Simon Borchardt

Damian Willemse: It's so lekker to ride a wave!

Damian Willemse on how he started to surf, learning from a former pro, and how he rates his surfing skills.

How long have you been surfing for?
I’ve been surfing on and off for about two years. I didn’t surf regularly for the first year, I would just go on my off day or with the [Stormers] team for a recovery session. I got into it and saw it as a hobby, something I could do outside of rugby. It’s so lekker to get into the water and feel that excitement when riding a wave.

How did you learn to surf?
We did get a lesson when I went surfing with the team, but then you go into the water with 15 or 20 guys so there's not much room for coaches! I went back to Muizenberg on my own and did Roxy Davis’ Learn to Surf programme. A few coaches there helped me. This year, I started to get really passionate about surfing. I live in Strand, five minutes from the beach, so I got my own board. I can just put it in my bakkie and go for a surf.

What board have you got?
I got an 11-foot board from Jason at Bilt Surf in Durban.

You went for a surf last week with former pro surfer Seth Hulley. How did you meet him?
I met Seth through Howie Kahn, who’s my ‘boss’ at Adidas. Howie is close with Seth [who is Oakley’s sports marketing manager] and told me he’d put me in touch with him for some eyewear. We got to know each other and I help to promote the products he gives me. Apart from that, he’s a great human being and I love spending time with him. Not many people get to learn from a pro surfer, so I’m very lucky and grateful.

How would you rate your surfing skills?
I wasn’t too bad before lockdown, but then I couldn't surf for five or six months. I’m still trying to get back to where I was. I can stand up and ride the wave and move a little bit to the sides. I’d give myself a four or five out of 10! But I’m better than I used to be and better than some other people I know who have been surfing for a while.

Which of your Stormers teammates are the best surfers?
Pieter-Steph du Toit is quite good, and he’s a tall man! Johan du Toit and Dillyn Leyds also aren’t too bad.

Have you surfed at any interesting locations?
I had a lesson with Seth at Melkbosstrand last year. Otherwise, I've only surfed in Strand and Muizenberg.

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Photos: Craig Kolesky for Oakley