According to Warren Lee, Jennifer Clarke is the type of mother that every wave-riding child wishes for: Jennifer owns a surf shop a short trot from the beach and is deeply engrained in the Western Province body boarding community. She drives long distances and understands the yearning impassioned love of a grom. When she is not waxing lyrically with South Africa’s top body boarders she is a sultry princess of the ocean, dropping down the face of waves with her close friends and fellow female devotees. She also – for better or for worse – understands the hierarchy of the wave riding community and has allowed her (recently) 18-year-old son to explore the dark side of manhood with a throng of some of Cape Town’s wilder body boarders.
Jen escaped the futility of the corporate world to open a surf shop in Melkbos. The surf shop was pretty simple, the one they did have in Melkbos was closing and that just wasn’t on in a town where there is always someone in the water. The shop was opened because Melkbos needs a surf shop and because 99% of the people there get in the water – kids, moms, dads, teens, they all love it and she knew they needed a local surf shop so that was that. Jen has a great crowd in Melkbos and the locals have been very supportive so it’s good for all of them.
Jen is involved in WOWEES which mean Women On Waves and SUPsistas who careen down the Big Bay promenade in full steamers on a weekly basis. Jen loves the first duck-dive of the first wave, being freezing cold, watching the birds fly overhead and the feeling she get knowing the she’s in this huge universe that is the ocean, she feels so connected there. The Wowees and the SUP sistas are amazing for her. Some have been in the ocean all their lives and some only just in the past few months and they all get that feeling – the freedom. No worries, no dishes, no beds to make, just free in the ocean for an hour or half that or more… but it’s their time and their bit of freedom.
To make tangible and lasting relationships with people in the industry, Jen, as much as possible, supports local, be it Melkbos or SA, and to deal with people in the industry who she feels are honest and hardworking and has a passion for what they do as well, which most of the reps seem to be, thankfully. Through that it’s pretty easy to talk shop and see the guys on the water as well as interact on a social level according to her.
According to Jen, one of her favorite things about the people in the industry is that they have so much talent in SA. They have Jared Houston, a Melkbos local, and Mark McCarthy ripping it up on the IBA (International Bodyboarding Association) Tour so she stocks what they ride. It’s good for them and good for her – she knows what they ride and they are always willing to give advice to her customers. They have some fantastic shapers in Melkbos: Halo and Carstens, they are always keen to give advice and they provide excellent products. They also have Ivan Van Vuuran, the owner of Corban Stand up Paddle boards, in Melkbos – another amazing waterman with a great product and Jen always knows where to find him if she needs to know anything SUP related: he will be on the water in one of a few local spots and Jen just has to time it right and catch him in the car park before he hits the surf or meet him out there and talk shop. So in a nut shell Jen has made some wonderful friends in the industry. They are great people, understand the importance of good products and they love the ocean too… easy.
Jen’s two sons also loved the ocean. She feels so fortunate that both boys love the ocean as much as they do and with it they have this great big ocean loving family, not just her and their dad but all the wonderful people they have met surfed and traveled with. Jen has never been asked by either of them for a Playstation or that Wi thing or a lift to the mall, her boys just want to surf and be with mates. What a thrill for them and how healthy to grow up knowing the real power of something like the ocean. How wonderful and how deadly it can be, it teaches respect and humility, fills your heart with joy and makes you cry tears from deep down. She think they live a full life, a true life thanks to the love of the ocean, so no problem, she supports them all the way and they even let her surf with them sometimes too.
Jen makes a point that her boys sports and education should be balanced. For her, if you want to be happy and successful, primary and high school education, acceptance of other cultures, beliefs and respect for life are critical. She lets her boys go out and have fun but she warned them both to do well and try hard in everything they do.