contest infrastructure mobilised with athletes and officials leaving harbour an hour later on the Nauticat, the HQ boat for the event, followed by the water safety crew on Yamaha Waverunners and in inflatable boats.

The contest comprises three first round heats of six contestants each. The top four finishers in each heat progress to the semi-finals with the top three advancing to make up a six man final. The awards ceremony will be staged at the Nauticat berth in Hout Bay harbour shortly after the contest flotilla returns to shore that afternoon.