Hot Heels Africa by Tommy Watson[wptouch target=”mobile”]
Hot Heels South Africa (HHSA) Words By 3rd Place Tommy Watson
It’s a race that’s been happening for 11 years in South Africa and before that was hosted for 10 years in Austria from 1993 to 2003. The race is known for tight riding, speeds and the stark beauty of the Kogelburg Biosphere Nature Reserve. The course has two named corners: Lloyd’s Left and Baboon Bend (a right). There’s a straight section at the top of the course with a right kink and two pavement transitions before Lloyd’s, a straight with a rise before Baboon Bend, and then the sweeper section to the finish. Needless to say, drafting and wind play a huge part in this race!
The Kogelburg course commands a lot of respect. Lloyd’s Left is named after Lloyd McPherson, a junior who died just before the corner in 2004. The videos you see do not do this course justice! High winds, and the narrowness of the road in combination with the no-break style corners mean that you need to have your lines on lock. If you don’t make it through the corners, the consequences are high. Lloyd’s has sharp rocks just behind the bail line and Baboon Bend has a daunting guard rail. The nature of these two corners is such that hay bails must be placed to stop riders from going past the bails, which means that when you fall you get bounced back in to the road. This can cause pile ups if you have riders behind you.
There were a handful of guys that were crowd favorites going in to race day:
Local legend, stoke-master, and key figure in the scene. He was looking quick all weekend, using his light weight as an advantage to blast in to the turns and keep his grip. Richard rides for House Of Marley, Boardhub, Sector9, Randal Trucks, Etnies and Rad Wheels.
He had just come off of a win at the previous weekend’s Plett race. He’s a big dude, and had the skills and speed to make it happen at Hot Heels. Jason rides for Core Skate Shop, Arbor SA, G-Form SA, RAD SA, MYi Trucks and Nork Helmets.
Dec’io has been destroying every race in South Africa this year with 1sts at every event accept for High Rising coming in to Hot Heels. The cool thing as well is that he was an un-known at the start of the season! Decio rides for Baboon Boards, Puma, Rayne Longboards and Rad Wheels.
Stephan hails from Durban, home to the Valley of 1000 Hills. He’s another fast guy with all of the practice and tallent to take a victory at Hot Heels. Stephen rides for Longboarding Warehouse, G-Form as well as Sector 9 and Rad.
International Riders are often a threat at Hot Heels. They generally come with a well rounded race experience and have an intimidation factor since most locals have not skated with them before, only having heard of them through media.
This year’s event saw some gnarly winds and the speeds generated were some of the fastest that the event has ever had. Where there is usually no breaking involved, this year riders were keeping their options open. Predrifting, footbreaking and carving to were all on the table to deal with the added speeds going in to Lloyd’s. However, some riders took the risk and with an optimal line were able to negotiate the corner without slowing down, narrowly missing hay bails with the wide entry and exit necessary to make it happen. With the additional speed, there were additional crashes throughout the course and unfortunately a few riders saw broken bones. On the third day, riders were given 2 timed qualifying runs. The winds varied dramatically all day and gusts were frustrating on the start. Even with this, the top riders were within 5 seconds of each other. Dec’io set the time on his first run, and everyone battled to beat it for the rest of the day.
On race day, the winds were at their most hectic that weekend and the decision was made to move the start line down to reduce the speeds going in to the turniest section. Hot Heels is the only race course that has claimed the life of a rider, and with the amount of injuries that had happened over the practice days, it was important to lower the risk to riders as well as the event as a whole. Should the ambulance have to leave the course, the event wouldn’t continue.
In the end the finals came down to up and comer Tom Courly, Dec’io Laurenc’o, Stephan Hayes and myself. Positions changed up throughout the run but after the finish Dec’io had another 1st for the season.
- Decio Laurenco
- Stephan Hayes
- Tommy Watson
- Tom Courly
The South African scene still has that young-and-stoked feel to it. You can get by on very little money; barbecue every day, and if you’re old enough there’s great local breweries. This along with the natural beauty, sick local hills, great racing and the incredible hospitality of the locals will keep me coming back to South Africa as much as I can. Big thanks have to be given to SAGRA for hosting what continues to be an awesome race; new Rayne Longboards Distributor Baboon Boards for having me and showing me how good rare steak is. Sam, you’re a champion for giving me your bed and you’ve got mine whenever you’re in the area!