It's not easy for South African surfers to get noticed. When a single rand is worth .07 cents it makes international travel tough, and as anyone who's been to South Africa will tell you, it's not close to anywhere. So when QS athletes like Durban's Beyrick de Vries make headlines it's a big deal, like that time he scored a perfect 10 at Sunset in 2013, or a few weeks ago in Ballito, where he beat Jordy Smith, advanced to the Quarterfinals, and climbed to No. 12 on the Qualifying Series.
Ironically, he'd just walked away from his long-term sponsor and was on a free-surfing sabbatical when things started clicking. We caught up with Beyrick to find out how he's taking it all in.
WSL: Before the Ballito Pro, you decided that you needed some time off. What led to that decision?
BDV: Yes, I felt that I needed time off to realign my focus and energy. I needed to get my surfing and surfboards closer to a level that I was confident in, as well as break free from the contest bubble I had surrounded myself in. My approach to surfing was not the way I was used to and was way too tame.
I like surfing because it's raw and different every time, yet I felt as if I couldn't afford to go for an air, as I needed be safer and more rewarding. That got me bored, and after four years of thinking, living and surfing the same, I felt I needed to rattle my own cage a bit and get back to loving every moment on my surfboards. Which I am glad to say is happening right now.
What was your plan with this time off? You said at one point that you needed to "detox" from pro surfing.
I was just caught up in a stagnant mindset and running at a loss at the end of every year. That strain falls on my family and loved ones who are always over-keen to help out financially. I needed to set up trips and surroundings that would allow me to act like a grom again, to help be a surfer and not just a professional surfer, to get back to where I started, with so much energy and excitement. Where I stand right now, I have never felt more excited about surfing, and that will lead me to wherever I am destined to go.
How did it feel, relinquishing a good sponsorship?
That was one of the craziest times of my life. Quiksilver has always given what they can here in South Africa, and have been like my family for 10 years. Leaving wasn't easy at all, but it was these types of massive decisions that I had to make to jolt my life back into a simple yet productive mindset and start myself off from the bottom again.
I didn't know where I was going with this whole year off and did not want to sign a contract, and then find myself at a crossroads where my next move might not represent the brand entirely. So basically I needed to be single so my day-to-day decisions would not affect those who support me. I needed space to move.
Were you looking to get a job? There was a rumor that you were going to sell your dad's Water From Air machines.
Yeah, having no money can leave you in an extreme pickle or it can help slap your head into gear and begin a simple learning journey. My father is my idol. He has had to move and shake his whole life to stay afloat so he taught me not to be scared by money, but rather be excited about the endless possibilities when you have a plan and are consistently going after it.
I have a plan with Water From Air. I truly believe in the product and can't wait for the rest of the world to catch on. It's not like I'm selling washing machines you know, there is something special in sharing water and now we can share the technology to help people create water wherever they are.
Right now I can afford to live until after Cascais in Portugal, so I'll just try double or triple my numbers now without any pressure and try keep this business (Beyrick Inc.) afloat.
You then did well in some QS 1,000 events in South Africa.
I decided to surf the two QS1,000 events in Cape Town, the Cape Town Pro and the Vans Surf Classic at Lamberts Bay. They were close to home and I could afford them. I got a first and a third at those events.
What did this do for your confidence?
These two results were a firm reminder that my new approach to surfing was working. I've never had more fun at those two events and felt that if I could manage to keep things this simple and fun, then results would follow.
Then you went on to Ballito for the Ballito Pro QS10,000 event. You looked in form from the start.
Again in Ballito, my approach was mellow. To focus on my surfing and be confident -- that if I impressed myself, the judges would follow suit.
I was able to tap into the beach's energy a lot more than previous years and that helped an insane amount. I was having big braais with my closest friends and completely being on a free surf trip at nights. Which is starting to help me realize that they might not be too different, contest and free surfing, just a different energy for the time surfing, the approach can and should be the same in my eyes.
Is there anything different in your equipment?
Yes, I have had the honor of working closely with Daniel Keggy of Hurricane Surfboards and spending a lot of time with him has paid off hugely. There's no more guessing in my surfboards.
Something else seemed to click in Ballito.
Keep things simple, stay present in my heats and things will work.
Did you expect to win those two specialty awards?
Those two specialty awards were just icing on the cake of an awesome week. I heard rumors of both but didn't think I would end up taking both away.
Your day's winnings were about $10k, (R150k), but what did your success that day do for your state of mind?
It was just another firm reminder to stay on the path I am currently on, thinking like I currently am and to always put surfing first. The rest will follow.