A large group of supporters gathered at the George Airport on Saturday to welcome South African surfer, Bianca Buitendag, home.
Buitendag who hails from Victoria Bay, in the Western Cape, won silver in the women’s surfing event in Tokyo on Tuesday. This is the first time the sport was included in the Olympics.
After a teary reunion with her family, she was greeted by local residents who made an arch with their surfboards for her to walk through.
Buitendag came second to surfing great, Carissa Moore from the US – reaching her goal of securing a place on the Olympic podium. She says it still feels so surreal.
“The last few days have been overwhelming with emotions. Obviously, exhausted from the event. It’s four days after and I’m still stiff. I guess I did try hard. It’s starting to get more real as I approached coming home. So proud to represent George, it’s the most beautiful town in the country and our beloved country is the most beautiful country in the world. So very privileged,” she says.
Buitendag announced her retirement from professional surfing, saying the Olympics was a perfect platform to bow out from. She says her life’s ambitions changed drastically after the death of her father five years ago, and her mother’s battle with cancer.
Buitendag added that she will never stop rushing towards salt water at every opportunity, as the sea is her therapy. She says she hopes her achievement will encourage more surfing events in Victoria Bay.
“I’ve been here for the last 15 years of my life and I surfed this coast up and down. It compares to the best waves in the world and it’s such a pity that no one knows it yet. I must be careful what I say because then the waves are gonna get crowded. I’m just so privileged to grow up here and the lifestyle I’ve led up until this point,” adds Buitendag.
Buitendag will now focus her energy on assisting the Christian NGO, Life Community Services, which is planning to build a primary school next year.