An interview with Cheron Kraak:
“We were so in our own little world in Jeffreys Bay in those days, our own little bubble, and I remember someone saying to me, “You should have an international surf contest here. Look at the waves.
So that was when we held the first Country Feeling Classic in ‘84. We didn’t advertise, it was so low key the whole thing, and I remember someone said to me, “Is there going to be surf for your contest?” I said, “Of course there’s going to be surf!”
I wasn’t sure about much else to do with it, but I knew there would be waves. And it was held just over a weekend, there was no such thing as a waiting period in those days. I woke up the day of the contest and it was eight foot.
Ari, the guy I was married to at the time, said to me Gordon Merchant from Billabong is here and he has this kid from Australia with him. He paddled out there and just blazed, blew everyone out of the water. That kid was light years ahead of everyone, and he won the event. It was Occy, of course.
The following year was classic. Back in ’85, our event used to be held just before the Gunston in Durban. Occ had come over to South Africa early to stay with us, and he’d asked if he could come back and stay when he got back from Durban. I said, “If you win the Gunston you can come back and stay.” On the Sunday night I get this phone call. “Hey, Cheron, it’s Occ. I won the Gunston. Can I come back and stay?”
Watch some amazing footage of early J’Bay
And that was it; I don’t think he’s missed a year since. When the kids were young he’d hang out and play with them and look after them and fight with them. I’d make him eat his vegetables because he was still so young and I’d say, “Don’t forget to brush your teeth, Occy.” It was like having another kid around.
But he was all time. Occ was so much fun. And even when he had his wobbly times he’d come back here and hang out for six weeks. He’d arrive here with a suitcase, and the suitcase would have no clothes in it. “Occ, where are your clothes?” “Oh, they were dirty so I left them at home.” Then he’s leaving to go to America and I go, “Occ, have you got any money?” and he pulls 10 rand out of his pocket.
Occ was the first guy to come and stay with us, and then the floodgates opened. He was the first of many. Most of the guys were young and didn’t have much of a clue about where they were, so this became their home while they were here. The town was way smaller and there was no restaurant here on the point back then, so all these guys would hang out and eat here. It sort of became the place to hang out for all those guys. Every year I see the guys who have stayed here and they’re still the same.