The north coast of KwaZulu-Natal runs from the Mgeni River to the Tugela River. It is a verdant sub-tropical paradise known in marketing parlance as the Dolphin Coast. The surf is mostly characterised by sandbars, reefs or combinations of both. The left-handers turn on in an east swell (mostly in summer), and the rights generally prefer a south swell (mostly in winter).


All along the North Coast there are numerous breaks that add more options to Durbanites. There are probably more secret spots here than along any other part of the South African coast. Don’t be fooled by the lack of named spots in this section. In summer, you get sick sessions in six- to ten-foot Hawaiian-like perfection as big cyclone swells mack through from intense low-pressure systems off Madagascar and Mozambique. Sometimes, endless easterly trade winds blowing off Madagascar are enough to conjure up epic surf. Best surfed in glassy, offshore conditions early or late in the day. Hot and humid in summer, warm and dry in winter, water temperatures rarely drop below 22 °C.


A big-wave sandbank found near the Mgeni River. A deep channel separates it from the coast. Handles big surf.


A thriving, vibrant, upmarket beach resort area. Several surf options, including wedging beach breaks and a few reefs, one of which is a big-wave spot. At the southern end, Cabana Beach is the main spot. It’s a left or right peak with the occasional high-tide bowl.

Bronze Beach

Slightly further north, a shifty sand-bottomed peak best in a small swell and light land breezes.


At the bottom of Umdloti, this powerful, hollow right-hander has been compared to Surfers in Ballito. The barrel is top to bottom. It handles up to six feet. Needs glassy or light offshores. Best at three to four feet.


Built-up, busy coastline with a series of exposed beaches. Fickle, shifting banks make for a bit of a lucky dip sometimes. The onshore dominates in summer.

La Mercy

Beach-break peaks on sandbar and reef set-up. Holds a big swell. Long wave in right conditions. Likes a long-period south to southeast groundwell and light northerlies.

One Eye

Called One Eye in reference to the wide open barrel. An exceptionally hard-breaking wave that barrels across sand and reef with Hawaiian quality. Breaks right and left, but it is the left that drenches the synapses with endorphin overload. A big cyclone swell and light land breezes bring the berries. You won’t find it.


{mosimage} SO SLOTTED: Another left-hand reef delivers the package.



Concrete bathymetry and chlorinated contours at Gateway Mall, inland from Umhlanga. Breaks from three to five feet left or right or both, depending on the setting. Sometimes called Flow Rider. Pay your bucks and pull into an endless barrel inches from the floor on a layer of jet-propelled water. Entertain the crowd as your bruised ass bounces on the bricks and you get klapped off the back and spat down the drain.



There are two exposed spots in the area, both with an aversion to wind. The point and beach breaks fire on a clean three- to five-foot groundswell. Produces a running, top-to-bottom barrel with the right conditions.

Bog Bay

A fickle spot sensitive to tides, wind and longshore drift. Big south swells scour away the sandbars and ruin this spot, while onshore winds and east swells push the banks back into place. Excellent at times, terrible at others. Low tide only.


Just north of the main lifeguard hut at Ballito, a fast, hollow right-hander breaks off a large rock. Best at low tide in a southwest swell with light offshore winds. Good from two to six feet. Needs the low tide because, like most North Coast spots, it develops a deep inshore channel at high tide. On a big day, the rip can push you across the bay towards rocks on the other side. Can be a bit hectic. Lots of white water, close-outs and constant paddling.


At the northern end of Ballito lies this protected beach. A semi-point that enjoys excellent sandbar build-up in front of the rocks. The wave is faster than you expect, so positioning and the subtle art of the weave are the go. Right-handers only, unless you want to dive for crayfish. Fires on a small to medium east swell and gentle offshore winds.


At the northern end of Ballito Bay lies this protected beach break. Needs a small east swell and gentle offshore wind. In summer, best early.

Thompsons Bay

This is a small, sheltered beach with a streamlet that runs through it. Breaks fast and hard close to shore because of shelving banks. Lefts on an east swell and fast right-handers off the pool on a south swell. Low tide only.

{mosimage} URBAN WAVE: Hollow right-hander at Sunrise.

Shaka’s Rock

Named after the fabled Zulu chief, the surf spot is not quite as majestic, or noble. There are a few reefs and beach breaks to choose from, pending sand movement and swell direction. Don’t expect adrenaline rushes. Just some fun.

Umhlali Beach

Some fun but fickle peaks along the main beach at Umhlali during a cyclone swell, leftover wind swell after the northeast wind, or when a large southwest swell pushes through. Best in light westerlies. Depends on sand movement.

Salt Rock

Near Salt Rock town lies this classic sandbank and reef set-up. A glassy left and right peak breaks on rock and sand. It handles a two- to five-foot swell in light offshore winds (northwest). Best time is early, particularly during summer.


A small reef that breaks mostly left. Doesn’t work that often, but has clean and excellent form when it does. Small to medium east swell, glassy conditions only. Tinley Manor

Reef/sand combination off a rock spit. Breaks clean and fast, sometimes ending in a shore break close-out. Needs a clean and spaced southeast to south swell and light west wind.

Salmon Bay

The northern end of Salmon Bay juts out slightly, so the break lies on a wild side, but it is one of the last spots to get ruined by the onshore northeast wind. The bay is flanked on both sides by left- and right-hand points. The left likes an east swell and the right likes a south swell. The left likes north winds and the right likes west winds.


Fickle beach breaks and shifting sandbanks. But, as with many spots in KwaZulu-Natal, it can get classic. Doesn’t handle over five feet and needs light west winds. Some excellent secret spots to the south. Wine and dine a local.


South of Tugela lies a small resort near a marshy lagoon fed by the Zinkwazi River about 45 minutes from Durban. The beach is narrow and rocky with good sand and reef options. A consistent right-hander – protected from southwest winds by a headland that juts out in the south – breaks in solid southwest swells. Winter is better, when the sea is cleaner. Summer rains wash muck into the sea. WALLING UP: Sublime Ballito.

GOOFY PARADISE: Lots of lefts to choose from.


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