Gunston 500

Professional surf contest held in South Africa from 1969 to 1999, originally called the Durban 500; a world pro circuit mainstay in the '70s, '80s, and part of the '90s.

The inaugural Durban 500 was South African surfing's first pro event, and was billed as a team match between South Africa and Australia. Sponsor Gunston Cigarettes put up a 500-rand first-place award; other prizes included a motorcycle and hi-fi set. The two-day event was organized by Durbanites Ernie Tomson, Ian McDonald, and Max Wetteland, was held in good six-foot surf at North Beach, and won by 16-year-old Gavin Rudolph of Port Elizabeth. In 1971, the contest was renamed the Gunston 500.

By the time the world pro tour made its debut in 1976, the Gunston was attracting surfers from Australia, California, Hawaii, Brazil, France, and Great Britain. In 1973, local surfer and future world champion Shaun Tomson won the first of six consecutive Gunstons—no other pro surfer has so dominated a single event.

The Gunston 500 was occasionally held at Nahoon Reef in East London, 400 miles south of Durban, but most of the events were staged in Durban's Bay of Plenty. It was a men's division championship-rated tour event until 1993, at which point it became a second-tier contest, and a championship-rated women's event from 1992 to 1997.

The Gunston was twice caught up in South African politics. In 1972, in the days prior to the contest, big-wave charger Eddie Aikau from Hawaii was denied access to the event because of his skin color; Ernie Tomson smoothed things over and Aikau was allowed to compete, but he flew home bitter and angry. In the mid- and late-'90s, world champions Tom Carroll and Tom Curren, along with several other top-ranked pros, boycotted the Gunston 500 and all other South African surf contests, because of the country's ongoing apartheid policies.

Gunston 500 winners:

1969: Gavin Rudolph

1970: Midget Farrelly

1971: Brad McCaul

1972: Jeff Hakman

1973: Shaun Tomson

1974: Shaun Tomson

1975: Shaun Tomson

1976: Shaun Tomson

1977: Shaun Tomson

1978: Shaun Tomson

1979: Dane Kealoha

1980: Mark Richards

1981: Cheyne Horan

1982: Mark Richards

1983: Hans Hedemann

1984: Tom Carroll

1985: Mark Occhilupo

1986: Gary Green

1987: Damien Hardman

1988: Bryce Ellis

1989: Brad Gerlach

1990: Damien Hardman

1991: Brad Gerlach

1992: Sunny Garcia, Neridah Falconer

1993: Gary Elkerton, Rochelle Ballard

1994: Richie Collins, Pauline Menczer

1995: Shane Powell, Lynette MacKenzie

1996: Todd Prestage, Pauline Menczer

1997: Simon Law, Rochelle Ballard

1998: Shane Bevan, Lynette MacKenzie

1999: Luke Hitchings, Layne Beachley