Brand and de Vries Victorious in Southbroom to Claim 2009 Quiksilver King of the Groms Series Titles
(Southbroom, South Africa) Davey Brand (Kommetjie) and Beyrick de Vries (Umhlanga Rocks) walked away with the respective Under 16 and Under 20 wins and the overall series titles at the final leg of the 2009 Quiksilver King of the Groms in Southbroom today. In a day highlighted by some incredible high performance surfing in the large and powerful surf on the Southbroom Point, the pair of junior surfers showed their big match temperament as they held off not only their nearest challengers, but ultimately all contenders to win both the event and series' crowns.
In the premier Under 16 division, Brand went into the Southbroom leg of the Quiksilver King of the Groms as joint ratings leader with fellow Kommetjie local and close friend Michael February, and it literally came down to the wire with the first surfer being eliminated effectively losing the series title. And with a trip to France to contest the world finals of the Quiksilver King of the Groms up for grabs, as well as the overall honour of such a prestigious win, both surfers were focused and committed to the task at hand.
Brand's backhand attack in the wild surf that lambasted Southbroom during the early round heats was incredibly impressive, but it seemed that natural-footed February would be at an advantage on his forehand in the monster surf. Sadly for February this was not to be as Brand continued to put his backhand carve to devastating effect to work his way through the heats up until the quarter finals where the pair eventually met up in a four man heat with Slade Prestwich and Brendan Fijac.
Once again Brand used his mechanical backhand attack to muster up the points, while Prestwich found a bank in the middle of the bay to snag two high scores, and with the heat slowly drawing to a close February found himself in third place and facing elimination. Realising that a loss would see his hopes of a repeat of his 2008 Quiksilver King of the Groms Series win, the defending champion stroked into a frothy wall just seconds before the siren signaling the end of the heat. February tried to pull into the barrel but the wave refused to co-operate, and even the close-out turn February executed wasn't enough to pull him through and save his title dreams. As February bowed out, Brand left the water with the 2009 Quiksilver King of the Groms series title and a ticket to France securely in his belt.
From the quarter finals Brand continued his charge, eliminating Prestwich in their semi-final heat before meeting up with Dark Horse Kane Bennewith (Durban) in the final. With waves in the three metre range and breaking with incredible ferocity, Bennewith's prowess in big surf came to the fore in Southbroom as he surfed his way through to a career best final match-up with Brand - one of South Africa's most respected junior surfers. However, as the onshore wind became stronger and the conditions more difficult, Brand's contest experience became apparent and he sat patiently waiting for his opportunity to take control of the final.
"It had been a tiring day," said Brand after leaving the water, "and I think both Kane and I were on our last legs during that final. The sea was so powerful that just getting out for each heat was a major task. Once I was out there I realised the surf had changed, so rather than stress about catching a wave I decided to wait for a good one."
With the minutes ticking past Bennewith took two smaller insiders and posted low scores to take the heat lead, while Brand sat and waited. After about seven minutes had passed the ocean pulsed and a huge set of waves pushed through. Bennewith had just pulled out of a smaller inside wave and ended up getting caught by the rogue sets and dragged into the middle of the Southbroom Bay, while Brand managed to snag one of the waves and work it all the way across the sandbank to post a medium score and usurp the Durbanite's lead.
As Bennewith struggled against the surging current, Brand quickly made his way back to the lineup to await a second wave which he eventually picked off and again bashed relentlessly with his stylish backhand. With the ocean rapidly deteriorating into a frothy soup, Bennewith was unable to find the wave he needed to take the lead from Brand and had to settle for second. Brand collected R3,500 for his win today, plus another R3,500 for the series win and the trip to France to contest the Quiksilver King of the Groms world final.
"The surf was so big and so wild," said Brand at the prize-giving, "and this is definitely the hardest contest I have ever surfed in my life. Every heat started out with the scariest rock jump into these huge, powerful waves, and it really tested our fitness and ability. To win in conditions like this, and for the win to give me the overall series title, is an amazing accomplishment and I'm very happy."
Brand's run to victory in the Quiksilver King of the Groms Series started in Long Beach, Kommetjie, in March, when the 15 year old finished second to Michael February in the final there. The pair went on to meet in the final of the second event of the year in Mossel Bay in June, but Brand was able to turn the tables on his good friend and took the victory to join him on the top of the series ratings. Brand's victory today - giving him two firsts and a second in the three legs of the series - highlights the youngster's talent and makes him a deserving winner and South African representative at world final of the Quiksilver King of the Groms in France.
In the Under 20 division, 16 year old Beyrick de Vries from Umhlanga Rocks made it clear that his is a name to look out for in future years. In his first year contesting the Under 20 division, a division contested by some of South Africa's most respected junior surfers, de Vries dominated the series, winning the first leg in Kommetjie and then placing third in Mossel Bay to retain the lead on the series ratings. Going into Southbroom fellow Umhlanga surfer Chris Leppan was a mere 20 points behind de Vries, and the title would literally go to whichever surfer was able to hang in the longest.
Sadly for Leppan faulty equipment was to see his title hopes dashed in a dramatic moment in the quarter-finals. With de Vries having advanced through the previous quarter-final heat, Leppan knew he had to get through his quarter-final against Casey Grant (Scottburgh), Matt Bromley (Kommetjie) and Davey van Zyl (Durban) to keep his title dreams alive. But tragedy struck about seven minutes into the heat when the Umhlanga surfer was steam-rolled by a three metre wall of water that snapped his leash and washed his surfboard to the shore. With another three huge waves behind it Leppan found himself floundering in the middle of the Southbroom bay at the mercy of the sea as the other three surfers in his heat continued to surf and build their heat scores.
With just five minutes remaining in the heat, Leppan was eventually able to fight his way over to the rocks where close friend Shawn Dennis had rescued his board and was able to hand it back to him, but by this stage Leppan was needing more than seven points to usurp Bromley's second place position and advance to the semi-finals, and the ocean failed to produce a wave for the hapless natural-footer.
"I guess someone has to win, and someone has to lose, and today wasn't my time to win," said a dejected Leppan after leaving the water.
In one of the most sporting gestures seen in competitive surfing, one of the surfers on the rocks shouting encouragement to Leppan through his ordeal was de Vries - the surfer who had the most to gain by Leppan's defeat.
"I was sorry to see Chris eliminated like that," said de Vries after the event. "We're close friends and we surf Umhlanga together almost every day, and I would have preferred that it came down to the two of us in the final to see who would win the overall title than for Chris to lose because he snapped his leash."
With Leppan out of contention de Vries knew he had already won the series title, but went on to charge his way through to the final, eliminating Scottburgh upstart Slade Prestwich (14) in the semis before taking on another Scottburgh local in the form of Casey Grant. Grant had been one of the form surfers throughout the day, posting a perfect 10 point ride in the early morning perfection after he emerged from two pristine tubes on one wave, and started the final off on a strong note as he posted a 7.5 ride in the opening minutes.
The ride seemed to rattle de Vries who paddled into several close-outs and was unable to secure a score higher than 1.5. Then the younger surfer paddled away from the rock point and into the middle of the bay and sat for a few minutes refocussing himself. As de Vries sat there, a 2.5 metre wall of water stood up in front him and he quickly turned around and paddled into it. As the wave hit the inside bank de Vries turned off the bottom of the wave and dragged his arm in the wave face to slow his speed down. The wave then threw its lip out and over the lanky natural-footer, enveloping him in a gaping tube-ride as he disappeared from view. As the wave churned along the bank de Vries raced along inside the barrel and then flew out onto the shoulder where he executed a clean turn to score 8.5 out of a possible 10.
The score pushed de Vries into the lead and Grant suddenly found himself needing a score to put himself back into contention. De Vries rode the wave to the beach before running back up the point to jump off the rocks again.
"While I was running up the point I stubbed my toe really badly," said the Umhlanga local, "but at the time I barely even noticed! I just kept going, got to the point and jumped off the rocks and before I knew it I was back in the lineup and there was another wave in front of me."
With the minutes ticking away de Vries turned and paddled into the smaller wave, and pulled two polished off-the-lips to post a 4.5 and push his lead further out of Grant's reach. With the ocean refusing to play ball, Grant took off on one last wave in an attempt to attain the points he needed to take the title, but the wave closed out on Grant along with his title hopes.
De Vries left the water victorious, collecting the R5,000 winner's cheque for today, a further R5,000 for his series win, and a return air ticket to surfing's most hallowed ground - Hawaii - for the 2009 winter season.
"I've never been to Hawaii and I am really looking forward to it," said de Vries. "Some of the most famous big wave spots in the world are there - places like Pipeline, Off-The-Wall and Sunset - and I can't wait for the opportunity to test myself in the conditions over there."
Scottburgh surfer Slade Prestwich (14) proved one of the stand-outs of the event. Despite his youth and diminutive size, the young natural-footer proved one of the stand-outs of the event, charging his way through to the semi-finals of the U20 and U16 divisions, and also scoring some of the events highest scores with some incredible tube-rides. In recognition of his incredible performance Prestwich received the Resolution Health Tubemaster Award, along with R500 cash and a copy of Kelly Slater's new biography "For The Love".
The Quiksilver King of the Groms is presented by Virgin Mobile in association with Resolution, and is sanctioned by Surfing South Africa.
2009 Quiksilver King of the Groms Series Results:
1. Davey Brand (Kommetjie)
2. Michael February (Kommetjie)
3. Slade Prestwich (Scottburgh)
1. Beyrick de Vries (Umhlanga Rocks)
2. Chris Leppan (Umhlanga Rocks)
3. Brendon Gibbens (Kommetjie)