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Sport

Surfers make waves in debut competition

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“You experience almost a spiritual feeling while surfing in the sea. Every wave is totally different. You need the creativity to pull off different types of manoeuvres which are really beautiful and high energy. That feeling of speed and flow is so exhilarating.”

So says Johannesburg-based Katie Goldreich Cragg, who together with Capetonian Levi Kruyer represented South Africa, reaching round three in the 2022 Maccabi Games’ inaugural surfing competition, which took place in Netanya.

With the waves small and lacking power, the competition was challenging for surfers, especially foreign contestants not used to surfing in Israel.

“The Israelis were amazing,” says Cragg. “They cleaned up. It was full Israeli quarterfinals, semi-finals, and finals. They definitely had the home-ground advantage, being used to these types of conditions.”

Cragg, who counts being the KwaZulu-Natal champion and the runner-up in the South African Surfing Championships among her honours, found it exciting to participate in one of the new sports at the Maccabiah – the others being bouldering, 3×3 basketball, motocross, and padel.

“The wave size was challenging,” she says. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get the result I was hoping for. I won one heat and managed to get through to round three before being knocked out. I’m obviously proud and so thrilled to have been there.”

Though Cragg was selected for the games because Team South Africa knew she was a former semi-professional surfer, Kruyer’s journey to the games started two years ago when his friend, Saul Jackson, the sports director of Maccabi Western Province, told him about the inclusion of surfing in the games. Having swum in the 2013 Maccabiah, Kruyer then decided to pursue surfing in the 2022 games.

Kruyer, an alumnus of Herzlia in Cape Town, took up surfing 16 years ago. “I live close to the beach and my family comes from a surfing background,” he says.

Cragg, an alumnus of Crawford International in Durban, started surfing when she was 10. “I’ve always loved the ocean,” she says. “I had a family friend who surfed, and I went to watch him. We were around the same age, and I was just fascinated by it. I stood up on my first wave, and I was hooked from there.”

She enjoys surfing because “every single wave is different. It can be really difficult as there are so many variables that are beyond your control, but you just have to roll with it.”

Although Cragg recently moved from Durban to Johannesburg, she’ll try to surf as often as she can.

She says the key to surfing is a love for the ocean. “One should have strong upper body strength to paddle into waves and out into the ocean,” she says. “You need to be brave to battle whatever the ocean brings. A sense of adventure is important as well.”

For Kruyer, the secret is “pushing yourself to surf in tough conditions and not only going out when the waves are good”.

Photo credit: Mark Patterson 

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