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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Between Strandfontein and Melkbos on the outer fringes of Cape Town, lies the West Coast. Apart from the rocky Strandfontein-to-Doornbaai coast, and contorted Cape Columbine in the south, it is marked by long sandy beaches interrupted by shrub-covered headlands fringed with rocks. The big headlands block the dominant southwest swells, and smaller surf breaks on their northern sides. Strong southeast trade winds in summer keep the upwelled water a frigid 10 ° to 15 °C.


STRANDFONTEIN TO MELKBOSSTRAND

Most of the good surf on the West Coast comes in the form of left-hand point breaks. Breaks such as Elands Bay line the northern rim of a large headland, in this case Baboon Point. Because the common swell direction is southwest, the underwater topography of the headland forces the waves to refract around the headland, resulting in significantly smaller but clean lines of swells reaching the spot. The big, messy stuff is left behind on the exposed southern side – the wild side. Between Stompneusbaai and Saldanha, the coastline concertinas into a contorted confusion of reefs and sandbars tucked between narrow bays and inlets. Spots face all sorts of directions, which demands a variety of swell and wind conditions. Generally, a south to southwest swell direction will yield lean pickings, unless it’s a deep energy groundswell of six- to eight-foot-plus. A much higher yield comes from deep-energy west swell and light land-breeze northeasterlies.


Strandfontein

Fun but fickle right-hand beach break. Sandbanks shift a lot. Rippy. Best in light northeast winds and small to medium swell on an incoming tide.


Doring Bay

Left reef break. There is an inside section that runs along rocks. Needs a light southeast or east wind. Best on a clean four- to six-foot groundswell.


Donkin Bay

Left point break. Needs a solid 10-foot-plus storm swell. A reef on the outside blocks much of the force. Like Elands, copes with southwest winds. Works on low tide. Worth checking if Elands is out of control. There is a quality big-wave reef off the headland not visible from the inside point that not many people have ridden.


Yo-yos

In front of the river mouth at Lamberts Bay, near the caravan park, are fun sandbank peaks at low tide. At its best in calm conditions or light northeast winds and medium-sized swell.


Garbage dumps

There are two waves: garbage dump right and garbage dump left. The right is a fun point break in a west swell. The left is a point break, best at low tide. The ride ends in front of a rocky shelf. East winds are offshore. Needs a six-foot-plus swell to work. Lots of kelp.


Farmer Burgers

A rocky shelf south of Lamberts Bay produces a fun, sometimes classic, two- to five-foot wave in glassy or light northeast berg winds. The land belongs to farmer Gerrit Burger, famous for his arty parties, but anyone can surf here. There are lots more quality reef breaks in the area, with varying swell and wind needs – seek and you shall find.


Elands Bay

The J-Bay of the West Coast. This wave cranks, but is congested these days. Can be overrun with kiters and windsurfers, to add mayhem to the mix. A rocky, kelp-covered point break that ends at a small river mouth. When big, the swell peaks off an outside reef and refracts down the point, producing a fast cylindrical wall that runs for maybe 200 metres. Needs open ocean west swell of six foot to wrap in at three- to four-foot. If general swell is southwest six foot, it might only be two foot. Handles moderate south wind. Dominant wind is southeast, which pumps in summer. Best in light east to southeast winds and solid long-period west swell.


Stompneus

Rare-breaking left-hand point in Stompneus Bay, which lies tucked away in the western end of St Helena Bay. Like Pastures, it needs a gigantic west swell to wrap all the way around Shelley Point to reach the inside bowl, which faces southeast – that means a straight west swell has to turn 225 degrees to reach this spot. The offshore wind is southwest and it needs a mid to high tide. Best in huge winter groundswells (west at 30 to 50 feet). There is an outside reef that prefers a low tide and solid swell, but it is more exposed.


Pastures

This left-hand point on the northern side of Shelley Point, a double-pointed headland north of Cape Columbine, gets good a few times a year. It needs a giant west swell to wrap 180 degrees around the headland to reach the inside bowl, which faces east. Best during those massive winter groundswells of 20-foot-plus. On an average day, the lulls are long, with sets every five minutes. On rare occasions, it cranks.


Hell

Heading around from Pastures towards Heaven, this wild and rocky spot faces north. It gets good in southwest to south winds and huge westerly groundswell and a high tide. The swell must be spaced-out and clean. Bit scary-looking, but has been ridden at solid 6- to 10-foot.


Heaven

This ‘secret’ spot is like a busy carnival when the surf is running. When a raging 15- to 20-foot storm swell is pummelling the Cape Peninsula just before or after a cold front has passed, the ous say ‘Let’s go to Heaven’. This small rock-bottomed reef-point will be from six- to eight-foot. A kelpy foamy cauldron of Atlantic juice, Heaven throws up a thick-lipped wall for about 80 metres, with a stomach-churning bowl section halfway down. Not for the faint-hearted. Heaven is best in light direction with south in it unless very light.


Cape St Martin

Fun little left-hander on a kelpy reef. Works on south or southeast winds. Picks up more swell than Heaven or Pastures, and is often an option when the southeast starts to mess with Heaven. Requires similar swell size to Elands Bay.


Ascensions

Rocky reef point a short distance south of Cape St Martin. Works from mid-tide in deep west swell and mild winds. Gets good. Hard to find.


Paternoster

Quality left reef break at the northern end of this small West Coast town. Works in medium west swell and light east winds. There are beach breaks to the north, scattered along a fl at coastline stretching towards Steenbrasbaai. Lots of exploration potential.


Trekoskraal

There is a right point just north of Trekoskraal. They call it Supertubes. It allegedly fires in giant swell, sheltered from northwest winds by a big headland. A small right-hander called Corollas rolls into a small, deep bay near a fun camping spot. Needs west groundswell and light easterly or berg winds. Not very consistent. Excellent crayfish diving though.


Vredenberg Point

A good-quality left-hand point break. Needs high tides, a clean four- to eight-foot swell and light winds. Deep water off the rocks make it slightly scary, but it gets classic. Some distance north of Saldanha Bay. The wedge focuses and pitches steeply, similar to the Outer Kom. You have to paddle hard to make the drop, taking off in front of a boulder. Usually out of control when the swell is more than five foot. Good in small swell and glassy berg wind. Faster and more powerful than Elands, but more fickle.


Swartriet

You need to pay a small toll to enter the beach area. A peaking, fun beach break that works in two- to four-foot swell and light southeast to northeast breezes or glassy conditions. Very popular wave- sailing spot.


Jacobsbaai

Left-hand reefs just south of this small development. The usual west swell and light NE winds apply.


Churchhaven

There is no surf at Churchhaven, which is on the Langebaan Lagoon, but on the coastal side a new road extension takes you to a quality beach break on Sestienmylstrand that breaks in conditions similar to Schaapeiland.


Yzerfontein Harbour

Fickle left reef point break inside the harbour blocked from most swell, but allegedly gets Indo- quality once in a blue-green moon.


Schaapeiland

A crunchy wedge on a rock slab that links with sandbars, and a freight train close out. Gets insanely hollow. Needs a light northwest to northeast wind and a three- to five-foot west swell. Hectic when big. Tow ous get slingshot into thick stand-up barrels. Fun sandbar peaks further down.


Ganzekraal

A left point – just south of the small resort of Ganzekraal – apparently fires when the swell is massive and the wind is east to northeast.


Bokpunt

Fickle and relatively slow-moving right-hand point break off a sharp headland north of Silwerstroom, marking the western side of Bokbaai. Best in any north breeze and a deep-energy four- to eight-foot west swell. In the bay a left-hand sandbar wedge is also protected by the headland from north winds.


Farmer Duckitt’s

On the Cape Town side of Bokpunt on the eastern end of Sandsteenbaai, lies a fast-breaking right- hander that needs big swell and clean winds. Be sharp. It’s testing.


Silwerstroom

Good waves along the beach towards the holiday resort end. Light winds and clean west swell are needed.


Gas Chambers

This break at Silwerstroom is best when the swell is tiny in Cape Town. The boom gate is closed to cars and you have to walk for 10 minutes. Holds six foot if the swell is clean and spaced out. Light northeast winds or glassy seas are best.


Matroosbaai

Just south of the boom gate at Silwerstroom (access to cars is blocked) are sandbar point set-ups from the pump house to the southern corner. Works in small to medium swell and light northeast winds.
 

{mosimage} OUT TO PASTURE: Somewhere near Heaven.

{mosimage} SPRING CARPET: West Coast flowers come alive in September.

{mosimage} FENCED IN: Some breaks occur on private land. Some owners are lenient, others not.

{mosimage} SUNSET SURGE: Wave-sailer Piet Streicher tackles huge Elands Bay.

 

Comments  

 
-12 #3 koryn stone 2011-01-14 20:09
Hi
Not a surfer but can tell you where Heaven is at Shelley Point as we have a beach house we rent out right there! It is at the end of 1st Avenue - just park in the car park on the beach and you will be in front of Heaven, and Hell is just further round to the right almost in front of the Oystercatcher apartments and Pastures is still further around but more north inbetween a reef.
 
 
-5 #2 peace 2010-06-03 02:55
Quoting Paul Rebel:
Hey Guys

Been new to the surfing scene on the West Coast, is it possible to plot all these breaks on a map arounf the West Coast, especially around Shelley Point as we have ahouse there



that can not happened seek and u shall find.peace
 
 
-16 #1 Paul Rebel 2010-01-07 13:50
Hey Guys

Been new to the surfing scene on the West Coast, is it possible to plot all these breaks on a map arounf the West Coast, especially around Shelley Point as we have ahouse there
 
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