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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Cape Point is the western sentinel guarding the calmer waters of False Bay, which runs in a giant U shape to Cape Hangklip. The bay faces south to southeast, and is mostly protected from the Atlantic. Most swell runs past Cape Point, missing the bay, unless a giant southwest or big south swell wraps into the bay. The western rim is the eastern seaboard of the Cape Peninsula. In summer, the water can reach a warm 22 °C.


CAPE POINT TO CAPE HANGKLIP

Cape Point is the western sentinel guarding the calmer waters of False Bay, which runs in a giant U shape around to the eastern sentinel, Cape Hangklip. The bay faces south to southeast, and is mostly protected from the raw might of deep Atlantic ocean swells, which must work a lot harder to bend around the craggy cliffs of Cape Point.


Buffels Bay

This secret right-hand point break can sport 300 people in the car park when a humungous south to southeast swell breeches the swell window that shields False Bay from the open ocean. On 27 August 2005, a 30-foot south swell translated to a 10- to 15-foot swell here. When firing, hordes of grizzled veterans venture from the woodwork. A difficult wave to master, it holds off in deep water, then suddenly jacks and barrels along a shallow reef for 200 metres. Gets heavy.


Black Rocks

Nearby right-hand reef more consistent than Buffels, but also needs a huge swell between Cape Point and Hangklip. Gets radically overcrowded. A small take-off zone in thick kelp doesn’t help. A classic wedge set-up that handles up to eight- to ten-foot in ideal conditions (southwest winds and an open ocean 15-foot-plus southwest to south swell). Long lulls.


Glencairn

Left-hander that breaks off rocks near the Red Hill turnoff between Simon’s Town and Fish Hoek. Again, like all the breaks on the western rim of False Bay, needs huge swell.


Fish Hoek

Surfing with a Zimmer frame. This large retirement home is mostly asleep. The waves that break along its pretty beach are this way too. In the left-hand corner – Clovelly Corner – fun waves are ridden (but not really) by ballies. When a giant south or southeast swell is running, you will find mostly grommets in the water.


Clovelly

A short, hollow left reef at this small suburb between Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek. The reef likes glassy conditions or light northwest or northeast breezes, while a clean three- to four-foot groundswell in False Bay needs to be running. Low tide wave. Bodyboard-friendly.


Kalk Bay Reef

World-class but intensely localised left-hand reef. Not that the locals are to blame. The take-off zone is the size of a pizza. When good, this insanely hollow left resembles Pipeline. Many a hottie has cut his barrel-riding teeth here. A curious quirk is that the southeast onshore is channelled offshore by mountains behind the break.


Kalk Bay Backdoor

Hollow right-hander that breaks fast and hard on the other side of the Kalk Bay Reef.


Danger Reef

A left and right peak on a rocky ledge. A deceptively powerful wave that breaks off a shallow rock shelf. Best on a southeast swell and a light northwest wind. Gets intense, with a thick lip that sucks over a tight, bodyboard-friendly tube.


St James

Right-hand ledging right reef break off the tidal pool near the colourful bathing boxes. Can be quite a heavy three- to four-foot wave that seems like it will close out, but holds for a few lip bashes before it hits almost dry rock.


Bailey’s Reef

This is usually a short, hollow right-hand reef in front of Bailey’s Cottage. Best in a northwest wind, clean four- to five-foot groundswell and spring-high tide.


Surfers’ Corner

Old-school surf spot in Muizenberg where woodies used to fill the car park and the 10- to 12-foot elephant guns were unsheathed. Today, it’s the hub of the Cape Town surf scene. Not a powerful break by the unrelenting standards of the reefs on the western side of the peninsula, but a great hotdog wave. There are lots of peaks, if you can call them that, particularly in front of the car park. It’s offshore in northeast to northwest. On a three- to four-foot south groundswell, the outside breaks, and the wave reforms again on the inside. Malibu boards are just right here because they give you enough momentum to make it all the way through. Alternatively, you can pump your six-foot-two board up and down like a jack-in-the-box. When big, entails an arduous paddle through acres of white water to reach the backline.


Rivermouth

Soft sandbar peaks like Corner. When they release the water from the river, it can be sharky.


Sunrise

Soft beach break near Sunrise Circle along the coast road to Khayelitsha. Gets a little bigger than Surfers’ Corner.


Cemetery

Another beach break like Corner, with more juice. Best in light northwest winds. There are a few peaks to choose from: lefts and rights. Expect the swell to be at least one to two foot bigger and slightly hollower than Muizenberg Corner.


Nine Miles Reef

Further along the coast road is Nine Miles Reef. Fun lefts and rights.


Monwabisi

Lots of sandbanks with lots of potential and a few secret spots. Few take the trouble to explore.


Pipe

One of several sand- and rock-bottomed breaks in the Strand area, notably the Pipe, which gets good in light northwest to southwest winds and clean south swell.


Bikini Beach

During a massive storm swell, a left-hander off Gordon’s Bay Harbour wall breaks, ending at Bikini Beach. In a huge southeast to south groundswell and light northerlies this wave is epic, but extremely rare. Usually, when the swell is right, conditions are stormy and wild.


Caves (Koeël Bay)

Also called Kogel Bay, Koeël Bay is a beach break in front of low sandstone cliffs around the corner from Gordon’s Bay. A fairly fickle sandbar that usually closes out, especially during your common or garden swell. However, on a low tide and proper sand arrangement (especially in summer), some classic wedging three- to five-foot barrels are there for the taking.


Koeël Bay Beach

Usually better on the high tide, the beach break gets quite good, although the rips can be prominent, creating up-turned V-shaped sandbars with channels between them. Not as sheltered from the southeast wind as Caves.


Paranoia

At the end of Koeël Bay, Paranoia is as the name suggests. Even without the side-effects from substance abuse, paranoid will be the way you feel surfing it in a six- to eight-foot swell perilously close to sharp, nasty looking rocks. A left-hand point reef, it breaks almost on the rocks. Needs glassy, clean, evenly spaced lines to work. Beginners, stay away.


Off the Mountain

A lot of people claim they discovered this spot. This includes sporadic posses of guys who came across it in the nineties, and even in 2006 after a huge swell coincided with Easter traffic. Everyone has a name for it, including Secrets, Virgins, Off the Wall and Ledges. However, we’ll give Steven ‘Rio’ Middleton the benefit of the doubt. Cape Town charger Micky Duffus says Rio was already surfing it in the early 1980s. Near Rooiels on the way from Koeël Bay, it only works in a ginormous swell, running along rocks at the foot of cliffs and visible from the road above. Big-wave boards only. Hard to catch and not as good as it looks in photos.


Pringle Bay

Tucked around the corner near Hangklip, this beach rarely breaks. However, the left-hand point on the east side of the beach breaks in huge swell, and can go off at times. Likes a huge southwest to south swell and an east or southeast wind.


Moonlight Bay

The traditional name is Bokbaai or Moonshine Bay. It’s next to Cape Hangklip on the western side. A short, sharp right-hander breaks off rocks in this small, jagged bay. Similar to Pringle Bay. Southeast to east winds are offshore.

 

Thu, 27 March 2008 RAY OF LIGHT: Kalk Bay Reef in a small swell.

BIG DAY: The epic swell of 27 August, 2005.

BACKDOOR MAT: A local sets up the barrel.

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