Spots by Region
Thu, 27 March 2008
We have divided our coastline, which travels for 2,798 km from the Orange River on the brown West Coast to the Mozambique border on the green East Coast, into 14 regions: Namaqualand, West Coast, Table Bay, Cape Peninsula West, Cape Peninsula South, False Bay, Overberg, Garden Route, Sunshine Coast, Wild Coast, South Coast (Hibiscus Coast), Durban, North Coast (Dolphin Coast), and Zululand / Maputaland.
This section is a general guide. You won’t find detailed maps and directions to spots. Are you mal? Rather buy a map of the South African coast and use it with this website. There are many place names or landmarks that will give you clues. However, unlike other surf guides, we believe in encouraging a spirit of adventure. Going on a surfari is much more fun if you feel like a pioneer. Tough love is good – hardship is character-building. When you’re nursing multiple puffadder bites after falling down a snake-infested donga trying to find a surf spot, you’ll thank us, serious. Besides, most surf spots are in, or near, large towns, which makes them possible to find. To get to rural surf spots, check out Google Earth, or be nice to the locals.
Buy them a bottle of mampoer.
Each spot has a star rating, based on experience (opinion) and ‘heresay’ (you should have been here yesterday).
✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪
Awesome. Superlative in form, power, consistency and/or length of ride. The berries.
✪ ✪ ✪ ✪
Classic. World-class but falling a little short on length of ride or consistency.
✪ ✪ ✪
Kiff. Middle-ranked hotdog wave. Fun. Gets good occasionally. Might be unknown.
✪ ✪ Okay. Generally a soft wave with marginal form, but easy and fun to ride when at its best.
✪ Kak. This wave is weak and just doesn’t cut it due to poor shape, inconsistency or ride.
Heading south from the Orange River mouth (Namibian border) to Strandfontein, you pass the Diamond Coast, a desolate part of the Richtersveld. Access to the sperregebiet (forbidden zone), which ends just south of the Buffels River near Kleinsee, is strictly controlled by De Beers Diamond Company. Namaqualand is swept by strong south winds in summer and dense fog in winter. But when you score, it’s like you discovered the diamonds.
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.
As you head south along the West Coast road (R27) towards Cape Town, the first sign of the city – apart from the view of Table Mountain in the distance – is the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station. Next is Melkbos, the furthest northern suburb of Cape Town on the coast. For our purposes, it marks the end of the West Coast, and the beginning of Table Bay, which ends at the harbour in the southern corner of the bay.
From the Cape Town harbour breakwater that juts northeast from Granger Bay, the coast heads in a westerly direction towards Mouille Point before heading southwest along busy Sea Point. As the coast turns south at Lion’s Head, moving past the upmarket suburbs of Clifton, Camps Bay and Bakoven, it becomes more exposed to the dominant southwest ocean swell, although Sandy Bay, a nudist beach at the end of this section, is sheltered by the Karbonkelberg.
The jagged spire of the Sentinel, Hout Bay, marks the start of the southern Cape Peninsula. From Dungeons – at the foot of the Sentinel – the next stop is Noordhoek, followed by the villages of Kommetjie and Scarborough and the marine reserve down to Cape Point. Tourism authorities say the South Peninsula includes False Bay, but for our purposes, False Bay is a separate section.
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.
We begin at the end of False Bay – Cape Hangklip – and end at Cape Infanta in the east. The Overberg marks the transition from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, and includes the southernmost tip of Africa, Agulhas. The biggest surf occurs in winter, while summer is often flat and the winds onshore.
The scenic Garden Route, starting at Cape Infanta and ending at the forest-lined Tsitsikamma River, is cool and wet in the winter and warm and dry in the summer. Mountains form a spine that sweeps towards the Eastern Cape. The surf is best in mild north or northwest winds and a clean groundswell, particularly in autumn and spring. In winter, the surf can be often wild, especially when big cold fronts blast through.
Between the Tsitsikamma River and Cintsa, just past East London, lies the warmer waters of an aloe-strewn coastline dominated by two huge bays – St Francis Bay and Algoa Bay. Falling within the Eastern Cape, the Sunshine Coast is flanked by mountains to the northwest and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. Good surf breaks all year round at a varied mixture of point, reef and beach breaks.
A large chunk of this coastline between Cintsa in the south and the Mtamvuna River in the north (just south of Port Edward in KwaZulu-Natal) was part of an apartheid-era homeland called Transkei (over the Kei River). When apartheid fell, the homelands were reattached to their respective provinces, in this case the Eastern Cape. The Kei is a special place – untrammelled, wild and beautiful – with superlative point breaks.
This region – between Port Edward and the southern perimeters of Durban’s urban sprawl – has always been called the South Coast. It is also called the Hibiscus Coast, which stems from tourism marketing strategies. Whatever you call it, though, one thing remains immutable. It is point break heaven. Some of the best waves in the world lie beyond those wild banana palms, and that is no idle boast.
Bursting with surf shops, shapers, factory stores and brand HQs, Durban is the surfing capital of South Africa. The weather is warm. The waves are consistent. There is a huge variety of spots – soft sandbars, grinding reefs, dredging beach breaks and, not far away, long tubing point breaks. Surf City mostly lies between the Bluff, a large headland to the south, and the Mgeni River to the north.
This tropical coast starts from the Tugela River, the official Zululand border, and ends just north of Kosi Bay at the Mozambique border. As you head away from the busy seaside resorts of Umhlanga and Ballito, the terrain gives way to increasingly bigger pockets of unexplored coast, hills covered with thick sugarcane, cut through by tight meandering rivers camouflaged by thick jungle. Point breaks are rare, with most spots either reef or sand, or combinations of both.
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