The Kimberley Diamond Cup (KDC) finally returned after disappearing in June 2016 due to political reasons. This contest used to have the highest prize purse in competitive skateboarding, the overall prize purse used to be 5 million rand. This huge prize purse used to attract all the best skateboarders from around the world to compete in the Northern Cape.
When I was younger I used to specifically ask my parents to take me to Kimberley just so I could watch. After the first time I watched the competition, I knew that I wanted to compete in it the following year. The first time I ever competed in the competition was in 2014 where I entered into the South African Championships. I competed in the regional competitions in Johannesburg which allowed me to pass Friday qualifiers and straight into the actual qualification. It was my first time competing on the Kimberley course at the age of 16 and much to my surprise I won the South African Championships. This year I also competed in the Youth World Championships (16 and under) and also won the Youth World Championships. I had to make sure it wasn't luck so I competed in the South African Championships again in 2015 where I found myself winning the contest again, making me the 2x South African Champion. The last contest held by KDC was in June 2016 in Soweto on Youth Day, where I again found myself competing against the best South African Skateboarders. I managed to secure the victory at the grand slam event before the Kimberley Diamond Cup ceased to exist.
In December 2019, the event returned back under a different event organising company called HRA trading. It was great news for us skateboarders to earn some extra money as there was 1 million rand in prize money up for grabs. There were 10 international skateboarders invited to compete in the Pro division amongst the rest of the South African Skateboarders. Some of the international skateboarders were Ivan Monteiro (BRA), Micky Papa (CAN) and Jake Illardi (USA), these skateboarders are ranked in the top 20 on the World Skate Ranking. I knew that it was going to be difficult to win the contest but I did have my eyes on the prize to achieve my 3rd consecutive win on the Kimberley course.
All the international skateboarders and about 10 South African skaters were pre qualified into the semi-finals (I was one of the pre qualified riders) that would be held on the Saturday. Only 20 Skateboarders out of about 100 would qualify through to the Semi- Finals with the pre qualified skateboarders. The semi finals contest format consisted of the Streetleague (Olympic) format. You split up into different heats where as all skateboarders will get 2 run attempts of 1 minute and 5 best trick attempts in order to put down your 4 best scores, rated out of 10.
Semi Finals for the professional category was held in the evening after the ladies contest and the amateur contest. All the best skateboarders in South Africa as well as some international professional skateboarders would battle it out for the top 12 positions to make the finals. The level of skating was extremely high however, I managed to land 2 flawless runs as well as a big spin front board down the big rail to secure my 3rd score. I also secured my 4th score with a 360 shuv lip down the square handrail on the side. I now had 3 attempts to put down any trick I wanted in order to increase my overall score but at this stage I was fairly confident I had made the finals. On my final attempt I managed to roll away from a big spin back tail down the hub which solidified my finals position in 7th position.
Going into the finals on Sunday, I knew I had to give it my all if I wanted to take home the 1st place position. The competition was tough and majority of the final was filled with the international riders. The only 3 South Africans to make the finals were Allan Adams, Dlamini Dlamini and myself (Brandon Valjalo). We were split into 2 different heats of 6 skateboarders in the finals, where I was in the 1st heat. The finals got off to a good start for me as my first run was flawless, so I had one solid score down, my second run wasn't that good because I just slipped off of the flip front board down the big rail at the end of my line. I would have to drop that second run score and put down 3 big tricks in the best trick section if I wanted to walk away with the 1st place. I landed my 1st trick in the big trick section which was a big spin front board down the handrail. I played it safe knowing I still had 4 attempts left to put down some big tricks but if I wanted to win I couldn't play it safe anymore and had to go big. On my second attempt I went for a big spin front blunt down the big rail which would've scored me really high, I locked into the front blunt but didn't manage to stay on the board scoring myself a 0. I was determined that if I tried the big spin blunt one more time I would get it however that wasn't the case. My chances of coming 1st were now slim as I only had 2 attempts left with only one high score that I wanted to keep. On my last 2 attempts I decided to switch it up and try flip front blunt down the big rail instead, I didn't manage to land any of them which meant I only had 3 scores down. I wasn't happy with my performance but I went for it and tried to get the 1st place rather than playing it safe and settling for average, as a result of my performance I finished in 10th place.
As a part of a charity initiative, I arrived in Kimberley a week before the contest to give back to the kids in Roodepan. We held a demo and then did a skate clinic to teach the kids how to skate. The community of Roodepan has negatively been affected by the influence of drugs. We introduced the youth to skateboarding in order to give them hope and a purpose. Skateboarding would save their lives and keep them off the streets. After teaching the kids how to skate we donated over 40 skateboards to kids in the community so that they could learn how to skate in their own time. I was extremely grateful to be apart of this with Drug Free Sports ZA and KDC's Skateboarding For Hope initiative.