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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

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.


CAPE HANGKLIP TO CAPE INFANTA

The Overberg is wet and stormy in winter, but dry and windy in Summer. The best times of year are autumn and spring. Mild weather and lighter winds, with plenty of wave action, are the norm rather than the exception.


Kokkerot

Short, sharp right-hand reef break on the end of a spiny rock spit tucked away in the fynbos somewhere in the vicinity of Holbaai. Popular with bodyboarders and skilled stand-ups. Hard to find. Sucking humping squat-shaped wave with a fat lip that lurches over a shallow rock shelf.


Yellowsand

Sand-bottomed break as you head into Betty’s Bay. Handles a bigger swell than Crystal Road. Not surfed that often. Needs a clean six- to eight-foot general swell to bend around outer reefs.


Crystal Road

A fun right-hand beach break created from bigger swells that refract around a kelpy outcrop of rocks and reform on a sandbar at about three to four feet. It sometimes looks better than it is, but it gets pretty good if you don’t mind weekend crowds. The bigger waves seem to miss the sandbar, and close out across the bay. However, some of the bigger waves hold up just enough to provide a really hollow inside section ending in a long shore-break barrel.


Betty’s Bay Beach

Still known as HF Verwoed Beach, can you believe. Series of sandbars that get good depending on sand and swell direction. A lot of shore-break dumpers and close-outs, but sometimes smoking left and right peaks.


Kleinmond

A left breaks towards the car park at Kleinmond in Sandown Bay, but it’s fickle and the rip can make paddling out tough, especially if the swell is oversized. The outgoing rip between the rocks and the wave is created by a deep channel, a favourite area for fishermen. The rip kicks when the swell gets to about five or six foot. A light northwest or north wind is best.


Hawston

There are two waves that are surfable: the beach break and a left point off a slipway where the boats are launched. Quite a roff area. A lot of cars have been vandalised and people mugged here.


Baby J

Big-wave spot between Hawston and Onrus. In 2006, it was surfed at more than 20 feet, breaking top to bottom. The shock wave from the lip has broken windows in the holiday houses across the road. A consistent big-wave spot similar to Crayfish Factory, with a series of kelpy ledges causing a shifting take-off and plenty of clean-up sets. Do not get suckered into paddling for the insiders. You will get spat on to a nasty inside rock. When paddling in or out, you have to negotiate rocks sharper than broken glass. Booties essential. Don’t paddle out on your short board no matter how small it looks. Bring big brass balls.


Haardebaai

A big-wave right-hand reef break. It likes a large southwest swell and light northeast winds. A very kelpy wave that needs just the right tide. Generally very fickle, but gets excellent. However, it’s unforgiving, and will not be treated lightly. Be warned. A spearo disappeared here in 2006. He was never found. Only his car and clothes were found near the paddle-in spot. Serious.


Onrus

Best known for the left-hander that breaks in the corner near the car park. When the lagoon – fed by the Onrus River – breaks its banks, this left can get good: hollow and dredging. It works even during a galeforce northwest. Occasionally a right- hander forms on the other side of the beach, but this happens rarely more than once a year for a short period.


Sandbaai

Right-hander that works off a combination of reef and sand. Gets good. Best in light summer (southeast) trades, light northerlies and glassy groundswell. There is a resident great white here. His name is Cedric the Sand Sub. Be careful of the strong rip that sucks you into the deep water behind the take-off rock. Once the rip has taken you past, it is very hard to get back. When you start paddling too hard and sending those panic signals, keep an eye out for Cedric.


Voelklip

This picturesque beach in Hermanus offers a proper wave with bowling rights. Has a soft tolerant feel but quite hard to catch. Just paddle out on the inside of the rock where a lovely rip will pull you out. Don’t stay in it for too long. You’ll end up mixed in with the bird shit on the front of the rock. Works only on a small swell but can have a fun wave when a big swell reforms on the inside of the rock. The wave and set-up change all the time. Can also be a hollow wedging left that runs into the corner called knerses – a cartoon wolf on SABC a long time ago. Holds clean four- to six-foot swell. Needs any north wind.

HERMANUS

This bustling town – considered the best land-based whale-watching venue in the world – nestles between fynbos-covered mountains and the sea along the shores of Walker Bay. The jagged coastline alternates between small sandy beaches, coves and sheltered bays. Roridula gorgonias (vlieëbos in Afrikaans) is the largest carnivorous plant in the world and can be found in the richly endowed Fernkloof Nature Reserve that lies on the slopes of the mountain behind the town. A good spot to use as a base to explore the coast.

 
Bayview

Big-wave right-hander in the middle of Hermanus. Set in a small rock-fringed bay, a grinding, spitting beast of a rock roil slams into a big slab of granite, then surges against short sharp cliffs, the sucking backwash surging back out to sea. Tourists can watch you wash along the rocks, stranded with no exit point as 10-foot groundswells pummel your pip. Bayview has many problems. One of them is the small colony of seals that cluster where you kick out (if you make it that far). It’s like a yummy takeaway stopover for you know who. A second problem is that after a big set surges into the cramped bay, the water vents back into the ocean in one place. If you are caught in this rush of water, only the NSRI will get you back. In 2006, a great white splashed two local surfers as it breached four metres into the air, swallowing a baby seal whole. No bullshit. And then you still have to contend with the wave. There are four reefs. Each one tries to outdo the other in psychotic attempts to mutate the wave. Yet you can have the wave of your life. The sound in the second reef barrel is like a B52 flying through a tunnel.


De Kelders

At the far end of Walker Bay, in the corner near a large Strandloper midden and interesting caves, is a fun but fickle little beach break that hardly anyone surfs – mostly for good reason. It rarely breaks properly. Other options on the way from Hermanus along the beach.


The Computer

A long, hollow left fading into a bay. Has been tow-surfed a few times and prefers a big 10-foot-plus groundswell. Needs lots of well-directed swell, and is offshore on the summer trades. One teeny weeny snag. A fleet of shark cage-diving boats are constantly driving back and forth to shark alley around the back of the line-up. Not everything that breaches is a whale.


The Toilet

A sucking triple-double-up ledging left-hand barrel-thing that would scare the living daylights out of the most hardened surfer. This spot lies somewhere between Gansbaai and Pearly Beach and becomes unsurfable over six foot. The locals call it ChowPoo. But that’s not why it got its name. Okay, so there are some public toilets nearby, but upon sight of it, your bowels will loosen involuntarily – intestines squirming in unbridled terror. Keep an extra bog roll handy.


Uilenkraalsmond

River mouth sandbar set-up in sharky area (there was a non-fatal attack here in 2005). Some fun waves, depending on sand build-up. Dangerous rips on the outgoing tide. Shady milkwood forest and caravan park on western bank of the river mouth. Nice lagoon.


Pearly Beach

Occasionally, good waves break here. A right-hand reef break. Best in a northeast-northwest breeze and clean groundswell. Some waves along the beach. Rip currents can be a problem.


Struisbaai

Just east of the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, you get a tiny bay called Skulpiesbaai (Little Shells Bay), and then Struisbaai. There are two main breaks. A symmetrical outside reef and a right-hand point called Maclears. The reef breaks to the left and right. Very sharky area. Like many of the bays in this area, the point faces northeast, and needs a huge southwest swell before there is enough juice to wrap the swell in. Otherwise, a southeast to east swell does the trick.


Arniston (Waenhuiskrans)

A beautiful white-washed fishing village is located hunched around one of several rocky bays on the inside of Struispunt, at the eastern end of Struisbaai. The transport ship HMS Arniston ran aground here in 1815. Six out of 378 survived. Many houses have beams from the ship. Bays and rocky outcrops have names like Otterbaai, Fennebakbaai, Waenhuiskrans (Wagon House Cliff), Preekstoel (Preaching Stool or Pulpit) and Spuitgate (Blow Holes). There are a few spots in the area, some near the town, such as the main beach which gets fun. Others are in the De Hoop Nature Reserve heading east. If you can find a local, ask him to show you. He will pause from gutting his kob with his bare hands, stare stonily at you and shake his head super slowly – a signal that means, ‘If I tell you, I kill you.’ Actually, not really. Best in light southwest to northwest winds and clean south swell.


Gansbaai

The British war ship HMS Birkenhead sank off Danger Point, the aptly named finger of land that juts far into the sea at Gansbaai. There are a few reef breaks in the area. Best conditions are light southeast-northeast and a clean groundswell in the six- to eight-foot range and bigger. Mostly reefs. Lots of kelp. Lots of sharks – after all, it is the centre of South Africa’s shark cage-diving industry. The construction of the harbour wall at Gansbaai apparently ruined the best surf spot in the area.

 

{mosimage} BOMB BAY: Another mission to Bayview finds the target.

Comments  

 
Roff Bugger
-1 #2 Phillip RossRoff Bugger 2014-10-09 16:25
You must have a death wish or a kak car!
 
 
Phillip Ross
+6 #1 Phillip Ross 2012-05-24 13:14
Hi there,would just like to mention that I surf Hawston every weekend.If I can, I do it on weekdays after work.I have never had a problem in Hawston nor have I been mugged there.The locals are awesome people and more of them are starting to surf.It is a Blue flag beach.There are other people who come to surf there and they drag attitudes with them.Not good.I also have lots of friends in Hawston and the word is that respect is earned.It is not a "roff" area.There are many misconceptions about Hawston.This being one of them.When I surf there my wife and her mother picnic on the beach without problem.I will continue to surf there as much as possible.I am just a bit unhappy about the light that you shed this beach in.Really ,come on guys.Great site and all but the locals a really awesome.
 

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