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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Sat, 10 March 2018

Not all snapshots tell the story. As Cyclone Dumazile wanes in the misty east, let us ruminate on the brutalising of the Durban beachfront on Furious Friday, writes Spike. Photos Nic Aberdein


BARRELS BRU: Yes, there are photos that suggest the surf was superb, but just ask the locals.

Durban surfers are a bit broken today. Mostly because they're tired after scratching between heaving sets yesterday, when the east swell from Dumazile peaked with a ruthless surge of 6-8ft, with a few bigger, bomb blasts.

The swell arrived overnight Wednesday, but came in a bit inconsistent and disappointly small on Thursday morning, despite nice clean conditions. The call not to call the Cell C Goodwave was vindicated with 3-5ft inconsistent sets and the arrival of a bit of a crosshore breeze relatively soon in the day.


CLOSING TIME: The promise of good surf collapsed as the swell became too much.

On Friday, the swell peaked, and it was solid. The models belatedly woke up to what I had been seeing for 10 days or so, and that was that it was going to be proper. The Global Forecasting System had been calling it 2.4m for days, give or take, but by Friday, it was calling 3.3 metre swell at 15 second periods. Just like that Thursday freak show from Cyclone Berguitta, that came in heavy and much longer periods than forecast.

Solid six foot and bigger sets began to hit New Pier late Thursday, and the peak held all the way through from roughly Thursday midnight to late Friday afternoon, with increasingly washy 8ft+ sets battering the beachfront on Friday morning. By lunchtime, a skunky southerly was swinging more SE and no-one was in the water.

I asked local surfer John McCarthy what it was like. He said: "Some bangers this am for sure, solid 6ft with some 8’ sets. A bit of a rip in the middle of New Pier but some classic waves in amongst the normal mayhem, couple broken boards, one guy washed into the pier, another guy concussed with suspected broken eardrum. Authorities then closed the piers. I think it was peaking around 10:30am."


SET PIECE: Thursday dawned a little smaller than expected, with 3-5 foot sets

So it seems that the naming authorities for cyclones in the southern Indian Ocean were 100% correct. Dumazile is Zulu for "She disappoints". And she did.

The onshore NE was forecast for today, Saturday, but only after a short window at dawn. However, it was up early as the disappointing lady faded into the distant blue beyond.

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