Lindy Taverner

Who's the coolest in the surf?

2011-05-04 09:15
Sport24 columnist Lindy Taverner (File)
Lindy Taverner

Unless you live in a cave, the most popular extreme watersports you should regularly be exposed to are wakeboarding, surfing, kitesurfing and windsurfing. 

Kitesurfers think they are way cooler than windsurfers, windsurfers think kiters are prima donnas, surfers think kiters and windsurfers are soft, and they all laugh at bodyboarders. 

The new watersport on the block is stand up paddle surfing, otherwise known as SUP. Surfers hate SUPers. Their boards are bigger, you can catch more waves with the paddle assisting and you see the good waves coming because you’re standing up. It drives them nuts. Like surfing, the more extreme edge of the sport involves catching the seriously big waves.

Talking about paddling, you may have had a paddler saunter across your path. They are usually proud individuals in tights carrying long thin crafts on their shoulders. Their fix involves canoeing on a K1, K2, K3 or K4 (which means how many seats).

Canoes are the fastest non-motorised watercraft out there. They’re used on rivers as the rudder manipulates easily over rocks and concealed foliage and are hollow and super light to assist with speed. The extreme side of canoeing or kayaking involves fast flowing ‘white-water’.

A kayak has an open (sit-on-top) cockpit and a surf ski is a long, narrow, lightweight kayak with a foot pedal controlled rudder and is used in the ocean. For the record, surf ski paddlers put their noses down on the more traditional, flat and short kayaks, so don’t pitch up at a paddling club with one without risk of serious social rejection.

Surf skis are extremely fast when paddled on flat water and over a long distance on ocean swells and are typically 5-6.5m long and only 40-50 cm wide. Despite its typical instability, a surf ski is a very effective craft for paddling in big surf as its narrowness and length helps it punch through large broken waves. This therefore explains why surf ski paddlers consider themselves superior beings. Jokes aside, a downwind surf ski can be seriously an extreme activity... think Cape Point!

There are some more unusual extreme watersports we don’t see in South Africa like riversurfing, which involves surfing in rivers on either standing waves or tidal bores. 

Similarly, riverboarders lie prone on their board with fins on their feet for propulsion and steering. This sport is also known as hydrospeed in Europe and as white-water sledging in New Zealand.

Flowboarding involves standing or kneeling on boards constructed either like bodyboards or wakeboards, riding artificial waves that are technically called ‘sheet waves’. Luckily in SA we have lots of waves, so don’t need to resort to these measures for a kick.

Other watersports considered extreme are powerboat racing, round the world yacht racing and speed sailing, scuba diving and really deep free-diving (without breathing apparatus).

One of the world’s most extreme ocean swim races is the 7.5km Cadiz Freedom Swim from Robben Island to Big Bay, Blouberg, Cape Town. It’s on this weekend of May 7-8, weather dependant, and raises funds for children with learning disabilities at the Vista Nova School. 

Hundreds of open water swimmers, including some internationally renowned, will race in only a Speedo in an icy, unpredictable sea of approximately 13°C.  The solo winner takes home a record $10 000. There are also relay categories, some of which include wetsuits, which sounds a like a much saner option to budgie smugglers.

I’ve saved the lowdown on high flying extreme air sports for next week's column.

Lindy Taverner is the editor of the RUSH magazine that was based in the Eastern Cape and recently relocated to Cape Town. Previous issues and updated extreme sport news can be found on her site

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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