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Getting to Know: Robin de Kock

Robin de Kock has been involved in surfing administration since 1974 and was elected President of SA Surfing in 1987. Following unification in 1992 he was once again elected President of Surfing SA, before standing down in 2001 to take on the role of General Manager – the position the currently holds.

Q: As GM, what are your areas of responsibility and is it a full-time position?
A: I manage the day-to-day affairs of SSA and report to the elected board. I am the only full-time person in SSA.

Q: Are you a surfer yourself and how would you describe your relationship with the sport?
A: I started surfing 61 years ago and at 69 don’t surf anymore. However, I regard myself as a surfer, as I have been involved in the sport for over 60 years.

Q: What impact has the coronavirus had on surfing in SA, beyond the obvious?
A: We have not been able to run any events, projects or programmes since 15 March. This has negatively affected our athletes, officials and sponsors, both competitively and financially.

Q: What was the background to the recent coming together of Surfing SA and Canoeing SA on the sport of stand-up paddleboarding?
A: We have not come together – it is a collaboration. We agreed that, in the interests of the athletes, Surfing SA looks after stand-up paddle surfing and Canoeing SA looks after flat water stand-up paddling. SSA has expertise in managing surfing, whilst CSA has expertise in managing distance racing.

Q: Give us a sense of how big the sport of surfing in South Africa is, in terms of participation numbers, and are you able to detail how many professional surfers you have?
A: In 2019 there were about 5,000 participants in all the surfing disciplines, from grassroots to elite. Surfing does not have a distinction between amateur and professional.

Q: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, how many professional surfing events did you have per year in South Africa?
A: In 2019 there were 17 events where surfers could earn prize money.

Q: Once sport in general is back up and running, do you anticipate change, in terms of how it is run, consumed, commercialised etc?
A: Yes, there will be changes to how events are run, consumed and presented. For example, there are more wave pools, so there could be more events held at these facilities and there is also the possibility that ‘e-contests’ could be held more often. That’s where surfers submit clips that are then judged by a panel of experts.

Q: What sort of commercial support does Surfing SA enjoy and how do you ensure your sport ‘punches about its weight’ and gets its slice of the financial pie, in terms of sponsorship?
A: Up until COVID-19, Surfing SA was well-supported by a number of commercial sponsors from abroad and a diverse spectrum in 2019. We are confident that surfing as a product will continue to attract diverse sponsors when the opportunity arises again.

Q: Which sports organisations – either in SA or abroad – do you believe are getting it right, in terms of marketing and commercialising their product, and why?
A: IPL Cricket and international rugby.

Q: Where would you like to see surfing in South Africa in 10 years’ time?
A: Flourishing!

Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

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