Can the young South African surfer go the distance?
Currently, the Cape Town surfer Michael February is battling it out on his first year on the championship tour and has yet to kick into a rhythm that would see him stride ahead into a safe place for the 2019 season. He is currently rated 27th on the Championship Tour, although that will improve a few slots as the retired Fanning and Parkinson are ahead of him, but he is not in a firm place to requalify for the tour next year. In fact, it is Mick Fanning’s retirement after Bells this year that saw Mikey get his slot on the tour because he was going into the year as a first replacement surfer – but with Fanning gone Mikey went in to replace him on a permanent level.
That fact that he might not requalify doesn’t seem to worry him too much, with the lanky natural-footer sticking to his guns and his game plan. He knows what to do, but he just can’t seem to get any calls going his way when it gets crucial.
Mikey – or MFeb as he is also affectionately known – was born in 1993, a year before the country had its 1994 rebirth. Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa when Mikey was one year old, and he was a product of the new South African environment. It was flawed, corrupt, and dangerous, but an environment that slowly becomes more accepting of everyone. That – in its very simplistic form – is really what everyone wanted. Acceptance.
He had a great run through the ranks in South Africa before joining the elite tour. He was a top junior surfer who competed on the substantial Billabong Junior Series events in South Africa as well as the similar Quiksilver King Of The Groms events that took place around the same time.
His style was always unorthodox, with arms and legs all over the shop, but it still pleasing to the eyes, and instead of being fixated on his style and trying to contrive it, he simply embraced it for what it was and hoped that it would smooth out.
It did. It might have been his endless JBay trips, following good Cape Town swells up the coast and surfing Supers until the swell had moved on that helped to smooth it out and make it beguiling to watch. It worked as well, with the runner-up positions in the JBU Supertrial – the trials event for the Corona Open JBay – going Mikey’s way for 2015 and 2016, with him getting a slot into the main event both years and then getting the 2017 WSL wildcard into the same event, giving him three years in a row of competing at JBay at a CT level while not being on the tour.
Well, now that’s he’s on the tour, he can’t seem to get a good run of heats together in one event, with his recent quarterfinal at Teahupo’o being the highlight of his year so far. With nothing on the table for the QS backup, MFeb is going to have to make good at Lemoore and in Europe and who knows, after his Chopes dominance he might be a dangerman at Pipe as well.
Either way, it’s going to be a tough endgame for the likeable lad. We caught up with the guy to see what was going on, and he was buoyant and talking about the positive stuff only.
Who is your biggest inspiration in surfing, and why?
My biggest inspiration in surfing at the moment would probably be guys like Dane Reynolds, as well as legends like Buttons (RIP). Both are and were really creative in the way they surf and surfed, and it’s really appealing to me to see such different lines.
If you could change one thing in competitive surfing right now what would it be?
I think that it would be rad if they added style into the criteria (laughs).
Talking of style, tell us about your number from the WSL? What does it all mean?
Yes. After the top 34, there aren’t too many left, but I chose 54. It’s the number of countries in Africa, so it’s like I’m representing the whole of Africa.