Sophie Bell achieved a rare double on Monday when she won both the women’s and junior women’s events at the Buffalo City Surf Pro presented by Reef Wetsuits in challenging conditions at Nahoon Reef in East London.
And the 16-year-old from Salt Rock’s phenomenal feat in the World Surf league (WSL) rated events was all the more dramatic when the women’s final was halted after spectators spotted a Thresher shark leaping out of ocean less that 100 metres from the finalists.
Officials immediately put the event on hold, Bell and her opponent, Australian Tayla Hanak, made their way to shore and a jetski collected Steven Sawyer and Michael February, who were about to start the men’s final, from the lineup.
When the shark was seen moving away from the event site, contest director and WSL Africa Operations Manager, Colin Fitch, consulted with the competitors who decided to continue with the event.
While Bell did not re-enter the surf as she was bleeding from a cut on her knee, Hanak was ferried back to the line-up but could not find the 5.65 point score she required to grab victory in the one-and-a-half minutes remaining after the restart.
‘It’s so crazy, I’m super, super stoked to win both events,’ said Bell. ‘It was a big surprise winning the women’s event, the more heats I got through the more shocked I was, but it feels so good to be back to winning ways.’
‘That shark incident was the scariest moment of my life. All the spectators were shouting and luckily I had just ridden a wave and was quite close to the rocks so I just paddled straight in. I had a cut on my knee and didn’t go out again but luckily I still won.’
Earlier the 2016 WSL Africa Junior Women’s champion dominated the JQS1,000 rated event for women 18-and-under, winning her quarter-final, sem-ifinal and the four-person final match-ups. The win moved her into the lead in the junior women’s rankings after two events, and she also in second place on the women’s ranking’s leaderboard.
February (Kommetjie), who was wearing the Skullcandy rankings leader’s striped vest after his victory in the opening event of the season in Port Elizabeth last weekend, and Sawyer (Jeffreys Bay) fought out a see-saw battle in the unpredictable 1-1.5 metre waves in the QS1,000 Men’s Final.
The decision eventually went to Sawyer (11.44 vs.11.07 points) and he added his first QS1,000 event crown to the wildcard he won in the Championship Tour (CT) rated J-bay Open at his home break last July and his sensational runner-up finish in the World Longboard Championships in China in December.
February convincingly defeated Joshe Faulkner (Jeffreys Bay) in their semi-final duel and retained the man’s rankings lead heading into the third event in Durban next weekend. Sawyer moved up to second spot and posted an equally dominating semifinal performance in defeating Sebastian Williams (Durban).
Koby Oberholzer (Warner Beach) claimed his first JQS1,000 event victory thanks to an awesome display of high performance surfing on a long-running wave that earned the 17-year-old a near-perfect 9.33 out of 10 from the judges.
Adin Masencamp (Strand), the 2016 WSL Africa Junior Men’s champion, grabbed the runner-up berth on the strength of a 7.17 while the Elkington brothers from Kommetjie, Jake and Max, placed third and fourth.
The Junior Men’s rankings lead will be up for grabs in Durban next weekend with Jake Elkington holding a slender lead over Oberholzer, with younger sibling Max, Masencamp and rising star Luke Slijpen (Cape Town) all within touching distance.
The Buffalo City Surf Pro presented by Reef Wetsuits featured World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS)1,000 rated events for men and women alongside JQS1,000 events for men and women aged 18-and-under. It was the second of five stops on the City Surf Series that started in Port Elizabeth last weekend and also visits Durban and Cape Town.
A total of 42 surfers from the Chintsa based Unstressed Surf School and the Waves 4 Change group in East London participated in an Outreach programme conducted by Surfing South Africa (SSA) at Nahoon Beach on Sunday. The participants enjoyed beach activities, water coaching, a tag team contest and an Easter egg hunt under the watchful eye of SSA Development Officer Danielle Johnson and members of the Muizenberg based SWOT Surf Club.
The SSA Outreach programmes are supported by the National Lotteries Commission, Reef Wetsuits and Volkswagen and are an integral part of the City Surf Series events.
Picture of Bell courtesy of WSL/Thurtell