Over a weekend in Cape St Francis during the South African longboarding championships, I caught up with all-time favourite friend, surfer and traveller Andrew David Bance. We got chatting about life, the present, the future and the love of his life… surfing.
Andrew started surfing at the age of nine. A few borrowed boards and surf sessions later, and by 14 he found himself in the world of competitive surfing.
Growing up in Houtbay, Cape Town, Andrew wasn’t far from some of the best waves in the country. Lundudno was his local spot and so, as longboarder, he had to get used to fast-breaking beach breaks, barrels and raw power while he was perfecting his technique. Whether he’s surfing two-foot Muizenberg or charging eight-foot waves on a recent trip to G-land, Andrew’s passion lies in combining traditional longboarding techniques with the modernity of current-day performance surfing. He is a diverse and talented surfer: together we’ve surfed shortboards, longboards, any boards… we’ve wakeboarded and skurfed, we’ve been tow-in surfing with his local crew. Of all the days I’ve spent by his side it is clear that it is the ocean where he feels most at home.
Andrew’s mom, Sue, kick-started his pro career – while buying a block of wax at the Corner Surf Shop in Muizenberg one afternoon she noticed a poster advertising a longboarding contest. On her return home, she presented Andrew with the paid-up and completed entry form. He went on to win the contest. The Western Province Championships was up next, where Andrew secured a Puma sponsorship – the only longboarder to ride for them. He made it to the semi-finals in 2008 championships, and in the 2009 championships he surfed to secure a place in the quarterfinals. He knows that you win some, you lose some.
In the past few years, Andrew has made a conscious change of direction, taking his focus off surfing for the masses, the media or the judges in favour of surfing for the love of it. Instead of chasing the prize, Andrew has been experimenting with innovative new ideas, finding a balance in life and bringing his dreams back into perspective.
What does his future hold? Big-wave surfing, he hopes, although he admits he’ll never stray too far from his first love and keeps on being excited about getting creative and mixing and merging performance and style. Although Andrew is extremely passionate about South Africa and its world-class waves, he’s definitely interested in the overseas longboarding scene. Europe’s circuit, for instance, is much more welcoming – more about the art of surfing compared to the competitive surf world here in South Africa.
But for now, Andrew refuses to let contest results rule his life; he is committed to staying true to himself and not selling out. He firmly believes that competing should never become so important that it takes away your passion and love for what you do. From one-foot onshore slop to eight-foot barrelling perfection, you’ll find Andrew out there still getting as stoked as the first time he stood up on a board.
We never got to see much of the South African longboarding championships, because Andrew and I headed off to let adventure unfold. We checked the surf but it didn’t look too promising, so we drove back routes, with farmlands and dirt tracks as far as we could see. We helped a little tortoise out the road before a truck nearly ended all three of our lives. We 4×4’d on a quarry sand dune; we got a call to say the surf was great; we stopped to buy some snacks. The car died; we got it fixed. We went surfing and we ended a lazy sunny afternoon with a skate park session.
Andrew has big dreams and great ideas and I feel privileged to be part of his life. When he is around life is exciting and spontaneous, without effort. He brings a magical element to everyday mundane life; opportunities are never out of reach and nothing is impossible. He’s the most individual person I know; he’s the heart of the party and my own personal superhero. Life with Andrew is summer all the time, laughter without end and dreams without limitations. He lives out loud in leaps and bounds and to him, surfing is like oxygen in a suffocating world.