With the planned waiting period for the event running out, the Tand Invitational looked to be unachievable. With the ever-changing window of opportunity narrowing due to the tides, I really didn’t know if we would get the chance to ride. The swell chart looked dismal. The winds looked bad and, all things considered, I was not optimistic at all.

During last week, the stars seemed to align and we had a slim chance of riding the event. On the Monday, charts were looking good for Thursday. Tide was perfect at the end of the day, winds were off shore and, to top it all off, there was a smaller swell with a large period. This meant that all the factors were starting to indicate a possible event run.

Tuesday morning and the Tand Invitational event was given the orange light. The potential of it running was building. Charts didn’t seem to be moving much and, with a warmer few days not far away, it seemed as if we were going to be able to challenge the bare Tooth of rock!

Wednesday morning, we were given the green light by contest director, Jarret “Pik” Johnson, that the event would run on the Thursday morning. He had been in contact with us all about the possibility to get the event underway and we were all super stoked. That started the preparation to tackle one of the craziest waves in South Africa.

Photo: Shanleigh Heale

My preparation started with my boards. I didn’t know what the waves were going to do. I decided that if it was really big, I would ride my new NRG core Sniper Board (slightly lighter board, more flex, and able to really get good bottom turns before releasing the rail and sliding through the barrels). If it was going to be smaller, we would all be taking to the air, and I was going to ride my PP core Sniper Board (allowing me to choose my line and shoot for the air section with lots of speed and straight lines). This meant that I would be packing two boards, wetsuits, two pairs of fins (in case one got blasted off) and food for the next day. I started to pack and all my gear seemed to be ready for action.

Thursday morning and I was more than prepared to head up the West Coast to the Tand Invitational.

I loaded my car with food, boards and friends as we hit the road. Arriving up at the event it was looking rather dismal. The tide was not playing its part in the early morning. It was put on hold till 12pm. As we watched the swell fill in and the period start to build, we could see what looked like some insane waves starting to approach. Each set showed us more potential for an epic day of wave riding.

I was in the second heat of the day with some amazing riders who showed it was going to be a competitive start to my campaign. I started the heat by getting two smaller scores. Setting myself up with these scores allowed me to go for broke when the bigger waves of the day really pushed through. I watched Henk Esterhuysen go on the first wave of the set and I could see it was an absolute bomb. He emerged from the off shore spray and had made the best wave of the heat thus far. I had priority as I started to paddle into the next wave. It pushed really hard off the rock, forcing me through the first section. I ducked into the end section, bounced out of the barrel and got spat into the channel. I ended the heat with an 8.0 and a 5.77 for my efforts. The day had started off well, and I wanted to carry that momentum.

Into the semi-finals and I had a really tough heat. Everyone in the heat looked on top form. Tristan Roberts had an amazing few waves and hit the highest scoring wave of the event, a 9.95 with a monster back flip. He backed it up with a near-impossible barrel that he made, somehow…

I then went into battle with Johan “Tjoeki” de Goede. We traded off waves with Tjoeki getting the better of all our tradeoffs. In the end, I needed a 6.67 to move into second place behind Tristan. I went on one of the bigger ones I had of the day and, seeing the light in the barrel, pushed forward before the wave slowly closed over me. I was moving too slowly to push through the end section and this didn’t allow me to come out. I surfaced after the wave, knowing that I might be able to get one more wave and better my score, but it was all too late. I ended with a third in the heat and was out of the 2018 Tand Invitational.

Sitting there after the heat, I was disappointed with my performance but was able to draw some really good lessons from the experience.

I was looking forward to an action-packed final. Tjoeki went on to win the final with a huge backflip and a good-looking barrel. Wilder Schultz got second with a good barrel at the start and a backup of a crazy buzzer beater, just falling short of the first place by 1 point. Tristan showed his versatility with good backflips and some barrels in the final, to take the third spot while Daniel Worsley ended in 4th.

Thanks to the sponsors and everyone who worked hard to make the event possible, and the huge success that it turned out to be. It was so good to see that our sport is in such good hands, and at such a good level, in South Africa. To all who came up to the event, it’s always awesome to see people support our wave riding in heavy conditions. Thank you too.

As always, thanks to all my supporters, family and friends and sponsors, for giving me the best possible platform from which to perform and compete.

Next, I will be heading to Australia to compete in the next leg of the APB World Tour. It is set to be an amazing 20 days away, and I can’t wait to compete at a new venue!

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