The race for the World Masters Surfing trophy has started

The youngest of the group in the El Salvador ISA World Masters Surfing Championships (+35) were the first to hit the surf in the first Round yesterday.

David Malhebre of South Africa, surfing in Round 1 in El Salvador yesterday. Photo: ISA

Team South Africa got off to a strong start on the opening day of competition in the 2011 El Salvador ISA World Masters Surfing Championships which got underway at La Libertad in the Central American country yesterday.

All five team members in action safely progressed to Round 2 of the Qualifying stream of their respective divisions. David Malherbe (Coffee Bay) won his opening Kahuna division heat while Gary van Wieringen (Warner Beach) and Graeme Field (Kommetjie) in the Men’s Masters and Colin Buitendag (George) in the Kahunas finished runners-up in their encounters. Two-time ISA World Women’s Masters champion, Heather Clark (Port Shepstone), had a walk through thanks to a no-show by one of her opponents.

Van Wieringen set the momentum for the rest of Team SA when he took an early lead in the first heat of the event before being overhauled by David Gonsalves (HAW).  The former SA Pro Surf Tour (PST) champion comfortably held on to second place in the 20 minute match-up and relegated the third and fourth placed surfers from France and Uruguay to the cutthroat repecharge rounds where any result other than first or second in a heat means elimination from the event.

Field, competing in his first ISA World Masters event, trailed former World Tour standout Ross Williams (HAW) throughout their clash but the South African cemented his place in the next qualifying round with a strong ride late in the heat.

Heather Clark from South Africa surfing in the World Masters Champs in El Salvador yesterday

Clark, winner of the Women’s Masters title in both 2009 and 2010, will be relishing tougher challenges later in the event after Australian Layne Beachley posted an outstanding performance in her heat where the former seven-time World Champion posted five of the top 10 scoring rides in the division.

Malherbe, the Bronze medallist in the Kahuna division in Panama last year, displayed his superior competitive skills by posting the third highest heat total of the division in a narrow Round 1 heat victory over Guy Chang (HAW) while Buitendag finished just 0.5 of a point behind another Hawaiian in Mike Latronic in the last heat of the day.

Venezuelan Pro surfer Magnum Martínez was the division’s best surfer, scoring a combined total of 13.83 (7.5 + 6.33). “The waves are great; there is a lot of sand on the rocks, so the waves are running faster than normal and there are some good barrel sections,” said Martínez. “There are really good competitors from other countries. I’m not taking this lightly; I’m taking it like a Pro event.”

The best single-wave score of the division was earned by former ASP World Tour standout, Toby Martin (AUS). The Aussie was awarded with an 8.17 from the judges after exploding in a series of top to bottom radical turns.

Graeme Field of South Africa surfing in the World Masters in El Salvador yesterday

Other standouts in the Masters division were Davey Gonsalves (HAW), Gustavo Betancourt (PUR), Sean Mattisson (USA), Andrés Fernández (ECU), Jojó de Olivença (BRA) and Ross Williams (HAW).

Women Masters (+35) followed in the schedule and had seven-time ASP World Champion Layne Beachley delivering the best performance of the day, reaching 14.50 (7.17 + 7.33). “The waves are fantastic today. It was a lot of fun out there and the girls are putting on a great show,” said Beachley.

In the Kahunas division, the Australian Dean Shaw was the great standout. He won his heat, leaving three-time ASP World Champion Tom Curren (US) in second after scoring a combined total of 12.66. On his best wave, a 6.83, Shaw came out of a long barrel and finished with a good set of turns.

David Malherbe (ZAR), Juan Carlos Angola (VEN), Jim Hogan (USA) and Ricardo Villanueva (PUR) were other standouts in the +45 division.

The event will continue today at 8am local time (around 4 pm today South African time) with the following heats:
-Qualify Round 1 Grand Masters
-Qualify Round 1 Grand Kahunas
-Qualify Round 2 Masters
-Qualify Round 2 Kahunas
-Qualify Round 2 Grand Masters

 Opening ceremony:

After eight straight days of torrential rain and stormy weather that caused a National State of Emergency in El Salvador, the sun finally came out yesterday for the Opening Ceremony and Day 1 of the historic El Salvador ISA World Masters Surfing Championship.

South African competitors pour in sand from South African beaches into the Sands of the Nations bowl yesterday during the parade of Nations in El Salvador yesterday.

A record-breaking 124 surfers from 21 countries, coaches, managers and fans, coloured the beach at Punta Roca with their national flags. The Sands of the World Ceremony officially opened the competition.

At the traditional ceremony representatives from every National Team brought sand from their country’s beaches up to the stage where it was mixed together in a glass bowl. The perennial ritual signifies the union of nations, beliefs and races through surfing and the Olympic spirit this event embraces.

ISA President Fernando Aguerre stated, “This is one of the six ISA World Championship events that happen every year and this is very special because it brings together the surf loving people, guys and ladies over 35 years old, who still love to surf a great wave and still love to compete in friendship and in a good sportsmanship spirit.”

Referring to the situation in the host country, the ISA President said, “El Salvadorhas gone trough some difficult times with rain and storms but I’m positive and sure that with our support and the help of the locals fromEl Salvador, this will be a history-making ISA World Masters Surfing Championship.”

Other dignitaries present at the ceremony were the Mayor of La Libertad, Carlos Molina, the representative of the Minister of Tourism, Roberto Edmundo Viera, ISA Vice-Presidents Karín Sierralta and Debbie Beacham, El Salvador Surfing Federation President, Saburo Okuzawa, and Gray Line AVI Tours’ Carlos Ortiz.

Immediately after Sierralta called the championship officially open, the event started at Punta Roca, known to surfers worldwide as the ‘Jeffreys Bay’ of Central America, a reference to one of the surfing meccas in the world inSouth Africa.

The waves were much better than during the days before, glassy and barrelling, reaching 5 feet on the sets. A total of 20 heats were held with the Masters, Kahunas and Women Masters competing yesterday.

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All photos: ISA

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