While we all are looking forward to our next travels, even if it is just up road or along the coast, Ryan Lightfoot (19 year-old competitive longboard surfer) reflects on his last adventure right before Covid-19 shut us all down in our own countries and homes.
It was a planned part-brother-part solo-trip (shared with Dylan Lightfoot, QS surfer) and meant to last till April, ending off with the surf mecca, Indo! Even though it turned out differently – good memories were made and shared…
Hi RYD Team,
Leaving my hometown (Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa) on the 30th of January, I was looking forward to an awesome 3-month sabbatical of exploring, surfing and sightseeing. Afterall, I had just finished school the previous year and the world was my oyster.
I knew I had a very long trip ahead and to be honest I didn’t have any idea where I was going go in New Zealand save for my good friend (Tristan) meeting me at Auckland International Airport and being my (surf) guide for a while. Turns he lives in a quaint and beautiful little town called Mount Maunganui, which offered natural beauty by the bucket!
And what is a trip without a funny story or costly mistake? In our infinite wisdom, we decided to use Uber scooters for the first time. There was only one problem; neither of us had cellular data (youth problems), but we found a rental agency that was located near a Wi-Fi hotspot and rented some scooters. Unfortunately, we did not realize that you needed data/Wi-Fi to conclude the rental and to stop Uber from taking money off our accounts! Once we returned home, reality dawned on us and we started stressing, fearing massive credit card deductions! We ended up racing all the way back to the original hotspot to end the rental and thus made our scooter ordeal almost pointless save for a hard lesson learnt.
We then made a trip to the world-renowned Raglan and scored some fun lefts. It was the cherry on top of my trip. It reminded me of the dreamy point breaks back home, just in reverse. It was a real mind bender at first, yet a real treat to surf long perfect lefts.
I was truly sad to leave New Zealand, but I had plenty of adventures ahead, so the excitement levels were high!
The next stop was Brisbane Australia. I had arranged with my fellow RYD team rider Steven Sawyer to pick me up and take me to the dreamy seaside village of Noosa Heads. We were a little cramped in our car with the stack of 9-foot longboards we were hauling, but somehow, we made it work! Once Steven dropped me at my accommodation, I was frothing to get into the water. The first sight of Noosa really is an amazing experience. It was a real dream come true to surf at Noosa, although the waves were less than dreamy unfortunately.
I competed in the WSL Noosa Open of Surfing event and was stoked to win my first heat in super tricky conditions. Ever since I started longboarding Noosa has been at the top of my bucket list. It is just the most perfect wave to ride!
Unfortunately, I was knocked out in the third round, but I will cherish the amazing memory for a lifetime!
Having my brother, Dylan at the event was an incredible confidence builder – he is my number one fan and supporter!
Dylan has always been the more competitive one and has been surfing contests ever since he could stand on a surfboard. I also competed for many years in the shortboard scene, but I started losing interest after a while. This continued until a friend convinced me to do a longboard trial event and by some miracle I managed to win, on a borrowed board! Winning the trial was not the reason I got hooked on the sport, it was more the laid-back approach to the event that got me. Everyone was there only for one reason and that was to enjoy the sport we all love so much. Since then I’ve decided to only compete in longboard events and ride whatever board I feel will bring the most enjoyment — no matter if it’s a twin fin, longboard, single fin or even a shortboard from time to time.
From Noosa we went to Avoca on the central coast, over 1000km’s to the south. Dylan had three events along the New South Wales coast, and we ended up traveling together for most of our Australian trip. I was his board caddy, designated cook, coach, film maker and supporter over this time and we did some great brother bonding!
His last contest was in Manly on Sydney’s northern beaches. When he got knocked out of the event, he left me stranded at a local backpackers, leaving for Piha in New Zealand for his next stop on the QS tour. On arriving in New Zealand the unfortunate news broke, that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all WSL events were cancelled for the foreseeable future. We were meant to join up again after the Piha event and head to a surf camp in the Mentawai Islands to conclude our surf adventure. But unfortunately, due to COVID19, the surf camp was closed and we had to cancel our flights.
Dylan immediately booked a ticket home. I on the other hand decided to stay in Manly and continue my adventure for a little while longer. My last few days in Manly consisted of making new "mates" in the backpackers and catching the ferry every morning to explore Sydney.
My adventures came to a halt on the 23rd of March when I arrived back in Port Elizabeth. After many hours of traveling with a mask and gloves, we touched down just in time for South Africa’s Coronavirus lockdown.
I am so thankful that I got the opportunity to experience all these new places, surf amazing waves and make new friends.
2020 has been very different so far, for all of us, but I for one am looking forward to what the future holds. In 2021 i’m planning to study a bachelor’s degree in IT at the Nelson Mandela University, which coincidentally has some great surf spots nearby. After completing my degree, I hope to work for myself, traveling the world with my longboard and laptop, surfing as I go, hoping that around the next corner may be the perfect wave...
With all the uncertainty we face, one thing is for certain... in years to come we will look back and be more appreciative of what we have in life. Not in the worldly possessions we acquire or titles we win — but the memories we make, the family and friends we hold dear, and the sense of community as we stand united in the face of a pandemic and economic crisis... Oh, and we’ll never take the ocean for granted again!