Surfski Rock Gardening, South African Style

Aptly named Richard von Wildmann shreds Port Elizabeth's 'Suctions' in an Epic V7 surfski

By Richard von Wildmann

Like many paddlers I often dream of running massive waterfalls (emphasis on the word dream). It just looks so darn cool and exhilarating! In reality though it takes years of incremental trial and error to run the huge rapids and waterfalls our whitewater kayaking heroes slay on a regular basis.

To be honest I don’t think I’ll ever get there. While on my honeymoon I witnessed a flooded Zambezi River roar over the biggest waterfall on earth. It put the fear of God into me. So in order to get my kicks kayaking I set my sights on something more manageable and closer to home.

I have spent nearly three decades messing about in a blowhole/ pourover of sorts in my hometown of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. We locals call it the Suction Pool.

As nippers we’d often sneak off to mess about Suctions, holding onto the wall when the swells would slam into the rocks and pour over us with ferocity. To a young mind, the five seconds one had to grip the algae-strewn wall felt like minutes. Nobody knows if it’s manmade or natural, but it’s been there forever. The kids still love it and lifesaving coaches despise its pull factor. We’d push the limit, playing in the feature during king tides when the rock formation would get totally submerged.

In all the years I’ve been paddling surfskis, I’d never ventured into the Suction Pool on one. Main reason being that a proper carbon race ski is a delicate and expensive craft. Then Epic released its V7 ski, made of rotomolded plastic—the same durable stuff those waterfall-hucking whitewater boats are made of. I thought, why not.

On Friday September 30, channeling the legends we see in pages and feeds of C&K I donned a helmet, grabbed my Epic V7 and gave Suction Pool a go. Was I scared? Hell yes! But I’ll be back. Rock-Gardening is a whole bunch of fun when done safely and it’s a bug that has definitely bitten.

Filmed by: Dean Cothill

Location: Pollok Beach, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Paddler: Richard von Wildemann

Craft: Epic Kayaks V7

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