This year Bruce Morrison is 70 years old and sails with the determination, agility and passion of someone half his age. When I am sailing alondside Bruce and straining every chord of my body to go faster than him, I forget that this man is 70 years old. I forget that he was one of the original pioneers of windsurfing in South Africa. Bruce as we know him is a humble man who has an incredible passion for windsurfing. Bruce has been a proud member of MAC for many years, yet many of us do not know the history of this great man. He is a wealth of information and truly an insperation to me and many others. I asked Bruce to document the bare facts of his windsurfing career below. (Edited by Robbie Bense)
"My Windsurfing Story" by Bruce Morrison
I Went to Club Med in Mauritius in Aug 78. I was 39 years of age and shit scared of any water over my head, and here were these experts teaching the Club's visitors a type of sailing I had never seen before. Everyone wanted to try it and fortunately I noticed that those learning could stand when they fell off, which of course was every few seconds. For two days at about 3 to 4 hours at a time I fell around with no success but I am rather bull headed when confronted with something I could not do. On day three something was very different, there were no whitecaps on the water, two knots of wind and a wonderful thing happened, I didn’t fall off and glided over the water experiencing a joy beyond belief, surely nobody can describe. I was hooked!!! In the next couple of days a race was organised by our instructors, a buoy was set out in the lagoon which to me looked about a mile far, but it was too late and I couldn’t back out, so off we went on a beam reach with me trying to estimate whether I could still stand, damn definitely not, so I was crapping myself and when I reached the buoy while trying to go around I naturally fell off! That wasn’t the worst; I fell off three times and also managed to pull the mast joint out of the board!
Well I'm still around so obviously I made it back. When I got home to Pretoria I asked about and this resulted in my wife, Yvonne and I taking a ride out to a small dam called Rietvlei, about 20kms north, It was August and and two guys were screaming up and down and that was it, I had to do this thing yet realised I would have to overcome my fear of deep water or forget it. I decided that I would damn well do anything just so that I could “Windsurf". Chatted to the sailors at Rietvlei who informed me that there were only two makes available and told me to visit Caravan Mecca in town and on Monday that is where I was staring at the Sailsurfer and the Windsurfer, it was no contest, the Windsurfer was the one I had learnt on so that was R595.00 plus for a roof rack and bungee tyedowns and I was off to heaven.
Got further info from my new found friends from Rietvlei who said the shop to visit was Windsurfing Africa in JHB and gave me the address. Of course I went soon probably immediately and I walked into a shop the floor of which was strewn with equipment and I was informed they, Boudewijn and company were packing complete rigs to be trailered to Durban for the Nationals to be held offshore at Addington Beach. Oh! So you guys race I asked? Bou took my phone no. and promised to contact me on his return to tell me about all the Regatta's that he organised all over the Transvaal. Racing here we come, I just LOVED to compete.
Bou is a shrewd guy and he saw my obvious enthusiasm and asked if I would like to open a shop with sole rights over a certain area? Well at that stage, forgot to mention that I was the playboy type making exceptionally good money out of my estate agency at that time, I turned him down but he didn't give up and suggested I just do it as a sideline. He won, this is something Yvonne will never forgive me for, and I closed my estate agency and converted it into "Sailboard Sailors" JA JA JA I know! Of course now that I was making money out of the sport, it was expected that I should put something back, yeah sure I was on various committees for the next 13 years, but did I have fun, yes overplenty, soooooooooo much. Can't remember exactly but my "Sailboard Sailors" shop ran for over ten years.
Once a month we had a "Points Series" regatta at places like the Vaal dam, Bronkhorstspruit, Boskop, large dams at the yacht clubs thereon, to smaller places like Victoria Lake and Sperwing Yacht Clubs. This series was run over the whole season resulting in the champions for each weight group when totaling the accumulated points earned. Then we had the Transvaal Champs which was run over a long weekend, usually Easter at a selected venue where we could camp and party of course.
Before I forget we had 4 disciplines that we competed in, namely.. a) Round the buoys racing, b) Freestyle i.e. tricks while sailing, c) Slalom, a short course knockout of two sailors at a time, d) Long distance course, chosen on the day with the strongest wind.
I was party to organizing these events which included Nationals and Worlds, every year for 13 years. I sailed in all the Nationals except the one at Mykonos, can't remember exactly why, but Yvonne was there, also a committee member, and I arrived there while they were packing up and then went and stayed with Russ Levine and his family in Cape Town for two weeks. The first 'Worlds' I attended was in 1981 in Okinawa, Japan and on arrival at Naga airport we divided our group of about 26 into those with RSA passports and those with foreign into which was 50/50,the latter receiving no special attention but the first South African that happened to be Taun Masterson was pulled into an office by the officials and asked if he was taking part in the 'Worlds' which of course he denied, so the officials wanted the leader of his group, which was decided to be me being the only grey haired one available, so off I went into the cubicle to become the lucky one who had to sign a document stating that we would not take part in the championship, yeah right! We were transported to our various?hotels, my group about 8 of us ended up in what was definitely a brothel with cockroaches crawling out of the holes in the mattresses, I slept like a rock while Yvonne fought off the crawlies and some of the others slept in the passage. The next day Boudewijn organised us alternative accommodation, real up market hotel and lucky for us just in time as a typhoon arrived and we spent 3 days holed up until allowed out and transport was running again. Well when we went to the regatta site, on arrival the Aussies as usual chirped, here come the S.A's again, but true to form the American team took us under their wing, asked us to choose ------ names, mine was Ben Noddy as I tended to doze off at any time when bored, and were given addresses in the U.S.A. should questions arise. We, that is all the contestants from all the countries taking part, were given an opening banquet by the? Mayor of the Prefecture in the town hall and wow!!! The food was indescribable. The regatta was great although the sea was very lumpy in the aftermath of the typhoon. Two incidents to mention regarding the US Marines stationed there, firstly one evening on the town we had to rescue Taun from the clutches of a gay marine who continued to follow him around until we explained that this was not on and secondly at the regatta site I was appr
oached by a friendly one who just wanted to chat and know a bit about me which of needed me to adopt an American accent and rush off rather bad mannerly to avert a possible ------- of my status. Later that day after the races and a few of us making our way to the shuttle transport, the? Friendly marine and a few of his buddies strolled by within earshot and we overheard him say "there goes that dummy"!!! Oops. At the prize giving when they announced a prize for the' Masters' i.e. over 39's and called for Ben Noddy and when no one responded Mark Fitz shouted from across the hall, hey Bruce that’s you! One more thing worth mentioning was that I on the way to the airport was really worried that I may be arrested over the signed document preventing our participation in the champs, because let face the Japs are not stupid they knew we took part but obviously did not want an international incident, however my concerns were without basis.
A year later I attended the 'Worlds' on the Italian Isle of Sardinia and there were some 360 contestants which resulted in about 75 sailors on the start line for each weight group. The South African flag flew no problem. Forza Italia!! We ran two World Champs in S.A. I think in'88 in Plett on the beach opposite the Beacon Isle hotel. Approx 254 contestants about a 100 foreigners. This was the high of my racing career and on my big day I won a race against the world’s best, came 8th in my weight group for the regatta and as Okinawa and Sardinia won the Masters.
P.E. in '91 was the next Worlds in S.A. with over 200 contestants and the last race stands out in my mind, as on the run, that is on the downwind leg of the course when you sail straight downwind with the sail in front of you, at the top of the swells it was like being on top of a double Decker bus and then down you go not forgetting to run to the back of the board so that you don't nose dive before ascending the next monster swell and waiting for wind to fill your sail again near the top and all this in 20/25.
The 44km Long Distance race at the Vaal Dam in + 20knots was also exciting as was the P.E.Hobie Beach to Blue Water Bay and back if you finished that is, because a few times when the wind went crazy nearly everyone had to be rescued. I was proud to finish 39th out of 99 on one of those days when my Hawaiian buddy and son Greg Aguera won and 38th was the top S.A. lady who was a local.
And you ask why I continue Windsurfing, for the love of it and of the guys and girls who also do and who have a never say die attitude to any challenge.