Surfing in South Africa
Sun, sea, sand and ... stupendous
surf. Just think about it. South Africa's coastline is 3,000km long so
it's not surprising that it has some of the best surf in the world. Here's
a very condensed run around the coast from east to west.
You get places that have
good surf, and then you get places that are just defined by surf. Durban
is one of those places. The whole city has a surf culture. The central
business district flows right down to the beaches and it has the country's
only surf museum. There's also great surfing on the North
and South Coasts to either
side of Durban. The water is warm and many locals surf without wetsuits.
further south, the Wild
Coast is just that - wild. And it's a rite of pilgrimage for all
South African surfers to - at least once in their lives - travel up the
Wild Coast, camping on deserted beaches and discovering secret breaks,
but it's not an option to be taken lightly. Rather head towards Port St
Johns or Coffee Bay, where the surf is great and there is some infrastructure.
As you head down the coast, the water gets a bit colder, and most people
wouldn't surf here without at least a shortie wetsuit.
London has some fabulous surf - particularly Nahoon. Port Alfred,
known to the locals as Kowie, has a cooking right break off the pier. Port
Elizabeth has some nice surf, and it's a fun little city but there
are better waves to the east and west. West of Port Elizabeth is Jeffrey's
Bay - or J-Bay - the mecca of South African surfing.
Supertubes at J-Bay is reputed
to be one of the fastest and most perfectly formed waves in the world,
and Bruce's Beauties, at the nearby Cape St Francis, is legendary. If you
saw Endless Summer, you'll remember it. The waves are still awesome, but
the magic has gone. Hideous yellow brick apartment buildings line the streets
and J-Bay definitely scoops the award for the ugliest town in the prettiest
great surfing in the Garden Route
towns of Plettenberg Bay, Buffalo Bay and Wilderness. Mossel Bay, which
is otherwise the least attractive of the Garden Route towns, has some awesome
waves but it also has a shark-cage diving operator that regularly chums
so it's a bit of a dicey one there. The tiny settlement of Victoria Bay,
between Wilderness and George is a little gem that's reserved for locals
only during December and early January. No kidding.
The coastline around Agulhas,
which is the most southerly tip of the continent, faces the open ocean
with nothing between there and Antarctica, so it has some pretty impressive
breaks. Arniston, Jongensfontein, Stilbaai and Struisbaai all offer quite
big right reef breaks but there are some fun shore breaks for beginners
as well. The water here is getting a tad chillier, and a good wetsuit is
pretty well mandatory.
Town, of course, offers awesome surf. The shape of False Bay and
the height of the peninsula make for loads of micro-surf environments,
so there's almost always something surfable somewhere. Koeelbaai, on the
eastern side of False Bay, is a long, hollow break that's not really for
beginners. Muizenberg, on the
other hand, has a shallow sloping beach with long shore breaks and it's
where almost every Cape Town local learned to surf. It is still richly
endowed with surf schools. Further along False Bay, Kalk Bay Reef is a
short but sweet left, and Fish Hoek
usually has some nice, gentle waves.
On the western side of the
peninsula, the water is really cold and a good, full wetsuit is essential.
Most surfers also wear a hoody and booties and some even wear gloves. The
whole area from Scarborough
through to Noordhoek offers fabulous surf. Outer Kom, just off the little
town of Kommetjie, is one of the best big wave spots in the country. The
well named Long Beach, which runs from Kommetjie
to Noordhoek, has some great
breaks. North of Noordhoek,
mountains run straight down into the sea so the coast is rocky and inaccessible,
except for the lovely little Hout Bay
beach, which has a reasonable break on the eastern side. But, in the bay
itself, is a legendary, scary surf spot. Dungeons only starts breaking
at about three metres and it's right next to a big seal colony (which is
a larder for what kind of fish?). It's the venue of the annual Big Wave
Africa competition held every June. Llandudno and Glenn Beach
both have pretty powerful hollow beach breaks and the odd territorial local.
Coast has a couple of good spots but the real gem is Elandsbaai,
about three hours north of Cape Town.
North of South Africa, Namibia,
on the west coast has icy cold water but a couple of good spots. Walvis
Bay and Swakopmund are relatively easily accessible but, if you want to
experience true wilderness surfing, head out to Cape Cross, which has a
left that can break continuously for hundreds of metres. No infrastructure,
no water, no shark nets and millions of seals (and what eats seals?). Still
north of the border but on the east coast, Mozambique
has some lovely warm water surfing just off sparkly white palm-fringed
tropical beaches. Tofo, near the town of Inhambane, is reputed to have
the best surf in the country, and
Ponta do Ouro, which is just
north of the border, is easily accessible and has a long right point break.
For something a little more
wacky, you can river board on standing waves in the Batoka Gorge on the
Zambezi River between Zimbabwe
There is a wave pool at Sun City in the
West Province, and the Gateway Shopping Centre, outside Durban,
has an awesome wave tank with the world's first (and possibly only) artificial
double point break.