Saffa’s make for good exports. A hard work ethic normally makes sure the ou’s land good jobs when they bail for overseas. A good example is ex-local surfer Craig “Pottie” Potgieter. Pottie left for Aus a few years back, and headed up Lizzard over there for a while.
But the ou’s know a good thing when they see it, and Surfing Australia hunted him down and gave him the head honcho job at Surfing South Australia (SSA). The title was actually CEO, but Pottie being the humble ou that he is was a bit embarrassed by that, and decided he’d rather call himself General Manager instead!
So Pottie, tell us how you landed this primo job!?
I was doing a lot of coaching for SSA. They put on a major 6-Star Surf Comp on Kangaroo Island with a music festival. They lost a ton of cash and had to get bailed out financially by the Government. Management were let go and the media went into a frenzy. Kippie here walked into the office not knowing the scale of the drama and offered to help till a new management team could be put together. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, suddenly I was hounded by the press, news networks were interveiwing me I was thrown in the deep end! Tax payers were freaking about the bailout, the guys to blame were gone….. and I was left to tidy the mess! But all good, it’s sorted now. These positions aren’t long-term, so I expect to stay 3-4 years then move on.
Are you the first non-aussie to hold a position like this?
I think so. But the guys from Surfing Australia have been really supportive. I have a lot of support locally too, which helps. But yeah, I get the feeling sometimes that people probably wonder why a foreigner has the job.
What all does your job entail?
Lank! I deal with Government, Sponsors and many others at boardroom level. I deal with anything Surf-related in South Aus as we are the body responable for the sport. I run a Surf School and oversee many coaching programs from groms to elite (obviously with the assistance of a great team, including some top ex-professional surfers). We also have a pretty full calendar of contests. I still do a lot of coaching, because that's what I love. I also volunteer my time to take disabled and disadvantaged people surfing, it’s amazing how it lifts them.
Where’s your offices? Hopefully on the beach so you can still sneak in a lunch time sesh!
My office’s right at the beach! I also work from home a lot. We have bought a house close to the some good surf spots (just a run down the road), so I choose to work from home as much as possible. I do a lot of work on weekends and after hours, so if I work from home in the week I can sneak a couple of surfs in the day when nobody is around. I can surf whenever waves are pumping (fringe benefit). It’s part of my job to surf, and I get to spend time with our members. Its amazing how much discussion relating to the association takes place in the water.
Do you get to travel a bit for work? Any chance of taking the South Aus team for a bit of coaching in Indo or something?
I go to Coolangatta a lot as that is where Surfing Australia is based. Across the road from Snapper. I get a few surfs round that area. I also stay at the Surfing High Performance centre at Casuarina. This place is amazing. It is so hi-tech, absolutely crazy. No expense has been spared, google it. I love it there. There is this room full of boards which you can test drive. The place is awesome and worth a trip to if you ever in the area.
Surfing in Australia is a really legitimate sport, right up there with cricket and rugby. Guess that means you guys get some decent funding?
Yes, funding is pretty good. The sport is big and the government back us. I was at a function last week for Surfing Australia and the Deputy Prime Minister was there as well as the Sports Minister. They put heaps of cash into surfing and see surfing not only as a sport, but as a healthy lifestyle which they want to promote. We are lucky to have the government support because corporate funding has slowed down.
So how hectically crowded is the surf down your end of the world? Hustle central? Or can you find empty peaks without having to drive 1000k’s down the track?
I surf on my own so often, it’s crazy. It can get crowded but very similar to PE, but nothing like the East Coast. I honestly have not had a crazy crowded day in South Aus. We have plenty of surf. If we don't get surf in the gulf where I live it's a quick 30 minute trip to Victor Harbour which always has swell. You can go to Victor and there is about 50km of coastline with non stop breaks, it is something you have to see to believe. I often compare where we live to PE or the Eastern Cape. We have plenty quality surf but the publicity is up the East Coast, it can stay there we happy for all to believe the waves suck here, lots of sharks and cold water haha (water tem at the moment 23 degrees). Dave Lippy said to me before I left “….don’t worry Potz, the Great Aussie Bight has awesome waves you will be happy!” –he was right, he knows his shit!
I know you’re keen for PE ou’s to come pop past for a visit and doss on your coach for a few days – so tell us in a coupla sentences why your new home town is a lekker spot and worth a surf trip!
They are all welcome, we have plenty space. Walking distance to some awesome reefs. From here there are spots like Cactus (ask Dave Lippy or Donald Parman) and the Yorke Peninsula (Ask Andre Swart he has had plenty surfs there). Victor harbour is down the road and we are slap bag in the middle of the Aussie wine region. Its all good, we just need some visitors – Pull In!!!
Shot Craig! Good luck with your new post. Know you’ll do an excellent job!
Thanks Stay Cool!! Tell everyone I say Hi!