Everybody’s surfing…surfing South Africa! Surfing culture in South Africa has always been an integral lifestyle to a large population of beach goers. There probably isn’t one dune-filled beach on our golden shores that isn’t visited by a dedicated “shredder of the waves” everyday. And of course, some coastlines are religiously acquainted with surfers in the hundreds. Breathtaking views of the never-ending horizon, a welcoming group of genuine folk and an adrenaline rush that some will swear you can’t beat. This is the experience that South African surfers are blessed with. Our local scene is so world-renowned that it lures in pros from all corners of the international surfing community who dream about surfing in South Africa. This in turn attracts the attention of social media and a handful of brands associated with the industry.
As a surfer, you either do it for fun or for glory, and competitions leave a gap for brands to sponsor these events. These highly anticipated gatherings can draw in crowds by the thousands. The brands’ icons become monolithic and represent their vision, directly appealing to their consumers. Every contact point is utilised. Flag poles scattered around the beaches, merchandising stands selling branded gear to the public, to representatives and coordinators on site.
Surfing in South Africa - Destinations, Events & Brands
Jeffreys Bay is one of South Africa’s favourite locations for hobbyists of this extreme sport (and home to the supertubes, one of the world’s most exciting set of barrel waves to ride along). Every year, the small KZN town hosts “Winter Fest”, an extreme sports competition. Brands RVCA, Oakley and Woodlands Dairy have previously sponsored the proceedings and helped to bring a huge event to the national and international followers of surfing. The upcoming 2015 event is due to attract the likes of Kelly Slater, who has held the title of world champion 11 times before.
Quicksilver, a parent brand that owns the likes of Roxy and DC, facilitates the South African Surf series, which will be sponsored by Skullcandy, Zigzag Surfing Magazine and Techniblock sunscreen. The competition caters to three age brackets and offers a grand prize of R108 000 this year. The first set of events took place in Cape Town this March and will be followed by the second and third stages in Umhlanga Rocks and Port Alfred respectively.These incentives ensure that a top notch bunch of professional skill is consistently on show.
These spectacles tend to generate exponential hype in local conversation and social media platforms. The RVCA Rolling Retro surf event in Llandudno brings in an impressive crowd, amped to sit back and watch the legends showcase their confidence and skill on the waves. 2015’s event co-partnered with Vans, which organised live music for the event. Dudes and dudettes had the pleasure of cheering for Bliderberg Motel, The Designer Jets and Taleswapper on stage whilst the day’s activities was underway. Music is an integral cultural component of surfing in South Africa. It always pays of for big brands to dig deep into the psychology of their intended venue audience to really make a lasting impression.
Surfing in South Africa - Social Media’s Impact
Social media, especially Instagram, is essential in building a foundation for the collective marketing experience of these events. Images will be taken by attendees, surfers and external spectators. Brands that attach themselves to the online experience should promote trending hashtags to expand the reach and presence of their influence in these types of competitions. As winter begins to slowly encompass the South African weather system, waves will be cascading onto our beaches with immense power and strength. We have a very exciting year ahead of us with all of these upcoming events. A more comprehensible and detailed list of what’s on the surf scene in South Africa in 2015 can be found here.
Although surfing is a popular lifestyle activity, it could be bigger and appeal to a larger target market. It’s up to brands to further extend their base of marketing and appeal to a wider range of folk that may want to join in on the fun but don’t have the courage to do so - surfing in South Africa is still seen as a scary and dangerous feat for many. It will be interesting to see if brands like Quiksilver, Billabong and RVCA can cause a shift or “nuance” in the behavioural psychology of their potential surfing market.