Rebelsessions through the lens: The Sheriff, Mike Schlebach

The Sheriff.

“You’re dressed for summer.” Says Mike, looking Neil Webster up and down. He rubs his nose and flinches. “I clipped my nose hair this morning. It feels weird now.” He says. “The older you are, the more pronounced it gets” responds the sprightly man wearing the t-shirt and shorts. “Dude!” Says Webster. “I’ve got one of those buzz things now. I shove it up my nose. I have to do my ears and my nose.”Schlebach looks relieved. “I don’t have to do my ears yet.” Webster pulls a face. “I’m full hobbit.” He says with relish. “Hey!” He suddenly shouts. “Hey F*#% - off Goldie!!!” (Goldie is his dog who’s just escaped from the kitchen.)

“Remember the last interview I did with you?” Webster asks, shoving the aging dog back inside the house. “You had a popped shoulder and were sitting on the lawn over there.” He says pointing to a patch of grass behind Mike. Mike looks pained at the memory, but laughs anyway. “Ok.” Says Frodo. “Who are you and what are you?” Mike rubs his nose again and answers. “I’m Mike ‘ Main-Skiet’ Schlebach. I’m a long time big wave surfer and I’m the chairman of the Cape Big Wave Trust.”

The ‘hobbit’ checks focus and asks. “So why was the CBWT formed and what is the importance of it?” Mike takes a deep breath. “It was formed 3-4 years ago and put in place by the guys who regularly surf Dungeons and Sunset. We had various groups of people wanting to do events and we wanted to have one united voice.” Frodo looks happy with that answer and asks. “Is there a big wave brotherhood- community?” (Schlebach gingerly touches his nose.) “There’s a crew of 30-40 guys from Durban, Melkbos, Cape Town and Kommetjie. They’ve been out there surfing for 10 years plus. They surf regardless of cameras or jet skis. They’re really committed.” Frodo nods. “So, what is your responsibility as chairman?” Schlebach smiles. “It’s not an easy task, but my mandate is simple. It’s to give a united voice to big wave surfers regarding events at Dungeons and Sunset. If the World Surf League or Rebel Sessions or Striped Horse want to do something, then it’s my job to interact with the different parties and decide how to proceed.” (Frodo lets out another yell.) “Carlos!! Get inside Carlos!” (His other dog has escaped from the kitchen too.) “Why’s he called Carlos?” Asks Mike, looking amused. ”Carlos the F*$% - en Jackel.” Responds the hobbit.

“So what are people’s feelings about events? “Asks Frodo, giving his dogs the ‘hairy eyeball.’ “Do guys want a Rebel Sessions or a Striped Horse?” Mike hesitates. “Some don’t, but most want something that creates value for the younger guys. It just has to be done in the right way, by the right people with the BW communities best interests in mind. My job is to put the information on the table so that we can all vote.” The sun is streaming over the ridge behind us now and Mike shoots a quick glance at the hobbits bare feet. Mike himself is dressed for a snowstorm. “There are two schools of thought with competitions.” He continues. “Some say it should be left out completely. They say that if you want to be a BW surfer then you’ve just got to go out there and do it. Those guys get good, because it’s a passion and they love to do it. For them, it’s something that comes from within. But, having contests has also proven that it really pushes the skill set. Having the ‘carrot-incentive’ motivates guys to get better.” He hesitates. “I don’t know that either of those extremes is right. I’m on the fence. I’m a pretty competitive guy. I want to give it a go in contests, but I’ m also going to be there whether there’s a contest or not. I’m along for the ride. I want to have a good time and charge. It’s up to the individual really.” (His hand moves towards his nose again, but he thinks the better of it, dropping it back into his lap.) “The last thing the guys want to see, is someone come out of the woodwork and just surf for the camera’s or for a comp, but when that stuff’s not around, they’re nowhere to be found. That’s not what it’s about for a lot of people. It’s not what it’s about for me.” (Carlos the F*$%-en Jackal looks like he’s getting ready to make another break for it, but Frodo blocks him with a stout hairy leg.)

“Ok!” Says the hobbit. “One last question. The young guys in the brotherhood, do you feel responsible for them? What advice do you have for them?” Schlebach smiles. “I’ m a little old school in my approach. Living in Cape Town, there are so many different kinds of waves. Small, right up to XXL. I think the best way is to build up through the ranks and start with Outer Kom. Then ride set waves at The Crayfish Factory before finally getting in front of the big ones at Sunset or Dungeons. Guys like Fabian Campagnolo have done just that. He’s built up, and now he’s coming into his own. You’ve also got the two Afrikaans guys, Yuriah Muller and Pieter Berner who are out there too now. As far as the brotherhood goes, we all look out for each other. But, without a jet ski you really can’t do too much. But if you see a ‘tombstoning’ board or if someone is injured, then one of us will always get in there as quickly as possible. But, it’s exciting for me that there’s a new crew on the block. I hope they have the staying power, cause over the years, we’ve had lots of guys starting up. Then they get badly punished (chuckles) and they just don’t come back again.”

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