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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.


ORANGE RIVER TO STRANDFONTEIN

Access to the sperregebiet is restricted to diamond workers. Guided groups of tourists have limited access, one group at a time. Most known surf spots occur around Kleinsee. The word ‘known’ is relative in this forlorn wilderness. Few surfers have explored it. However, there are a few locals who have, mostly diamond divers from Port Nolloth, the regional headquarters of DeBeers and the largest town in the area. Sporadic groups of surfers, mostly from Cape Town, have journeyed here since the 1960s. You need a unique resilience to survive here. Physically, you must endure the frigid water and raw-ocean poundings on slabs of rocky reef. Mentally, you must endure endless days of blown-out surf and thick mist that choke your mind, threatening to derail the best of friendships.

Make sure you’re stocked with provisions and spares for your four-wheel drive. For the prepared and the patient, these lonely, scraggly beaches and capes can yield day after day of glassy overhead surf, with only jackals, seals and carrion birds to keep you company.


Klip Baai (Blou Balle)

Thick barrelling right-hander just north of Port Nolloth. Best in light east to northeast winds or desert berg winds. Likes long-period west swell and, according to locals, only surfable on the high tide, unless you like playing chicken with the shallow reef. Early morning before the wind comes up is the best time, if there is no mist. You mostly surf in freezing upwelled water, hence the nickname blou balle (blue balls).


Port Nolloth Reef

A right-hand reef off the harbour beyond the fishing boats. Needs a pulsing six- to 10-foot west swell and no wind or a light offshore, usually in the morning. You have to scramble over inner reefs to get to the outside where the waves break. Slightly soft in smaller conditions, but gets good on those thick groundswell days and light winds.


Paradise

In the Kleinsee region, inside a restricted diamond reserve where access is strictly controlled, lies this right-hand point break that works on a small to medium west to southwest swell. Runs along rocks on the inside. A reform wedges over a rocky ledge.


Samson’s Bak

Powerful right-hand point break in the prohibited area that delivers some epic waves when conditions are right: a solid six- to eight-foot groundswell, light offshore and pushing tide. Kelpy and cold.


Trailer Bay

Also in the restricted area, Trailer Bay is similar to Elands Bay, without the crowds. It walls up to give a freight train ride. Pretty scary because it sucks over a solid rock slab, then refracts into a small bay.


Groenriviersmond

Kelpy spot at the mouth of the Groen River. Surfed mostly by diamond divers, and a few others.


{mosimage} UNPOLISHED STONE: Scratching the surface of the quarry wall.

{mosimage} LUNAR LANDING: Preparing to dodge a few bombs in the desert.

{mosimage} BOREDOM BOUILLES: Waiting for the swell to arrive.

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