South African surfers have teamed up with marine scientists to launch a campaign for the conservation of sharks.  The Wavescapes Surf Film Festival and Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) will educate audiences about the global plight of sharks, which are being killed at the rate of 100 million a year.

Global head of the Foundation, Chris Clarke, said that the synergy was important “to create awareness for sharks and help pass on tips to reduce the risk of accidental encounters with the animals. We fear what we do not understand!”

Festival director Steve Pike said that a perceived irony about surfers coming out in support of their “traditional nemesis” was based on misinformed views. “Yes, surfers are at the frontline of the ocean. We aim
to prove that healthy shark populations benefit surfers, and are not a threat.”

Wavescapes, which runs from November 26 to December 14 in Cape Town, includes an outdoor screening on Clifton Fourth Beach on Friday December 5. Surfboards decorated by top comic, graffiti and other artists such as Konradski, Willie Bester and Mak1 will be auctioned by comedian Mark Sampson to raise funds for the Shark Spotters and NSRI.

The surfboards, on display at the VEO Gallery in de Waterkant from 26 November to 3 December, will be shown alongside the award-winning photographs of sharks by SOSF chief photographer and marine biologist Thomas Peschak. Several large-format, signed photographs will be auctioned with the
surfboards. The SOSF supports more than 72 projects in 30 countries, and has been active in South Africa for more than five years, recently opening the Save Our Seas Shark Centre in Kalk Bay.

Head of the shark centre, Lesley Rochat said: “Sharks are nature’s outcasts, they are feared and loathed, largely due to misperceptions, yet only one person in the world was killed by a shark last year. By Wavescape embracing our Rethink the Shark campaign we are confident that together we can make a
difference.” Scientists from the NGO have pioneered research on white sharks in False Bay and on tiger sharks in KwaZulu Natal. They are also responsible for satellite tagging and releasing ragged tooth sharks from the Two Oceans Aquarium as part of the SOSF M-SEA Programme. There is also a Save Our Seas Shark World exhibit at Iziko Museum, and a number of exhibits at the
aquarium.

Wavescapes – supported by African Surfrider magazine, Men’s Health, Wavescape.co.za and the Cape Times – will screen the film Zulu Surf Riders, the story of the Mqade brothers from Umzumbe on KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. The arty documentary Thread features the sand art of Jim Denevan, who uses the beach at low tide as a giant canvas for vast patterns. Sea Fever is a lyrical film about surfing in Ireland, including the giant waves of Aill n Searrach (Aileens).

“One of my favourites is Sliding Liberia, a beautifully made film about surfing in Liberia. We also have Out There, a call to surfers to protect our coastline, and a one-off screening of the Shaun Tomson film Busting Down the Door, among others,” Pike said.

The festival will screen the feature documentary Sharkwater and a short called Shark Angels, featuring Alison Kock, a SOSF white shark researcher. The first 500 festivalgoers who purchase tickets for the indoor screenings will receive a free surfing movie from surfing brand Hurley.