100 World Class South African: Shaun Tomson

2013-07-29 12:31

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Wise man of the sea

Before 1975, surfers caught inside barrels of water would crouch down and ride straight through as fast as they could, hoping to exit in one piece.

Shaun Tomson manoeuvred inside the tubes with fearless turns and dips and, right there, surfing changed forever.

That’s not all: SA’s first world champion surfer turned the sport into a career option; sponsors paid him to wear their wetsuits and offered competition prize money (the ‘old guard’ didn’t like it, and there were death threats and vendettas, according to the 2008 movie Bustin’ Down the Door).

Tomson launched the Instinct surf brand and, long before being ‘green’ was even thought of, he joined the Surfrider Foundation, the world’s largest group dedicated to protecting oceans and beaches.

He took surfing seriously and has said that those who do it well are the ‘most gifted athletes’ on the planet.

Tomson also believes that international experience helps people improve; as he told African Surfrider, ‘When that person returns, everyone perceives that level as the new standard and raises their game.’

He had one of the longest careers as a pro surfer, 14 years of globe-trotting, and was both the youngest and oldest to win an international tournament.

Now in his 50s and still surfing, Tomson’s created the Warp board for older wave riders and has distilled a lifetime of lessons into a book, Surfer’s Code, filled with quietly profound insights like ‘Always paddle back out’ and ‘Catch a wave every day’.

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