By Ross Roche
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz SA Surfing championships came to a climatic conclusion on Sunday afternoon when Cape Town Surfrider Brandon Benjamin and eThekweni Surfrider Olivia Brand became SA men’s and women’s champions respectively.
TOP MAN: Champion Brandon Benjamin won the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SA Surfing championship on Sunday
The 20-year-old Benjamin beat out local favourite Greg Emslie of Buffalo City Surfriders in an intense final that was in the end decided by just a single point.
“I would have loved to get the win, but the youngster surfed extremely well and deserved to win,” said Emslie.
19-year-old Cody Coetsee of Ugu Surfriders was third and Llewellyn Whittaker of Eden came fourth.
Brand’s win was a bit more comfortable, but just as surprising as Benjamin’s as she beat out eight-time SA champion Heather Clark of Ugu Surfriders in the final.
Brand dominated from the outset, claiming a comfortable victory by five points, while young up-and-coming Buffalo City Surfrider Danica Stockigt saw her star continue to rise with an impressive third place finish.
Despite not winning the two main awards on the weekend, Buffalo City Surfers impressed throughout, claiming a number of divisional titles, as well as some top placings.
Local surfers triumphed in the men’s over-35, over-40, over-45, over-50 and over-60 age categories to help the Buffalo City Team cruise to the inaugural Champions Cup, which is presented to the team that scores the highest combined points over the competition, with eThekweni second and Nelson Mandela Bay third.
Buffalo City Surfriders also won the Presidents Cup for the highest scores in the Open Divisions and retained the Masters Cup for the 12th year in a row.
In the individual divisions it was Tyrell Johnson who won the over-35 division, while his brother Orrin finished third, behind defending champion Llewellyn Whittaker of Eden.
Emslie won the over-40 category, ahead of teammate Tristan Johnson, while Emslie’s consistent surfing throughout the championships saw him become the inaugural recipient of the Dave Fish Trophy, which was introduced at this year’s SA Championships in memory of former SSA board member and Buffalo City Surfriders president, Dave Fish, who passed away suddenly last year.
Wayne Monk added the over-45 South African title to the many national titles he has won since winning the SA championships at Nahoon Reef in 1989, while local stalwart Gareth Sepp came third.
David Malherbe claimed the win in the over-50 division, while Gordon Harmer came out on top in the oldest division to participate in this year’s championships, the over-60’s, also known as the Supervets.
Other divisional winners included Heather Clark winning the women’s over-30 category and being awarded the surfer of the contest award for overall performance throughout, while multiple world and South African champion, Chris Knutsen of eThekweni, claimed the men’s over-55 division.
Over 150 surfers from eight districts competed in the championships held in superb surf over six days.
“The competition was incredible. You couldn’t have asked for much more than that,” said Emslie.