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