Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven

“By 4am I was wide awake. It had been a fitful night and I was tired of trying to sleep. Jake was going to give me a lift across to Dungeons that morning. My nerves were killing me already. I was questioning whether this really was for me. I don’t see myself as I big wave surfer,” he told me later “I see myself a big wave AVOIDER.” It was Jonathan’s first time riding under the sentinel. He and Jake had been one of the first to reach the line-up that morning.

Unbeknownst to them, as they anchored their jet ski, they were being watched by 5 other surfers, standing on the ridge high above their heads. The early morning sun warmed the backs of the 5 friends as they surveyed the spectacular scenery. The vista spread out below their feet like a beautiful painting. Two peaks were discernible from their vantage point. Then a wave significantly larger than the rest, stood up on a part of the reef even further out, avalanching through the line-up, leaving a trail of carnage in it’s wake. From that height, the 5 friends could clearly see crafts of all shape and size making their way cautiously towards the line-up. “It was the most crowded I’d seen it so far” said UCT student Tim. “There were so many boats and surfers. It’s hard enough already out there just trying to catch waves, never mind having to worry about hitting someone or having them ditch their board in front of you. But all those boats and people also made the atmosphere kinda ’festive’. I think that pushed me to go a little harder.” (It’s the afternoon of the session and Tim’s back at University, sending me a voice note from his phone) “I’m about to go into my chemistry exam”, he says in a hushed voice, “surfing this morning was waaaaay better than sitting in lectures.”

Even though Tim only started surfing Dungeons this year, he is part of a crew of guys who are honouring the pioneers with his old school approach. His crew have chosen to either jump off the seal boat or walk in over the sentinel. Sometimes even making the 3 km paddle back to the harbor afterwards. “It was slow at first, but got better with the lower tide,” he continued. “Mad-Mike was sitting on that outside peak. He had this crazy airdrop, then got absolutely flogged. He was the stand out of the session for sure. I was bummed for the guys who snapped boards. There were like 5 or 6 in total”. Paris was doing Jet Ski safety. “Ja there are some really strong waves out here “he shouted across at us from his ski. “It’s been a really busy day for me. I’m just glad there wasn’t a fatality.” One guy who saw his life flash before his eyes was Mike Frew. He’d taken a liking to the tallest & steepest part of the reef and was making some crazy drops. (One of them where the lip pitched over the front of his board, engulfing him completely, and yet he still managed to get to his feet and ride out the front of the white water.) He went late on the biggest wave of the day, getting pitched with the lip, got driven deep and only got to the surface again after surviving his first two wave hold down.

Photographer AVG summed it up perfectly afterwards when he said, “some of those breaking waves sounded like the noon day gun!!”. Some of the best waves were ridden by the seasoned veterans. Frank and Josh rode some beautiful waves. Jeremy rode two different boards, having changed his gear halfway through the session. Jake was going hell for leather until he snapped his favourite gun. James Taylor and the Koopman brothers charged hard. Simon’s “never-ever-back-down” approach meant that he rode some big ones, but he also took some big beatings. Seth had to deploy his inflation vest after being pushed particularly deep. “I came up really quickly after that” he laughed. Jason Hayes gets a special mention for lending his only board to a friend who had snapped his own sled. “The wind dropped off later,” said Hayes, who was one of the last men standing by the end of the day. “Just as the sun was setting, this HUGE set came through (Laughing ruefully) and caught us all well out of position. It was a beautiful day at sea.”

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