Mercedes-Benz South African Surfing Team off to Good Start at Historic ISA World Surfing Games in Japan

Sarah Baum (with flag) and Zoe Steyn (pouring sand) represented the Mercedes-Benz South African Surfing team at the Sands of the World ceremony to open the historic 2019 ISA World Surfing Games presented by Vans which started in Japan on Saturday – Photo: ISA / Reed

Miyazaki, Japan, 7 September 2019 – Bianca Buitendag and Sarah Baum both progressed directly to the next round with runner-up finishes in the their opening heats to get the Mercedes-Benz South African Surfing team off to a good start in the historic 2019 ISA World Surfing Games (WSG) presented by Vans in Miyazaki Japan on Saturday.

A record setting 240 of the world’s best surfers hailing from 55 nations will be competing from 7-15 September in the first event where athletes can qualify for surfing’s inaugural appearance as an Olympic discipline s in the Tokyo 2020 games.

The event opened with the colourful Parade of Nations which saw the teams marching in full national colours among thousands of spectators lining the streets of Myazaki. That was followed by the symbolic Sands of the World Ceremony where Baum and Zoe Steyn, the third woman in the SA team, took to the stage and poured sand from their local beaches into a container, symbolizing the peaceful gathering of all 55 nations through surfing.

The games were officially opened by ISA President Fernando Aguerre who contributed sand he had collected from the beach at Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil the day the official vote to include Surfing in the Olympics took place during the Rio 2016 Games.

“I would like to give a warm welcome to the 55 national teams, especially to Sri Lanka, Thailand, American Samoa and Lebanon for their first time at the World Surfing Games,” said Aguerre. “It’s great to have the WSL Championship Tour surfers here today, returning to their National Surfing Teams as part of the Olympic qualification process.“

The competitors were treated to a traditional Wadaiko Japanese drum performance to give them a taste of the local culture of Miyazaki. Among the dignitaries was  

Yoshiro Mori, President of Tokyo 2020, who made a scheduled visit on day 1 of the WSG to observe the action and support the surfers and nations on their road to next year’s event.

The opening rounds of women’s competition took to the water following the Opening Ceremony, and with most of the world’s top surfers representing their countries the action was electric.

Australia based former Durbanite Sarah Baum was the first South African to take to the waves. The winner of the Ballito Women’s Pro in July showed her class by easing though to Round 2 of the Winner’s stream in the double-elimination format used in ISA events by finishing second behind a fired up Noah Klapp (Germany), who posted the day’s fourth highest heat total of 13.50 out of 20.

Bianca Buitendag’s experience on the Championship Tour (CT) stood her in good stead in the next heat and the Victoria Bay resident hung on to second place and avoided dropping into the gruelling Repercharge Rounds that is the fate of those finishing outside the top two in a heat

Recently crowned SA Women’s champion Zoe Steyn (East London) faces her first match-up in the event in Heat 28 on Sunday where she faces opponents from Germany and China.

The men in the Mercedes-Benz South African team include current WSL No. 2 Jordy Smith (Durban), who won the ISA U16 title in 2003 in his hometown and the ISA Open Men’s Open title in 2006 at Huntington Beach in California.

“It’s always an honour to represent one’s country and I’m stoked to be included in the SA team,” said Smith of his bid for another ISA title and qualification for next year’s Olympic Games. “Training is a daily routine for me. Whether it is surfing events, free surfing or gym training I ensure that I’m totally prepared for any situation.”

The other two men are 2018 CT member Michael February (Kommetjie) and experienced Qualifying Series (QS) campaigner and multiple event winner Beyrick de Vries (uMhlanga),

“I’m extremely proud to make this year’s SA team for the ISA games and really hope to make the Olympics,” said de Vries. “I never thought that going to the Olympics would be possible in my lifetime, so I’ve been training really hard and can’t wait to have a go at the top dogs in this event.”

The SA team is expertly managed by the vastly experienced Isaac February (Cape Town) and coached by Greg Emslie (East London), one of South Africa’s all-time greatest surfing competitors.

The team will be going all out to equal or better their copper-medal winning fourth place finish in achieved in the 2018 team standings. They will also be challenging for a medal in the ISA Aloha Cup, a form of relay surfing contested by the top seven nations from the previous year’s World Surfing Games, plus the host nation.

The team faces tough opposition from the world’s best surfers including multiple world champions Kelly Slater (USA), Stephanie Gilmore (Australia), Gabriel Medina (Brazil), Carissa Moore (Hawaii) and defending event winners Santiago Muniz (Argentina) and Sally Fitzgibbons (Australia).

The swell is forecast to provide 1.5 to 2 metre waves on Sunday and Monday with light and variable winds trending onshore during the afternoons.

The tentative schedule for the remainder of the competition is as follows:

Sunday & Monday, Sep 8/9

  • Open Women

Tuesday Sep 10

  • Aloha Cup (TBC)
  • Open Women
  • Start to Open Men 

Wednesday Sep 11

  • Finals Open Women
  • Open Men competition continues

September 15

  • Finals Open Men
  • Closing Ceremony 

The 2019 ISA World Surfing Games presented by Vans is broadcast Sept 7-15 on www.isasurf.org.