Over 150 surfers and officials representing eight provinces will be in the Friendly City of Port Elizabeth this week to participate in the 20th edition of the Billabong South African Grommet Games.
The tournament will get under way next Wednesday evening (April 4) when the teams will gather at the Amphitheatre at the Boardwalk at 7pm for the official opening function.
Once again Eastern Province Surfing Council are the hosts for this special evening which will get this year’s championships off to a great start.
South African surfers and World Qualifying Series campaigners Tarryn Chudleigh and Dale Staples, who both began their competitive careers at the Grommet Games some 10 years ago, will be the guest speakers at the opening function. Both Tarryn and Dale are established Billabong Team surfers.
This SA Grommet Games was first held in the early 1990’s and is now a premier event on the Surfing South Africa calendar. Not only does it feature teams from all eight provinces but it also features surfers and officials from every surfing community in South Africa.
Introduced into South African surfing culture after unification, the Grommet Games is a transformation and development tournament that gives young surfers from around the country an opportunity to compete for their various provinces in a major surfing contest for the first time.
Many South African surfers who began their competitive surfing careers in the Grommet Games have gone on to compete in high level National Championships and elite tournaments and a number have represented South Africa in International competitions.
Port Elizabeth has remained the venue for this important and significant championship for over 15 years due to the fact that it is situated midway between Durban and Cape Town. This means that most teams have to travel the same distance to participate.
In addition, the Pipe at Pollock Beach produces consistent, contestable conditions for surfers representing their provincial teams in their first ever national contest.
The SA Grommet Games is regarded by Surfing South Africa as a vital and important Surfing South Africa Championship and over the years it has taken its place alongside other major National events. It can now claim to be one of the defining tournaments on the Surfing South Africa calendar.
The youngest surfers in the contest will compete in the Under 8 Division with the oldest participants taking part in the competitive Under 16 boys and girls group.
Girls and boys from a variety of different cultures and communities are represented across the eight divisions and come from all parts of the South African coast. There are surfers from Trafalgar and Umzumbe on the KZN South Coast , Coffee Bay in the Transkei, Port St John’s, Jeffreys Bay, Macassar, Strandfontein, the Cape Flats, Richards Bay, Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London, the Garden Route, Strand and the Cape Peninsula.
The Grommet Games highlights the transformation process within Surfing South Africa and provinces are set strict criteria when it comes to selecting their teams.
While much of the focus is on surfing itself, events such as a paddle battle, beach flags and a tag team surfing competition will make up the activities that make this event so special each year.
Sponsors Billabong have added even more to this year’s event in the form of “goodie bags” for each contestant which will not only include a once off souvenir tee shirt but also a pile of stickers, Palmers wax and Dot Dash sunglasses.
For the first time the Grommet Games will include a VonZipper Airshow where the surfer who is judged to have performed the best “air” will take home a VZ hamper and a special certificate.
In order to maintain a competitive feel throughout the four days of competition the Palmers Wave of the Day Award will be made to the surfers who post the highest wave score each day. Winners will receive a Palmers hamper and a special certificate.
There will also be recognition to the surfer who posts the highest heat score of the contest in the form of the DaKine Highest Heat Score Award. The winner in this category will receive a DaKine hamper and a special certificate.
There will be plenty of action out of the surf too. The Element Skate team and their mobile skate ramp will at the event on Saturday and Sunday. The team will be performing demos and any surfers wanting to perfect their moves on dry land will be able to have a go. Sector 9 will also be hosting their first ever Poker Run in South Africa. This will take place on Saturday along the promenade, during the event. Entry is free and all competitors and spectators are welcome.
Making the four days of surfing and fun even more special will be Element giveaways, a VonZipper Frosteez penguin cut-out for fun photos, prizes for treasure hunts, plenty of Easter eggs and awesome prizes from Billabong to the winners of each division.
The team that displays the most spirit and support during the contest will win the Best Team Trophy and the Team with the highest points total will take home the Mandela Bay Trophy, which is currently held by hosts Eastern Province.
In order to select the appropriate team for this event, provinces have held a series of trials and the result of this process is five wonderful days of social and competitive interaction. The added advantage of holding an event such as this is that Surfing South Africa is able to identify potential national and perhaps even future world champions. These talented surfers will be included in the National Development Academy for three years.
The members of this Academy will be mentored within their provincial structures and might even get their chance to compete in the National Junior Championships later in the year.
Eastern Province Surfing Council is the host province and defending champions. They will come up against teams from Western Province, KZN Central, Border, Boland, Southern Cape, Zululand and Southern KZN.
The Billabong SA Grommet Games is supported by Sport and Recreation South Africa and the National Lottery Distribution Fund.
The tournament is presented by Surfing South Africa, the governing body for the sport in South Africa and a member of the International Surfing Association.