Gary Van Rooyen was known as “the main man” at New Balance South Africa. Before this he had been in the surf industry for 10 years, he started a number of small sports agencies, lost the ranch and all its contents, before he was picked up by Converse and Saucony as their local Agent. This led him to being employed by Nike as the Regional Sales Director for 7 years, but once the real corporate rules kicked in, he became despondent and was about to jump off the treadmill. That was when New Balance International approached him to start up NB South Africa.
Gary loves heading to the beach, sometimes he even lies to his staff about having “to go into a meeting” when he is actually going for a surf. In early the 80’s, Gary went to Hawaii and was able to surf Sunsets, Pipeline and Honaluha Bay, while he was on the North Shore, they had a few issues, like the time when someone resembling a Sumo wrestler threatened them and gave them 3 minutes to get out of the water! They subsequently stole their soft-racks off their Cadillac and left them trying to squeeze 5 guys and 6 boards inside the car.
Gary was the first to person in South Africa to windsurf Witsands, Crayfish Factory and Outerkom. He was also the undefeated SA Surf Sailing Champ for 4 years. For all the places that Gary has visited, the 2nd best place for him aside from Capetown is Madagascar. There are no crowds and the tropical conditions are epic according to him.
One of the worst days that Gary has experienced is when he was going over the falls on a 10ft day at Crayfish Factory and being dragged for 50m while being held under.
gary first encounter surfing when he was 6. He was playing down at Muizenberg beach with his mate and they both found a broken in half longboard which they carried into the water and managed to catch a few waves and even stood up. However, it was far too heavy for them to carry home, so they hid it in the dunes but never saw it again!
Although he was always swimming, diving and playing water-polo it wasn’t until Gary was 14 year old that his Wynberg Boys High school buddies convinced him to come down to Muizenberg on a September school holiday break-up day and try surfing out properly for the first time. He was dressed in a rugby jersey and tracksuit pants, on a borrowed 7ft cut-down. He sat at the back of the berg for 2 hrs without catching a wave. Eventually, he caught a foamy in and got to his knees – stoked! He was back the next day and stood for the 2nd time ever.
Gary’s shortboards, longboards, custom SUP’s and kiteboards were all made by Dave Stubbs because he loves and likes to support locals. Gary is amped on all types of waveriding which is lucky as Cape Town has it all. The Witsands coast cuts it when he is kiting, Outer Kom has the juice for SUPing and shortboarding and then Long Beach, despite the crowds, is always fun on what ever you are riding. He said the odd ‘shack’ at Crons is always a keeper on any board he has.
His favorite surf spots are at Crons or Flameballs in Madagascar.
For Gary, surfing defines who he is. It’s his way of escaping, his expression, his release and his love. The Cape ‘ICEMAN’ Johnny Paarman has had a great influence on Gary in the world of surfing.
Gary advices would be surfers to start with a surfing instructor or a surf school. This is because of a number of incidents where people have been fighting over waves in the water. He does not think enough emphasis is placed on the etiquette and rules of surfing. He would like all surfers to start from there. Surfers should be polite, shouldn’t hog every wave and share the passion and stoke with everyone.
Surfers can’t escape the love-hate relationship that exists between the SUP and surf crowds in Cape Town. Gary understands that it is difficult for surfers to accept someone on another craft who is able to paddle faster and catch a wave earlier, but they had the same issues decades back with paddlesurfers, and then kiteboarding. Eventually, the frenzy and negativity dies down and it mellows out and people find their way. Nowadays, Muizenberg is a bit of an issue but they coach and influence all the SUP folk to surf from the small circle down towards the vlei mouth and this seems to be working. Long Beach isn’t an issue yet because there aren’t more than 3 of them playing there. But if more guys come and SUP there it will become an issue and they will have to go off to Pebbles or another break. Long Beach won’t hold or tolerate a crowd of SUP’ers. It seems as though the Seli Wreck has become the SUP spot on the Atlantic and while the surfers have kicked and screamed, he thinks it’s accepted now.
Gary loves to surf together with Shaun Tomson, and enjoys his amazing stories – his victories, losses (including his son), his challenges and travels. Gary loves being with him.
Gary now runs Coreban International which is a Stand Up Paddle boarding company which is based in South Africa. He is a major player in the Stand Up Paddling world, and a great leader for the sport and South Africa.