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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Mon, 25 June 2018

In the pre-dawn darkness of a cold winter's night, big wave surfers gather in Hout Bay as distant waves crack across a scary reef. Sean Thompson describes a recent day out at Dungeons.


BOOM! The ous look on as a blue-grey missile blows up on the reef. Photo Sean Thompson

Friday morning and I hit the road just after 5am. It's my first boat trip of the year and there is no way I am going to miss it due to potential traffic snarl-ups.

I pull into Hout Bay at around 5h30. The normally bustling fishing and tourism harbour is quiet and shrouded in pitch darkness, the day after the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere. The sun is still two hours away from peeking out from the mountains east of Cape Town (07h51).

I head straight to the petrol station to buy a cup of coffee and get some water for the boat. Big wave surfer Pieter Berner arrives with the same idea. After a failed attempt at trying to see the surf at Dungeons from Chappies in the dark, we head to the harbour.


DAYS ARE DARK: Pieter Berner, Pieter de Wit and Juriah Müller get ready. Photo Sean Thompson

The boats, skis and surfers arrive. Pieter de Wit and his partner Delaney arrive soon after. They have driven down from Stilbaai the night before, arriving in Cape Town at around 11pm. Another out-of-towner Juriah Muller, who hails from the Garden Route, pulls up too.

The three guys decide to walk over the Sentinel and paddle out via Shark Alley to the lineup. Delaney drives them to the top of Hangberg Village and returns to the harbour hoping to get on a boat.


BREATHLESS: Nowhere to hide. Pieter Berner about to take a beating. Photo Sean Thompson

riding-the-dungeon-sean-thompson-018Most of the local big guns (including Twiggy Baker) are there with their big wave guns to tackle what is predicted to be a pretty big day. Our boat arrives, Delaney gets a spot and we head off.

Over the next few hours, the two Pieters will see their boards bare the brunt of Africa's most savage big wave break. Pieter Berner will get cleaned up on the inside of a beast that breaks right in front of him, while Pieter De Wit will outsurf everyone and catch the biggest set wave of the day.

And on returning to shore with us in the duck, both will have broken boards but grins as wide as the harbour mouth we cruise through after an epic day on the water.

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