SURFING competitions in East London are a real family affair with young kids barely out of nappies riding the waves just like their parents.
After 14 years getting paid to travel the world and surf, Greg Emslie is now passing on his competition smarts to five-year-old son David – who has set his sights on one day making the Border surfing team just like his famous father.
Nicknamed Bigfoot, because “I have big feet”, the talented surfer says it would be cool if his son – who has little feet, but is surprisingly not called “Littlefoot” – followed in his footsteps, but he is not pressuring him to do so. Retired from the world circuit, Emslie’s decision to invest his winnings in the Oakhampton Bed and Breakfast allows him time to disappear for a surf when the waves are cooking – leaving the running of the business to his wife, Chantel.
Although Emslie junior grew up on the beach, he only took up surfing a year ago aged four and is one of the youngest surfers – along with fellow surfer Bully Page’s five-year-old son, Timmy – who are making waves in the local Border grom team trials.
While there is decent money to be made nowadays from surfing, Bigfoot jokes the professional tennis or golf tour may be a better option.
“I would be happy for him whatever path he chooses,” he said of his son. “In this day and age you need to be naturally gifted in a sport to make it. I don’t think hard work alone will cut it anymore, and with that you have to have the passion and love to take it to the next level.
“When a kid is forced into something they can lose interest.”
The Emslie clan – which includes an assortment of brothers, cousins and other relatives who all surf – are not alone when it comes to riding the waves.
Three generations of Malherbes often hit the surf together – with several still competing at the highest level.
Taught how to surf when they were pint-sized grommets in the 1970s by their father, John, the “Herby” brothers – Dave, Andre and Phillip – still make time to surf competitions and earn SA colours for the umpteenth time.
And, when they are not practising themselves, they love nothing better than teaching their offspring – like Andre and Surette Malherbe’s sons, Jordy and Luke – how to rip the waves.
“Yip, we had them lying on surfboards before they could even walk,” said Surette. “All the boys in the family have Border colours.”
Attracting in excess of 75 surfers – and twice as many families – to the beach every Sunday they are run, the Reef Summer Surf Series is a healthy barometer of under-16 surfing on the Border and some of the top competitors, like Luke
Malherbe, spend as much time as they can in the water before and after school.
Veteran Border grom surfing administrator Debbie Meacham – who has been involved in the sport for the past 10 years – said this year’s competition series turnout was the biggest in years.
“Two years ago things were dead. Now all of a sudden it is very busy,” Meacham explained.
She said several of the young surfers were encouraged to take up the sport by their parents who also surfed.
“A lot of the kids come from surfing families. It is a healthy outdoor sport for the whole family.” — firstname.lastname@example.org