A friend of mine — a hot underground local surfer called ‘Roosta’ (Andrew Lange) has written a fine piece on Ant, helped by Bruce Gold and some of Ant’s other friends. To reflect Doc’s true message so he has enlisted three other ‘custodians’ of the South African surf culture; Bruce Gold, Christine Moller and Shorty Bronkhorst, to help weave this one down the line and into some proper sense!
Ant Van Der Heuwel was one of the pioneers of the surf lifestyle @ JBay
AL: You and Doc were cruising together on your first trip to J-Bay, right?
Shorty: It was in 1966 when he came back from competing for South Africa in Peru and ah, we actually did a trip to Cape Town and stopped off here in J-Bay on the way, and then stopped again on the way back. Then I had to get back hey and Doc said: “I’m staying a bit longer!” (laughs) and of course, there was nothing here I mean not a house in sight. We all camped in the dunes down the bottom of the point.
AL: What was the story with Doc when they wouldn’t give him his Springbok colours?
Shorty: He didn’t actually get them because there was John Whitmore you see, who told him that if he didn’t cut his hair he couldn’t surf and he just wouldn’t cut it! So they never gave him his colours. That tells you a lot about Doc hey? Rather than cut his hair, he’d rather not have his Springbok blazer! (more laughing)
Christine: “ Well, I also knew Tony since he was sixteen. It was during the Durban Lifesaving Club days, he was with Pirates and Shorty was at South Beach then Tony became a pro lifeguard as well.
AL: So then how did you two end up meeting in Hawaii?
Christine: I was over there from California and he came over from South Africa to stay and surf the North Shore, it was before all the contests started happening. Just before we left they started having one or two events, it was around ’66 I think.
AL: Were you guys like partying hard? What was the whole Hawaiian social scene like back then? Did you guys chill out in hammocks and drink weird smoothies or what?
Christine: No, it was quiet, I mean we’d go home, make dinner, go to bed n’ get up early the next morning! There was no nightlife, there were some youngsters from San Francisco and they got a light show going in Honolulu, that was about it.
AL: What about that really solid wave Bruce was telling us about what you and the Doc shared at Sunset when it was big?
Christine: We had a lot of waves at Sunset, I suppose, well it’s different the waves over there and I had my semi-gun, that was a beautiful board from Greg Noll, I could ride it in three-foot surf or ten-foot surf.”
AL: What was the story?
Christine: I dunno, the waves got bigger and bigger the way I hear it! (more laughter) I don’t think they were that big, I dunno I suppose you don’t think about it when you’re young and strong, you just go out there and you surf!
AL: Young and stupid hey? Just like me! Bruce, where and when did you first meet Doc?
Bruce: End of ’68 hey, right here at the point.
AL: Were you guys camping or what?
Bruce: Ja, we came out here on a surfing trip and Doc was staying here in a half a bus, half a silver bus. He’d been here for a while. He had a sore back from doing a flick-flack on a tiny green 5'6" surfboard, I even saw him shaping a board on the beach with some Aussie. Gavin Rudolph rode it the first time, I remember that was J-Bay in 1968.
AL: How would you describe Doc’s style of surfing?
Bruce: Very controlled, very powerful. Precise and considered surfing, stylish.
AL: What era suited his surfing best?
Bruce: Longboard surfing for sure. Mickey Dora came back here and he only rode longboards and he inspired us more or less to stay on the longboards.
AL: Tell us a cool story about the Doc.
Christine: Many years ago with my blue Kombi we went over to St Francis, we were actually looking at the pictures today, and Tony says “This is how you go in here,” as he waxes his board. There are all those stones there and he goes climbing over the stones and jumps on his board and starts paddling and knocks his skeg off! (heaps of laughter)
It was around ’92 when I first heard from an Aussie that the infamous Doc was on the scene again, having moved out the Pellsrus township. Staying at Koffie’s Surf Camp keeping the coals blazing around the fire and telling the tourists’ surf stories. I had to see it for myself and thus started my friendship and ‘tutelage’ with the Doc, Supertubes and the politics of Jeffreys Bay. Since all I’d ever heard through grommet hood was the name, like he was one of the pioneers of J-Bay or something, respect came naturally. You see Doc was as respected as he was hated at times. Animo-city is not a place in Disneyland, it lives and breathes in the lungs of spoilt antagonists in towns just like J-Bay. Doc lived the way he wanted, which was not without confrontation. Negativity as a result of his actions, habits and attitude came and went like the tide, like the two sides of Doc; one unequivocally cool, the other on edge, disillusioned and angry at the way things had become with the scene, crowds and the reckless overdevelopment of J-Bay.
Physically, at 59 ripe years of age, it was a challenge to camp in those dunes. For a while, he had his dog Faith and then Socks and all the crew in the ‘office’ under the boardwalk and things were rocking. Tight people, good times and bad. I’m sure a heap of us have spent many a day watching the show between sessions; Christine knitting Bippo beanies on one side, Bruce doctoring the Doc’s back on the other while he grooved to his radio, crafting leather boots and sandals and dogs and pups ran around your feet like crazy! Doc’s work was renowned the world over, check the old Art Brewer photo of his thigh-high Ugg boots, custom-built for the infamous Bunker Spreckles, not to mention Mickey Dora’s politically incorrect sealskin boots! (Still in the possession of one B. Gold) You just had to have patience and order your boots long before you left J-Bay. And so he eked out a few bucks from the leatherwork, did some interviews for surf mags and generally survived in a style one could only survive on in a place like J-Bay with its history as a surf-travel mecca and international meeting place for all forms of tube riding.
“You can spend your whole life trying to figure out how to make a million or you can spend your time doing what you love and what you’re good at!” — Doc quoted in South African Surfer magazine.