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Young surfing champ

It’s that time of year again… when the North Coast comes alive in the build up to the country’s biggest annual surfing contest, the Ballito Pro. And while the top professional surfers from around the world are strutting their stuff in the main events, there is sure to be some pretty gnarly surfing from the youngsters too! Meet local SA champ, Gabi Herbst.

She loves ballet, bearded dragons and long surfing sessions – especially when the dolphins come out to play. Eleven-year-old Gabi will be amongst the top young surfers in the country taking part in the Junior Pro, which runs from 27 to 30 June, before the main event starts on 1 July.

Having won the U12 SA champs title when she was just 10 years old, young Gabi also won the U12 Ballito Pro and Seal Point contests last year. Gabi is one of three children and has an older sister and a twin brother. She loves animals, sport and nature…

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1. Tell us about when you started surfing.
I started surfing about four years ago when I was 7. I used to play around and standing up on my boogie board in the pool, until one day I had the urge to go into the ocean and become one with it. Now being in the sea keeps me sane and fills me with good vibes and happiness. The best part of my day is when the dolphins come out.

2. What has been the highlight of your surfing career so far?
My highlight is probably when I won SA Champs.

3. How do you balance your surfing training with school?
I do lots of ballet – and yes, ballerinas can surf! I also do training with the High Performance Surfing Academy and stay active at home. How do I balance them? Well, it all depends on time. I sometimes go surfing after school, if I don’t have any extra murals, and I go for long sessions on the weekend.

4. What is your ultimate surfing goal?
My ultimate surfing goal is to make it onto tour and hopefully make surfing my job one day.

5. Who do you look up to in the surf world?
I look up to Jordy Smith because he is a local Durbs boy who never gives up, no matter what. He is also passionate about the ocean like me. Also, Tyler Wright, because us girls can be strong too!

6. What five things can you just not live without?
The ocean.
My pet bearded dragon – he is my life and the sweetest guy I know!
My family and other pets – they all make me laugh.
My trampoline because I like to play with my brother and sister when I get bored…
Food and water.

With a brand-new presenting sponsor, this year’s Ballito Pro now presented by O’Neill, is the 51st event and is being hosted in KwaDukuza for the 11th consecutive year. The surfing festival runs from 27 June to 7 July with the junior event from 27 to 30 June, for surfers 18 years and younger aiming for selection for the WSL Africa squad. Visitors and festival-goers can look forward to all their usual favourite non-stop activities, including live SA music acts, beach and extreme sports, cooking contests and loads of food and retails stalls.

Details: www.ballitopro.com

Photographs: Craig Dove

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