Gqeberha - City of Smiles

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Monday, 27th February 2023

By Marguerite Smit

Port Elizabeth Beach Scene


Gqeberha (GQ) is fast becoming the “City of Smiles”. The kind of smiles that comes from months of training and pain, from endorphins rushing through the bloodstream, from the camaraderie of fellow sufferers, from having the pulsing ocean in your peripheral view as the crowds cheer you on home. Smiles that come from running out the surf, from (eventually) crossing the finishing line, from sinking the final putt, and from smashing the ball high into the stands while the band plays on. It’s smiles in a wetsuit while breathing through the corner of your mouth, perched on a bicycle seat focused on the single-track, pounding away in running shoes as the tar slides on past, sweet-spotting a ball with bat or club in hand. Professional, amateur, recreational, and aspirational athletes of very size and shape, in their thousands, both international and local have made the ocean, the roads, the fields, and the pavements of GQ their own.


Port Elizabeth Ironman Competion - cyclists


Quite simply, not only is GQ a sporting city, geared for multiple athletic pursuits, but its scenery and the challenges it offers has few rivals globally. You want to win? GQ is the place to get that medal. You want to swim, walk, run, cycle, bat, or putt for pleasure? GQ has that and more. 


Port Elizabeth Lifesavers


Its already world-renowned for the IronMan African Champs (coming 05 March) one of the world’s toughest sporting challenges; for the Herald Cycle Tour (12/19 February) that challenges road and mountaineers both; and for the one most challenging open-water swims, the NMB Bellbouy Challenge (25 March), a 5km swim straight out to sea and back (organised by local specialists Z-Sports). 


Port Elizabeth Ironman Competion Swimmers


Recently though it’s been turning sporting heads by inaugurating the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km ultra (26 February) in which new world records were set for both women and men; for hosting matches of the ICC Woman’s T20 (cricket) World Cup (and sending the Proteas to the final); for hosting matches of Betway SA20 (Cricket) Champs and the rise of the Easter Cape Sunrisers team that culminated in their winning the championship to the delight of the local “Orange Army”. And for the first time ever the Humewood (Links) Golf Club hosted the Nelson Mandela Bay Championship (23-26 February) that’s now part of South Africa’s professional Sunshine Tour. 

Gqeberha is the ultimate active city. Many a garage has a bike or two ready to roll, many a cupboard has a set of running shoes just waiting for starters orders, many a bath has a swimming cap and drying costumes hanging over it. And that’s not taking into consideration the mainline sports of soccer (football), rugby, cricket, tennis, and bowls that many other residents pursue with passion on a field or court close to home. GQ people have taken Nike’s slogan literally – they just do it. 

Take for instance the recent Cape Recife Lighthouse Swim organised by Adventure Swims ZA. It’s a 5km-14km (by comparison the IronMan swim is typically 3,9km) open-water sea swim, depending on the route you choose, around the Cape Recife peninsula at the south end of Gqeberha, that circumnavigates Algoa Bay’s most dynamic reef, aptly named Thunderbolt Reef in typically high-swell conditions. In December four local woman swimmers became the first women to complete it, adding their names to an honours board that now sits at twenty names. Because, you know, it’s there. GQ’ers just do it. And more and more, GQ is becoming the place to just do it too. The city of smiles. Come watch, come compete, or come to just do your own thing, our city is the place to play, the place to etch that smile of achievement into your memory banks forever.


Cape Recife Light House