What happens when you gather the world’s most renowned longboarders and shapers for a three day festival and contest at an iconic surf mecca like Muizenberg beach, South Africa? You get the Vans Duct Tape Invitational, of course.
The next stop on this happy-go-lucky surf spectacle celebrated ten years of the event, which brought with it some epic nose-riding, shaping tutorials, and of course having a good time with friends and like-minded surf folk.
Most of all however, the Vans Duct Tape (or VDT) is a celebration of creativity, and honouring the people who have changed the course of surfing with innovation and craftsmanship. With no barriers between spectator and athlete, this is something that invites the public to wholly be part of.
Our ‘boys-on-the-ground’ Craig Jarvis and Grant Scholtz were active and amped throughout the three days, to bring you a full wrap-up and gallery of this years longboard lowdown.
Surf Forecast: Muizenberg.
I wasn't sure what to expect at the Vans Duct Tape Invitational at Muizenberg in Cape Town, and I was kind of circumspect. Would it be cool? What were the world's best loggers actually like? Why the hoopla over these events, and would Joel Tudor be stuck in the clouds or down to earth. I learned to surf in Muizenberg years ago, and it had been decades since I had hung out there. So on a whim, I decided to throw all caution to the storm and head down to The Berg.
The first wave I ever caught was at The Berg. The first time I ever did a 360 was at The Berg (they were a cool move back then). The first time I got arrested by a Beach Constable was at The Berg. The first time I got into a little barrel was at Baily's, the only reef at Muizenberg. So this place had some memories.
In the men's Paddle Battle, it was an explosive affair, with some other contestants running interference for their friends.
The crew that arrived for the contest came from all over the world. Getting to know them seemed a bit of a challenge at first. Still, it soon became apparent that they were all legends, all intent on having as much fun as possible while hanging out with friends and catching a few waves. It definitely was not a cut-throat, win-or-die event. Perfect for many jaded on the whole competitive side of things.
Don't get me wrong, competition is healthy. It pushes performance levels. It is part of a healthy mindset, of wanting to do better as a person, to prove to yourself what you are capable of, and showcase skills compared to others. The competition also improves equipment. It leads to technology and design innovations to improve board performance and give surfers an edge. So competition is good, but it isn't the pinnacle in surfing.
The opening day of surfing at Muizenberg was small but a lot of fun for the loggers involved. Everyone got a chance to cruise the perfectly peeling left and right-hand runners of The Corner at Muizenberg and get to know each other and meet the locals. South African competitors Crystal Hulett from St Francis Bay and 2018 Longboarding world champ Stevie Sawyer were two invited surfers in their element. They loved the waves and having fun with the crew, hanging five and stylishly cruising the low-tide runners.
Free surfer extraordinaire Mikey Feb was also around, hanging out at the contest, along with the highly motivated Shane Sykes. Local ripper Sophie Bell was also in the entourage. She kicked off Day One by shaping her own board under the guidance of Lifestyle shaper Ian Ihlenfeldt at Ihlen Surfboards. Several athletes would have a go at shaping their own boards throughout the event, and they all had a great time doing it.
German pro snowboarder Benny Urban also had a go at shaping a board and was enthused and articulate. "I'm trying to make a seven zero mid-length single-fin," said Urban. "Really stoked to get this board into the water one day."
And where would he surf said board? "Well, I live in The Alps, so I head to southern France and Spain whenever I go surfing. So hopefully, I'll get to try it out there. This is my first time in Cape Town and shaping a surfboard. Cape Town is amazing. Very different from what I have experienced before. It's a special place, and the nature around here is stunning. A beautiful country. I definitely want to come back, but maybe when it's a bit warmer!"
Speaking of which, the second day of the Vans Duct Tape Invitational was a wash-out. Athletes and everyone involved with the festival got to experience why the area was known throughout history as the Cape Of Storms. The rain came, the wind came, and the Duct Tape Invitational decided to go on a wine tasting trip and early dinner instead. Finals day was going to be a massive day, so there was a need for some regrouping and slightly less energy expended.
The morning of the final kicked off with a 7am on the dot load-shedding session. ‘Load-shedding’ is a system of 'rolling blackouts' where certain quadrants of the country have their power turned off every few hours. This is so that the severely constrained South African grid doesn't collapse. The lack of electricity made no difference to the event whatsoever. The waves were firing for finals, the show was on, and it was full tilt until the prize giving.
The waves were solid and breaking far out at Muizenberg, which made the paddle battle much more entertaining. Victoria Vergara from Reunion won the women's battle, with Crystal Hulett in second place.
In the men's Paddle Battle, it was an explosive affair, with some other contestants running interference for their friends. Despite facing a logging blockade in the shallows, Ander Mendiguren from Basque Country barged his way through for the win. The winners walked away with $1000 for their efforts.
Then it was on to the finals. The Vans Duct Tape Invitational was a hard-fought battle between three Hawaiians and one French surfer. Fortunately, the Hawaiians had so much fun surfing the long, log-friendly waves that they didn't bother hassling the lone French logger. She took full advantage of the situation to win. Ambre Victorie took home $8,000 for her victory, with Honolua Blomfield in 2nd ($6,000), Kelli Kaleopa'a in 3rd ($4000) and Sierra Lerback in 4th taking $2,000.
When the men took to the water, the tide had come in, and the waves were pumping. Vying for the same prizes, the boys were ripping out there and looking for a Shared Wave opportunity. All eyes were on local Stevie Sawyer, the surfer with the inside knowledge on how best to surf the rolling open faces of Muizenberg. It's pumping out there," said Stevie before the final. "As good as Muizies gets!"
As he prepared for the final heat, I quickly bounced some questions to Kevin Skvarna. A general riff about South Africa and Muizenberg ended up with me asking him the unresearched, "So, how many DTIs have you won?" Kevin looked at me with a lazy eye. "Err, none." He replied to my unresearched question.
"So, first win coming up," I replied cheerfully, hoping to erase my stupidity. It worked. Kev broke out into a broad grin just underneath his glistening moustache. "First win," he agreed. "This is it."
It was Hawaiian surfer Johnny "The Ripper" Van Hohenstein, one of the happiest, friendliest surfers I have ever met, who came in fourth. He was just behind Stevie in third. As ten-times Duct Tape Invitational winner Justin Quintal was declared the runner-up, the crowd erupted for Kevin. Yep, he had his first win, as we had both predicted. So they crowned him the Duct Tape Invitational Muizenberg 2022 winner and gave him $8,000 for his efforts.
The finalists moved to the grass verge behind the market for some photo opportunities. Stephanie Gilmore joined the throng, cameras flashed, and beers popped open. Some crew headed to the bar, armed with piles of Vans beer tokens. Local musician and guitarist Elle. E started performing on stage, the crowd started slowly gyrating, and the Muizenberg locals looked on and smiled.