Sun, 20 October 2019

A world class series of spitting sand bars at St Francis Bay and the rolling tubes of the old Bruce's Beauties are on the cards with the news of exciting plans, writes Craig Jarvis.


GREEN LINE: Two groynes are mooted for the eastern end of the beach. Photo Supplied

There are many reasons why there is no more sand in St Francis Bay, and they all fall under the banner of human intervention.

It started with the stabilisation of the dunes that once fed sand to create the fabled tubes of Bruce’s Beauties. Leighton Hulett owned the farm back then, but it was a man named Tom Brown who introduced alien Australian acacia shrubs Port Jackson and Rooikrantz willow to stabilise the dunes. It worked. The sand stopped moving. The sand stopped shifting to the point, and subsequently the beaches.

Brown was believed to be a descendant from a survivor from “Lady Heal” - an East India vessel wrecked at the Kromme River Mouth in 1859 on her way home from Rangoon to Liverpool. A Liverpudlian was most likely the man who quelled the critical flow of sand in St Francis Bay.

The sand left the point fairly quickly. Over the last 40 years, the beaches have slowly degraded, gradually washing away, with no sand to replace it. By 2019, the beaches have all but disappeared, leaving the village devoid of beach space that used to sprawl 100 metres out, even at high tide.


RIGHT AND LEFT? The interesting angles suggest some interesting angles. Photo Supplied

There have been attempts to bring sand back, but if anything, they made the situation worse. The latest project, however, looks promising from an engineering, and surfing perspective. Local residents and surfers are excited about the possibilities.

Most property owners in the Canals and Village areas of St Francis agreed (from July 2018) to pay a special 25% extra levy that would raise funding required to restore the beach. The Municipality doesn’t have the means of doing The SRA in St Francis is behind an idea to place five groynes along the beach, and then pump sand from the heavily silted Kromme River Mouth. It is a project of some magnitude.this on its own, so the SRA (Special Rating Area) was a public/private partnership to raise the investment to proceed. Other organisations and individual donors have also contributed. The SRA in St Francis is behind an idea to place five groynes along the beach, and then pump sand from the heavily silted Kromme River Mouth. It is a project of some magnitude. Unlike the Tweed River, on the Gold Coast - and the reason why the Superbank exists as one of the best waves in the world - the Kromme River sits on the other side of the longshore current. On the Gold Coast, the engineers simply ran the pipe out to sea far enough for it to reach the current, and shot the slurry directly into that current. The ocean did the rest, carrying the sand outside of Duranbah, to start settling at Froggies, before worming itself around to behind-the-rock at Snapper. With the pump at full horns, it takes a few days for the sand to reach Froggies, but once it’s there it’s a relatively short time for the Superbank to get groomed and perfect.


WEST SIDE STORY: And on the west side of the beach, another groyne. Photo Supplied

But in St Francis, the Kromme sits on the wrong side of the current, so the engineers need to design a pumping system to get the slurry to Bruce’s. Once it is there, nature will do the rest and the sand will move down the point and across to the beaches. It will be a long pull to get the sand there, but once there, we can expect many very exciting developments.

Bruce’s might get as good as it once was. With sand filling the holes, we could get the proper, rolling barrels of old, perhaps even a single ride from the top of Killers all the way to the slipway.

The groynes, which are indicated on the plans to stick out between 170m to 200 metres, could easily create waves like New Pier. In fact, because they are going to be solid piers, they could even resemble the Bay Of Plenty - one of the greatest waves that ever existed in Durban.

Surfers, residents and local business owners are frothing for the project. As it is, there are no beaches in St Francis, and everyone goes to Seal Point or JBay to hang out during the summer. There are no beaches to keep people in St Francis Bay, and business owners would rather they stayed. The Seal Point Boardriders Club is totally behind it, as well as the surfers.

“As secretary of the Seal Point Boardriders Club, we are fully behind the construction of the groynes along the beach in St Francis Bay,” said Simon Fish. “At our last AGM in March, where over 120 club members attended, the matter was discussed and all were in agreement that the groynes would bring back and stabilise the sand deposits, which create great surf breaks. Ann Avenue and Main Beach are no longer the world-class surf breaks they once were. The groynes will bring back surfers to St Francis Bay and increase surf tourism.”

“Groynes have proven effective all over the world in similar situations and they also support many forms of marine life,” said long time residents Dave Hill. “Phillipa and I have watched our beach erode for five decades and are fully supportive of the decision to construct groynes as means to combat the transportation of the sand by the long-shore current.”

This is an ongoing project and here are some other exciting developments that will be revealed soon. Will we get a refreshed Bruce's? Will we get another Superbank? Will we get a Bay Of Plenty barrel set-up? The addition of sand can only make things better, and with a chance of making St Francis a veritable surfing paradise.


mike bruwer
0 #5 Doctormike bruwer 2019-10-28 20:23
Great Idea, but the funding has to come from The Eastern Cape Government. Imposing a compulsory levy on retiree homeowners, who are not beach users, is just not fair play.
0 #4 Shifting Sands of Time - NewsLori 2019-10-26 01:04
Today, I went to the beachfront with mmy kids. I found
a sea shell and gave iit to my 4 year old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She placed the
shell to hher ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched
her ear. She never wajts to go back! LoL I know this is
entirely off topic buut I had to tell someone!

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Ryan Donnelly
0 #3 Local St Francis surferRyan Donnelly 2019-10-24 21:14
I appreciate the excitement and vision of this project. We need a solution to the beach erosion which is exelarated by rock revetments. This project may indeed live up to the expectations of those of the Seal Point Board riders club. This club does not however represent all of the local st Francis bay surfers or Seal Point surfers and I am not aware of any coastal engineers who are members of the Seal Point club so when I see claims of what the project will do I am sceptical . We have learned many things in the passed from the different beach projects EIA's and relevant meetings with town leaders, organisations, coastal engineers and environs of all kinds. When I look through the draft scoping report there are a number of things that don't seem to fit well with what we have learned from the passed which is contributing to a building list of questions. I was recently also told something by the environmental consultants that raises concern regarding accountability. It's going to be interesting to see what the EIA looks like.
Rod Suter
0 #2 Bruce's Beauties and the shifting sands ....Rod Suter 2019-10-22 07:32
Great article Craig.

Now we need to build on this to get some momentum going to address the practical problems : 1. Lack of Money (the extra 25% SRA Levy from 1600 residents has zero chance of accumulating their estimate of the R100++ million required, even in their own timeline of 10-20 years), 2. The EIA process (has just started, and will undoubtedly take quite a few years and have many bumps along the way before approval), and, 3. Ensure that the final scheme designs are properly and scientifically investigated and optimized before construction work starts.

Anyone got suggestions on the way forward ?
Anne kleu
0 #1 Grains at St Francis.Anne kleu 2019-10-21 02:14
This is wonderful news.
How soon can they begin construction?
The sooner the better as far as I'm concerned.
Canal home owner.
Anne Kleu
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