How SA’s Best Bodyboarders Tackle The Deadliest Waves

Why fitness matters and how the best keep at it.

Kirsten Curtis |

At 40, Johan de Goede is a firm believer in doing what you love. The pro bodyboarder has been actively competing since 1993. More recently, he took first prize at the Tand Invitational, an event that takes place between a tooth-like (‘tand’) rock formation, and is one of the world’s deadliest.

The Tand Invitational was founded in 2011 by Jarret Johnson. He’d just come back from competing in the Hawaii’s popular Pipeline competition, and wanted to create his own. “I sat down and came up with the idea of the Tand Invitational,” he explains.

Based in Parternoster, one of SA’s oldest fishing villages, the Tand wave had been kept a secret by locals for years, so Johnson needed their blessings before starting the event. “I used to get blindfolded on the drive there! I remember how scared I was when I had to phone the locals to ask for permission to run the event. Surprisingly, they were very stoked and open to it,” he says.

Related: Pro Bodyboarder Andre Botha Tells His Tale Of Mastering Waves And Being A Champion

Since, the event has become South Africa’s biggest bodyboarding event. “Our team has expanded to six, our prize purse has doubled, the riding has been better and better each year, and our online audience has grown exponentially,” explains Jarret.

For Johan, competing in the Tand Invitational is always an interesting and challenging experience. “It’s one of those waves that’s very slabby, it’s close to a rock. Whenever I hit the gravel road of the site I get butterflies in my stomach, it’s one of those waves where you need to be 100% committed. Once you’re in the water, once you commit to a wave, you have to go for it and then it’s all up to your skill and ability.”

Johan was called to compete the day before the competition, and had no time to overthink it. “I just needed to get into my car, drive to the competition and just do my best. What was really good was that I went without the expectation to win. And without expecting to win, I was able to relax and do better than expected.”

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But Johan’s competition prep is not up to fortune. He makes sure that he is healthy and fit. His daily routine includes yoga, tai chi and meditation, along with his sessions in the water. “As you get older, it becomes difficult to spend a lot of time in the water, so stay healthy and stay fit.”

Jarret agrees that being fit is crucial for those wanting to push their limits with bodyboarding. “We travel for hours to surf some of the craziest waves South Africa has to offer. These waves are off the beaten track, with no cell service, and sometimes up to four hours from the nearest hospital. So if you want to be comfortable surfing these waves, you better be fit enough to not get hurt.”

Jarret has been in a few intense situations over the years. He attributes getting through them to his level of fitness. When he was still competing he used to train hard. He combined bodyweight routines with running and cycling.

Related: The Back Test To See How Strong You Really Are

Besides staying fit, Johan advises anyone who wants to start bodyboarding to just grab a board and go for it. “Get a friend that knows how to bodyboard and get out there in the water.” For him the most important thing is to have fun while doing it. “Once you’re out there in the water, out there in nature, that’s all that matters. As soon as you’re out there and you have fun, you’ll be hooked,” he says.

And for guys who are over 40? Johan says that you shouldn’t let your age stop you from giving the sport a try. “If you keep fit, if you keep healthy, you can still be a force to be reckoned with. At this age you might think your time for the sport is over. You see young 20-year-olds coming through the ranks, but if you stay fit, you’ll still have a long way with this sport.”

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