Thu, 16 July 2020

Cape Town big wave surfer James Lowe describes a gnarly experience to Spike after a beating in the Boland last Friday. Grant Scholtz bore witness, while taking these photos.


ANYONE FOR A PADDLE? If you think the paddle out is hard, wait til your leash snaps. Photo Scholtz

James Lowe is a very strong swimmer, and he can probably thank that for getting out of a few nasty moments in heaving Bayview in Hermanus after his leash snapped during one of the giant storm swells that marched on the Cape in the last week.

He was sucked out to sea a few times, which he said was extremely scary, and very similar to a life-threatening swim he had at Jaws in Hawaii. Of course, if that was not enough to scare the living daylights out of a person, he grabbed another board and paddled back out to join his mate Jason Hayes, who was hooking some bombs.

However, the timing was all a bit off, and according to Scholtz, "the swell jacked even more and both he and Jason had to paddle all the way to the harbour in the dark."


SWIM FOR YOUR LIFE: James tries to line up a narrow channel to make his exit. Photo Scholtz

A fun day out, right? Here is the story in James' words:

The day before yesterday, I was desperate to find someone to surf Bayview with. I had no joy until 22:30 when Jason (Hayes) agreed. I guess everyone thought it was going to be too windy. We left Kom around midday in different cars.

I was delayed, and by the time I got there, he had settled in at his accommodation in Onrus. I phoned him and he said he was busy cooking with Grant (Scholtz) and drinking a whiskey. I started freaking out.

"Get here now"! By the time we paddled out it was 12 foot on the sets and steadily getting bigger. I was having a shocker and Jason was killing it getting some huge beautiful waves. I was looking for the double ups but kept getting caught inside by roll-throughs.

In frustration I took an insider only to kick out and see Jason getting a bomb. I wore the wave on my head and it snapped my leash. My worst fears came true as I tried to swim in at maxing Bayview. I set a line for the corner under the view point in an attempt to avoid getting sucked onto the left slab at the end of the bay.


BELOW SEA LEVEL: Jason gets a bomb while James goes swimming on the inside. Photo Scholtz

The inside was terrifying, with 8ft froth monsters smashing up against the jagged rocks. At one point, rocks appeared out of nowhere, sucking dry in front of me. From experience, I knew of a channel a couple metres wide at the bottom of the bay. It’s the only viable exit point. I battled the huge shore break to get myself into position to swim through.

Just then a lull occurred and I thought "perfect". That’s when a river of a current sucked me 50 metres out to sea in a few seconds. I knew I just had to keep my position on the Cape Town side of the bay and I realized I would have to wash myself in with one of the shore dumps.


WASHING MACHINE: James prepares to take another hit as a set wave heads for him. Photo Scholtz

I had a two metre target with two rock walls on either side. I took a moment to calm myself, forgetting for a moment how terrified I was, and took the next set. I timed it perfectly getting washed between the rock walls landing up on the pebble beach. A concerned resident from one of the houses came to check if I was alright.

Miraculously I did not have a scratch. My board on the other hand got the full treatment. I was just stoked to find it. When I got back to the car park it was bombing - even bigger than when we first paddled and a crowd had gathered to watch us.

Jason was still out there and I was desperate to redeem myself so I grabbed one of his boards out the bakkie and paddled out. The jump-off was still manageable. I sat with him dodging huge sets until it began getting dark. Eventually, we decided to call it, deciding to paddle towards the harbour. Without knowing it, Eskom had turned out the lights in the town that evening so there were only a few glimmering lights.


FINLESS: While he avoided harm, one of his best big wave boards was not so lucky. Photo Scholtz

Having not used the harbour exit before I paddled towards another rock that had a big surge but was protected from the waves. We got out easily enough but we were now in full darkness. The rock we were on became an island when a huge set washed all around us.

Thinking we’d have to enter the water again but really not wanting to I saw a gap (it looked like no sets were coming) and I bolted across a gully that just moments before had been washed over by a huge wave. I made it and shouted at Jason to come quickly.

It was epic day to finally get some proper big waves in the Cape. Jason surfed well and got several bombs, and I had two very sketchy situations in one surf without really getting great waves ... but it was memorable and it feels great to feel the might of the Cape of Storms again. white-washed

ROCK DODGING: Bayview is surrounded by rocks, reefs and surging boils. Tricky! Photo Scholtz


SPEED LINE: Jason crouches through the gauntlet as a froth monster gives chase.  Photo Scholtz


WAY TO GO: Jason sets up an important bottom turn as a large lip feathers above. Photo Scholtz

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