2008 South African surfing champion and two-time South African surfing team coach Llewellyn Whittaker has won the Seniors division of the SA Masters Surfing Championships – for the second time.
Mr. Whittaker, who surfs for Southern Cape, beat Tyrell Johnson of Border, Alan Johns of Zululand, and the Eastern Province’s Kelvin Zehmke in the finals at The Point in Mossel Bay on the weekend. He last held the Seniors trophy in 2009 – which was also the last time the Championships were held in Mossel Bay.
He paid special tribute to his team mates from the Southern Cape – and to the team’s sponsor, Tropitone. “They gave away boxes and boxes of sunblock during the competition – and this helped to make everyone’s experience of the event safer and therefore more enjoyable.”
Mr. Whittaker’s win is seen as an important milestone for the tourism industry in Mossel Bay because of the town’s position as a surf destination.
“We’re delighted and very proud of Llewellyn – not only because of his achievements in his personal career, but also because of his enormous contributions to the sport of surfing in South Africa in general, and in Mossel Bay in particular,” said Mossel Bay Tourism’s Marcia Holm.
“I think the surfing lifestyle and surf culture go hand-in-hand with Tourism in Mossel Bay,” said Mr. Whittaker. “Surfing is an important piece of the puzzle because of its overall attraction.”
Southern Cape Board Rider’s Association chairman Mike Sheppard – who acted as the host chairman of the event – said that surfing counts as a significant reason why overseas travellers choose Mossel Bay.
“It’s not as well known as other surf destination on the coast, but it certainly has the waves: for the Champs we had good, 4- to 6-foot swell for most of the weekend, and the odd 8-footer that came through on Friday certainly woke us up.
“It was typical of the conditions we often see here.”
Mr. Sheppard – who owns Waves Surf Shop, which retails surfing equipment and surf clothing – said that Mossel Bay’s surf industry is small but vibrant.
“We have a number of companies that offer surf tours, as well as two well-known board shapers, and a number of surf schools and instructors – all of whom draw on the domestic and international markets. And we’ve also got a very active surfing development community, with organisations like Llewellyn’s Waves S’cool of Surfing, and The Surfer Kids, which is run by Hermann Vivier and Jenya Zhivaleva of Unravel Surf Travel.”
Although surfing is a relatively small sport in South Africa – it’s estimated that it boasts between about 60,000 and 65,000 surfers – the country features prominently on the wish lists of many travellers from around the world.
“With most people in Europe only able to take ten or fourteen days for their holidays, the Western Cape is an ideal destination,” said Mr. Sheppard. “Our experience is that people like to fly into Cape Town and see the city and the winelands, and then head up the coast to places like Mossel Bay to catch some waves, or for lessons if they haven’t surfed before. And since the Garden Route also offers things like game viewing, whale and dolphin watching, and scuba and shark cage diving, it’s almost a complete African experience.”
Ms. Holm said that she hopes that Mr. Whittaker’s win will help to raise awareness of Mossel Bay as a surf destination.
“Llewellyn’s love of the region, and his commitment to his sport, make him both a role model for the young people he trains, and an important ambassador for Mossel Bay – and we thank him for that.”
The next major surf-related event in Mossel Bay is the SA Bodyboarding Championships (22 to 27 September), which will take place during Mossel Bay’s annual Sport Festival.
Full results on the Surfing South Africa website: www.surfingsouthafrica.co.za.
MosselBay Sport Festival – www.diasfees.co.za
Llewellyn Whittaker, Waves S’cool of Surf – www.wavesschoolofsurfing.com