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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

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.


MTAMVUNA RIVER TO WINKELSPRUIT

The quality of barrels you get on the South Coast is sublime. Many spots are 40 minutes from Durban by car – making it feasible in summer to have a two-hour surf and be back at your desk by 9 am – but happily, many townies don’t bother. A furtive mission from Durban in the dark, arriving at 4.30 am as the first sliver of red and orange frames the horizon, can yield sessions that will be indelibly stamped in the video vault reruns of your brain.

Most breaks are uncrowded during the week. The water is warm. The dolphins are friendly. Eish. Paradise. However, northeast onshores can dominate for weeks at a time in summer. Even when the offshore does come through, it can be the infamous southwest buster, which smashes the surf sideways due to the exposed angle of the coast. But a day or two later, be ready for feathering corduroy lines in a classic early morning land breeze. Because most breaks are right-hand point breaks, best swell direction is generally from the south, between southwest and southeast, allowing for refraction around the points, which are geographically quite shallow, unlike the deep bays and long points you get in the Western and Eastern Cape. Many points start off on rock and finish on sandbars, sometimes in the shore break. The best season for south swell is between autumn and spring when southern storms are more active and land breezes tend to blow, sometimes all day. Even in winter, you get warm balmy days and water temperatures of more than 20 degrees, punctuated by vicious cold snaps as the odd rogue front smacks through. Some mornings, freezing offshores blow down from the Drakensberg Mountains inland – sucked towards the sea by slowly rising warm air off the temperate ocean during the night. You need the full length wettie more for the wind than the water.

TO Strand

Just north of Port Edward, right-handers break off a small grassy headland. Gets super-hollow at low tide. One of the better big-wave breaks on the South Coast. Big gaping tubes.

Glenmore Beach

Sandbar peaks just south of Southbroom.

Palm Beach

Beach break that runs off rocks on the right of the beach. Can get good in a light northwest wind and clean swell.

 

{mosimage} BLUE STINGER: Bluebottles washed ashore by easterly onshores. They sting, but are not fatal.

{mosimage} SWELL SWEPT: Sand-bottomed point at Southbroom.

Trafalgar

Famous for nearby marine fossil beds, Trafalgar Beach is a fun beach break, with a big-wave right-hander that breaks off a deep bombora reef on the outside. Long paddle out through pounding sandbars. Holds moderate southwest winds.

Marina Beach

River-mouth sandbank peaks. When summer rains fall, the river creates left and right peaks.

Southbroom

Good-quality sand-bottomed point that refracts around a grassy hill lined with rocks. As with most South Coast point breaks, likes mild westerlies and a three- to six-foot south groundswell. Someone died once there. Apparently he took off on a wave … and vanished.

Lucien

A good summer spot sheltered from the summer northeast. A left-hand point break best on the high tide. Runs into a grinding shore break. Gets good on an east groundswell and light north to northwest winds. Handles light northeast winds.

Margate

A long beach with shifty peaks. In front of the point, a small shallow reef provides hollow take-offs. Best up to four to six feet in a light west wind at low tide.

Manaba Beach

Mediocre beach-break peaks. However, it can work but this depends on sand movement.

Uvongo

Small beach with rocks and sand huddled around a river mouth. The waves are fair to middling. Needs a medium to big south to southwest groundswell to wrap around rock slabs on to the beach. Depends on sand build-up.

St Mikes

Grinding right-hander that breaks off a tidal pool in the seaside town of St Michaels-on-Sea. St Mikes is a reef point break and sandbar rolled into one. The swell hits a rocky reef on the corner of a tidal pool and then jacks up into a long wall that freight-trains on to the beach. Gets murky. Popular. Crowded.

Oslo Beach

This suburb just south of Port Shepstone is fringed by a scraggy coastline, but some fair waves to the left off the rocks onto sandbars.

Mbango Beach

Beach-break peaks in Port Shepstone on the beachfront. A number of reefs and sandbar peaks can be found along the coast from Port Shepstone to Sunwich Port, including Umtentweni, Sea Park, Bendigo and Southport. Explore.

Sunwich Port

About five minutes’ drive south of Banana Beach, this fickle right needs solid swell. Breaks super-hollow over shallow reef to create sucky foam-filled sand barrels. Best on an outgoing tide in a three- to six-foot southwest swell.

Banana Beach

The next spot – just south of Umzumbe – is a right sand-bottomed point break that runs off an outcrop of rocks. On good days, gets ridiculously hollow. Closes out from six to eight feet. Needs light westerlies. Home of the wild banana (Strelitzia nicolai) that grows to eight metres high.

Umzumbe

South of Hibberdene, Umzumbe is a right sand-bottomed point break with two distinct sections. When they link up on lined-up southwest swells with proper long intervals, they can produce long rides. Holds moderate southwest winds.

Hibberdene

Fickle, rock-strewn stretch with a number of

sand- and rock-bottomed peaks that break okay … kinda sorta.

Mfazazana (The Spot)

Show respect to this rural Zulu community when you surf here. Be friendly, pay your way and you’ll get good waves. Don’t leave valuables in the car. There are no nets, so it can be a tad sharky. Great walls and a barrelling inside section. A good left breaks on the wild side of The Spot sometimes. Likes light west and deep south to southwest groundswell. A proper point break that sticks out to sea more than most shallowly positioned South Coast points. Typical South Coast point set-up, with a river at the bottom, and sand along the point.

DTs (Don’t Tell)

Another typical South Coast point that breaks off rock and runs on sand. Rich in Zulu folklore. Not bad, but watch out for wild white feral natives who have gone mad from too much home brew.

Betty’s

Named after Auntie Betty who owned land nearby, this is a fickle reef slab with hollow lefts. Waves abound in the area. So do boomslang, rabid monkeys and crazy locals.

Pennington

Plenty of sand and reefs in the area. Best in autumn and winter.

Happy Wanderers

A right-hander near Kelso that runs off a short reef point before linking up with shifting sandbars and bending wide towards the beach. When the banks are lined up, you can get long walls with insane tube sections. Breaks at three to eight feet. Locals are protective but friendly. Like many breaks on the South Coast, gets epic when conditions are right, but when flat or onshore, go back to your day job.

Bluebottles

Looking rather like tiny, translucent blue plastic bags tided together with long tentacles, bluebottles (pictured on page 229) are often washed ashore when the east wind blows. They cause painful stings but are not fatal. Bluebottle tentacles contain millions of stinging cells. If you touch them, tiny filaments shoot into your skin, releasing a toxin that causes a burning pain. On the scene, wash the area with sea water to remove the filaments. Rinse the area with vinegar or brandy. If you don’t have either, urinate on the wound. The uric acid helps to neutralise the toxin, serious. Try rubbing fleshy sour figs (vygies) – common in the Cape – on the sting. If you can get to a chemist, take an antihistamine tablet and spread cortisone cream on the sting.

Park Rynie

Stretches of beach with peaks here and there. Not commonly regarded as much of a surf spot.

Scottburgh

The wave off the swimming pool at Scottburgh is a typical KZN South Coast, sand-bottomed, right-hand point break that is epic when good, but horrible when bad. In summer, when the river comes down in flood, it cuts deep holes through the banks. The sandbars go awry and the wave virtually disappears. Scotties handles a strong southwest wind and a south swell up to 10 feet. There is fierce localism around though, so make sure you show some respect. Some excellent reef breaks on the wild side in this area. Sssh.

Green Point

Another point break set-up. Long-period south swell hits a short rocky point at Clansthal and bends wide, running along sand and linking up with another sand-covered reef before hitting more sandbars down the beach.

Widenham

Some reef and beach breaks in the area.

Umkomaas

The known break here – High Rocks – was not the best spot until the March 2007 storm rearranged the sand and exposed a hollow reef. Time will tell whether it will remain a good spot. Umkomaas River Mouth is the launching pad for trips to the popular Aliwal Shoal, a protected offshore reef with a profusion of tropical marine life.

Umgababa

Sandbank peaks around the river mouth.

Baggies

Warner Beach, the beginning of the build-up towards the high-density urban sprawl of Durban, is home of the South Coast surf underground. On any given day at Warner Beach there is an army of good surfers shredding the waves with trademark aggression. High-tide shore breaks ease the summer doldrums. The beach break at Baggies handles light to moderate onshore winds.

Pulpit

To the north of Baggies is Pulpit, a semi-point break that needs a fair bit of swell before it starts to work, but can fire on a honking groundswell and light west wind.

Amanzimtoti

The concrete jungle mixes with real jungle here. A straight strip of coastline offers rideable waves all the way along, as well as the occasional reef. Inyoni Rocks and Toti Pipe are both popular. Best early in the morning, during light offshore winds and moderate swells.

Winkelspruit

Just for the record, the Inyoni Rocks to Winkelspruit stretch once had the unfortunate distinction of having the most recorded shark attacks in the world. However, the majority of these occurred before shark nets were put in place in 1962. This is an extension of the long straight coastline of Toti heading towards Durban.

{mosimage} THE SPOT: One of several points on tribal land in the deep south.

 

Comments  

 
Local surfer
+1 #1 Local surfer 2010-04-03 02:49
Metropole...need i say more a local spot whith perfect lefts breaking on a rock reef..no nets..mmmmm most consistant break on the south coast
 

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