Victoria Bay ‘surfs’ Olympic medalist and beginners alike

Victoria Bay and newly awarded Olympic surfing silver medallist, Bianca Buitendag, are synonymous with each other.  Despite travelling the world for years and riding waves at many exotic and prime surfing destinations, she still regards the breakers at Victoria Bay as the best among the best. In fact, she describes our whole coast line as world class. “Our marine life is absolutely amazing and among the most vibrant I’ve ever encountered, especially in winter. It’s really special to surf among dolphins, whales and sardines.”

It’s at this postcard-worthy little bay nestled cosily between jaw-dropping Southern Cape vegetation and the Big Indian Blue, that she nurtured her passionate love for the ocean and the high-octane sport that put her in the history books for eternity. It was also here, and at the surrounding beaches in the area, that she prepared and practised for her 2020 Olympic participation.

Featured Image: Bianca Buitendag surfing

“I’ve had 20 months to prepare, due to COVID-19 and the consequential postponement of the Olympics. It was the first time in a long, long time that I didn’t have travelling commitments, and it was very special to be back among my family and the dogs.” Her preparation involved five days a week in the water and gym exercises three times a week.

Featured Image: Victoria Bay

Bianca’s family moved to Victoria Bay when she was just entering teenage-hood, and she fondly remembers the many hours they all spent in the ocean. She made her first appearance in an international surfing competition in France when she was 13 years old, and that country turned out to be her base for many years when she became a professional surfer. “I’m 28 years old now, and for the bigger part of my life I competed in surfing competitions right across the globe,” she said.

First introduced to the waves by her father at a young age, she ended her surfing career on what can only be described as a triumphant highlight by securing second place during the Women’s finals which took place on Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach, Japan, on 27 July 2021. It was not only a proud and incredible moment for her, but many South Africans witnessing the ceremony couldn’t help but swallow a lump in their throats when she stepped onto the podium to receive her medallion. To her, it’s all still a bit surreal and miraculous.

“The finals took place amidst a typhoon hitting Japan and the waves were really huge. I prepared for a small swell, as it’s more typical surfing conditions for Japan during summer. I had to change tactics and it actually contributed to my performance as I love big waves and I’m better with them.” She describes the moment when she realised her achievement as anything but idyllic, although it didn’t take anything away from her immense thankfulness and joy. “I was alone in the pouring rain and glanced back to see my coach, Greg Emslie, jumping up and down on the beach, and then it registered that we’ve made it.”

Now back in George and officially retired from surfing, she’s excited about the next chapter in her life. “I’ve been involved with a local Christian NGO called Life Community Services since my high school years. We’re currently busy with fundraising to build a primary school next year.”

Victoria Bay is a popular surfing spot among surfers from all efficiency levels and from all over the world. It’s the regular site of high-level competitions such as the Vic Bay Classic and the SA Masters Surfing Championships. According to Bianca, it’s such a great place for surfing due to the fact that it’s a point break set-up, meaning it’s one of the places in South Africa where you’ll find the most consistent waves. In addition, it’s only about five kilometers from George with all its amenities and comforts. The bay is very user-friendly, there are no significant currents to speak of and the waves are ‘soft’.

Featured Image: Surfends

There are two surfing schools situated at the cove that will gladly take holidaymakers who want to learn the ropes of this invigorating sport through their paces. The friendly instructors at both Vibe Surf School and Surfends are all highly experienced surfers. After your lesson, you can refuel and regale friends and family with your ocean adventure at Vikki’s at the Beach seaside restaurant, a favourite local gathering place. And for even more surfing adventures, you’ll find the Wild & Loose Surf School next door at Wilderness, where an instructor will swiftly get you confident in the water and provide expert guidance.

In the words of Bianca, “surfing can change your life. It’s a healthy habit that will have lifelong benefits. It’s therapeutic and something in which the whole family can participate.” Victoria Bay is just picture perfect to get your helping of wholesomeness. So don’t wait, grab a surfboard and wetsuit, book a lesson, and come hit the waves!