An eerie mist hangs over a glassy sea, its secrets held close. In the distance, birds float freely while a seal cavorts nearby. The renowned Elands Bay surf break, some 200 km North of Cape Town, lies dormant. I have seen the reef at Elands Bay working to its full potential only once before, and besides the pleasure of surfing this wave, just standing on the beach and watching it crank is a special sight. Nature has indeed done splendid work to create such a remarkably mechanical wave. However, on a recent surfing trip to Elands Bay, that perfect wave of our dreams was nowhere to be seen.
Surfing in Elands Bay, for me at least, is a deeply cleansing experience, whether there’s a wave or not, there’s always fun to be had. The scenery, cold water, mountains, dust and sand that dominate the West Coast landscape creates a perfect playground for the soul. The best thing about surfing Elands Bay when there’s no swell is that there are no crowds, you have the reef all to yourself and even better, there won’t be anyone watching. Frolicking in the stinky kelp in hope that the odd wave might come along is certainly fun and it can pay off if you’re patient enough.
Most surfers wouldn’t even bother when the sea is flat, but surfing in Elands Bay no matter what, forces you to realise that it’s not always about the quality of the waves, but rather about appreciating the experience. Throw some good friends and camping into the mix and you have a recipe for making unforgettable memories that will keep your stoke meter topped up until the swell eventually arrives.
As it turned out, there was no swell coming our way so we decided to explore the coast towards Lamberts Bay for a wave, however small. Luck was on our side, and we found a tiny gem. It wasn’t long before our wetsuits were on and we paddled into the mist, but we weren’t alone. A pod of West Coast Dolphins welcomed us while we had the time of our lives on this desolate piece of coast. The experience was surreal and full of joy. It was all worth it in the end.
Meet Steve Erwin! Now I know what you thinking. Steve Erwin, the crocodile hunter? No, Steve Erwin, the surfer, the legend. As the fires of industry burned on in Johannesburg, a young soul stirred. Having tasted the fruit the ocean bears, the waves beckoned him closer, and closer. Steve discovered surfing, and this jewel of a find has not only made Steve who he is today but has also led to the creation of some pretty cool surf art and shirt designs. Steve’s a talented man and I wanted to find out more about what he does and how he spreads his paint.
[GL] So Steve, tell us a bit about yourself? What’s your deal?
[SE] I’m an entrepreneur living in Cape Town and have been working as a freelance graphic and interior designer. For the past two years I have also been working on my own clothing label called Stencilworx. I was born and bred in Johannesburg but decided that the big land-locked city was not on my vibe. Having discovered surfing while living in Joburg, I decided that Cape Town was where I wanted to live and I have been in Cape Town for four years already.
[GL] That’s a brave move Steve. Please tell us more about Stencilworx?
[SE] As a promising illustrator and designer, I created graphics to print onto shirts but soon discovered that screen printing was not a viable option for me. After experimenting with different printing techniques, I discovered that hand-cut stencils solved a lot of printing problems. This developed into what is now known as the Stencilworx brand, which utilises stencils as the main focus for printing.
[GL] What makes Stencilworx unique?
[SE] The stencils are hand-cut and the clothing is hand-printed, offering limited runs and a customer-specific product. Each product has a personalised touch and no two items are ever the same and every item is unique.
[GL] What other techniques do you use and what other art do you create?
[SE] I experiment with pencil and ink drawings combined with water colour and computer rendering to produce my artwork. I also experiment with various other illustrations and paintings but I pretty much draw, paint and print whatever inspires me at a particular time.
[GL]On the subject of inspiration, where do you draw your inspiration from to create your art?
[SE] Much of my inspiration comes from surfing and surf culture, but also from life, experiences, books and watching too much WWE (laughs).
[GL] Interesting, but how did you get into surfing?
[SE] I was driving home from university one day and came across a pawn shop in Troyeville, Johannesburg, that was selling a surfboard for R30. It was an ancient 6’6 Andrew Carter, not much of a surfboard, more like a plank, but I couldn’t resist buying it. I learnt to surf in Kasouga in the Eastern Cape and as many of my friends caught onto surfing, surf trips became a ritual at every opportunity that presented itself. Seven-years later, I live in Cape Town and I’m a surf instructor at the Surf Shack in Muizenberg, so surfing has been part of my life ever since.
[GL] That’ a great story Steve, I can relate, because I learnt to surf with you and we went on many surf trips together. But tell us, where have you surfed and what is your favorite wave in South Africa?
[SE] My surfing adventures have taken me to Durban, the South Coast, the Wild Coast (Transkei), Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape, the Southern Cape, the Cape Peninsula and the West Coast. Of all these places, as a goofy footer with a appetite for crayfish and sleeping in a tent, I would have to say that Elands Bay is the place that holds fond memories for me. However, I enjoy surfing in Muizenberg too and I love it for its own reasons.
[GL] Nice. What surfboards are you riding at the moment?
[SE] I am currently riding a 6’4 thruster but also ride a 7’6 mini-mal from time to time. I also have a 6’6 thruster that I use regularly as well as a old-school Mike Larmont single fin that I use for special occasions.
[GL] And now for the most important question of all, I’ve left the best for last, do you have a girlfriend?
[SE] (Laughs) No, I am currently single but I am willing to entertain any ladies who are intrigued by this interview.
[GL] Well I hope that works out for you Steve and wish you all the best in everything you do, I look forward to surfing with you again…(laughs).
[SE] Thanks for your interest in my endeavors and hope to see you in the water soon, ciao.
If you are interested in Stencilworx, visit www.stencilworx.co.za and if you want to place a very special order, e-mail Steve on firstname.lastname@example.org. Ladies, this hunk of a man is up for grabs so if you want to speak to Steve directly and book a date with him, you can contact him on +27 084 762 7803 (laughs). As an alternative, you can also find Stencilworx on Facebook.
I must thank the Editor of ZIG ZAG, Mr Will Bendix, for publishing this letter because I feel it’s important to create awareness around the state of our oceans. Unfortunately he didn’t publish the poem accompanying the letter but I have included it here to drive the point home and get people thinking about it.
Year Of Our Ocean – Published in Zig Zag Surf Magazine April 2011
Surfing in the kelpy lineup of Elands Bay on 1 January 2011 was an amazing experience that made me realise how much we actually take the ocean for granted. As surfers and sea lovers, we reap so much love and joy from the ocean. Humankind, however can be brutal in raping and pillaging the ocean for what it’s worth – be it through oil pollution, over fishing, poaching, or plastic, you name it.
That’s why 2011 is so important. It’s officially Year Of Our Ocean or YOOO, an action-driven awareness campaign that’s running across the globe. Everyone can do their bit to save our oceans, even if it means simply pulling some plastic from the sea after every surf. So to all my fellow readers out there, use YOOO to start making the difference. Its our responsibility and the time is now.
In the darkness and the deep,
Where the mother yearns,
Do forgotten secrets sleep,
In love, her heart burns.
In the distant light to be,
With wind she must dance,
Her treasures for all to see,
In waves, lies her trance.
On the shore we stand in awe,
Her bosom full of joy,
Through her eyes we see our flaws,
Her soul, we destroy.
No matter what she will be,
Forever, she is our sea.