Summer Safari: South Africa
J-Bay got you thinking you really should make your way down to the Rainbow Nation? Here's what you need to know!
SOUTH AFRICA PRETTY MUCH HAS EVERYTHING. FROM GIANT, FRIGID CAPE BOMBIES, TO WEDGY DURBAN BEACHIES, AND ALL KINDS OF MYSTO REEFS AND SECLUDED POINTS BETWEEN, AS WELL AS OF COURSE, J-BAY, STILL REGARDED BY MANY AS THE VERY FINEST POINTBREAK, IF NOT WAVE, IN THE WORLD. SO IF YOU’RE NOT RELISHING THE PROSPECT OF DRIBBLY BEACHIES AT HOME THIS SUMMER, ARE BORED OF FRENCH CLOSEOUTS AND DON’T FANCY INDO (HUH?!?) YOU’D DO WORSE THAN GET YOURSELF DOWN TO THE RAINBOW NATION!
Flight from London: about £900 this July
Dangers: Crime, HIV/Aids, sharks, picking up the accent, probably in that order.
Favourite Surf Sons: From 70’s legends like Shaun Tomson down to today’s big wave lords like Twiggy Baker and tour gods like Jordy Smith, the Saffa talent pool runs super deep, bru.
What not to do: Hitch-hiking
Why go there instead of Oz? These days, mainly the price. Australia is one of the most expensive places anywhere. There’s also no jetlag to get over, and a much shorter flight... plus they’ve got lions!
Also: If you see a honking swell coming for the Atlantic coast, you could do worse than bolt up to Namibia and surf one of the longest lefts in the known universe...
South Africa is that easy hard trip you always wanted to go on but never did. Australia with the obligatory Indo/Bali side trip is kind of a no-brainer, everyone does that. But SA somehow seems to split the pack... Folk seem to either go there early in their travelling days and become an instant convert (possibly picking up a few accent touches and calling a bar-b-q a ‘bry’ and the plural of elephants ‘elephant’, or go never.
[part title="South Africa (cont.)"]
Brendon Gibbens. Photo:Van Gysen
Prime Swell Season
Just like all southern hemisphere destinations, our summer is their winter, and thus the principal swell season, as in, now. Ranging from the frigid waters and temperate climate of the Cape in the SW, to the sub-tropical surrounds of Durban in the NE, SA has a little bit of something for everyone. J-Bay needs a proper swell to fire, something that should happen at least every couple of weeks on an average winter. First off the cold front passes, then the swell faithfully builds and render an otherwise placid bay into ruler edged lines of surfing perfection. If you are a regularfoot you really really need to surf J-Bay before you die. If are a goofyfoot, you also need to surf J-Bay. Think Occy raging bull three second bottom turns...
The entire stretch between Durban and J-Bay has literally thousands of spots, some of them unbelievably good and empty. Do that roadie during their winter months and you’re guaranteed surf ranging from fun to fucking epic.
Will I Get Eaten Alive?
SA has a gnarly rep for sharks, perhaps only surpassed these days by Reunion Island and Western Australia very recently. Tourist visitors to Cape Town are almost obliged to do the shark cage diving thing, which might or might not be considered asking for it, from a karma point of view. I once rocked up at an SA reef point for a dawnie with an SA surfer buddy who asked a local “Is this were the Okes got chowed?’ to which the local replied “Yep, which ones?" Gulp!
Durban is netted, so you can more or less surf with peace of mind there, but as soon as you head south or north away from the nets, you’re entering known sharky waters. Even so, statistically, you’re much more likely to die in the mouth of a hippo in SA than a shark. (More info on how not to get chowed here)
Will I Get Rogered/Stabbed/ Shot (or all 3)?
SA has some horrific crime rate statistics, averaging around 50 murders and 160 rapes or sexual assaults per day, and is also the global capital of carjacking. While these stats alone are enough to make you never want to go, they are centered in certain urban areas and in general, crime rates around most surf spots are much, much lower. Still, you’d do well to be a bit streetwise, it ain’t Switzerland. Be especially careful what you do/where you go after dark.
What Gear Do I Need?
Boards are pretty cheap, with plenty of skilled shapers especially clustered around the main surf towns like J-Bay and Durban. You’d not do badly to get your boards over there and save on the airline baggage charges. With the rand at about 17 to the pound, a new board will set you back a paltry £175 or less. Get online and order a quiver before you go and have em ready and waiting for the start of your trip. Durban has warm water meaning you can trunk it or wear a shorty, while J-Bay will require a steamer and the Cape your full-on winter get up.
Game park safaris are well worth a peep, even the ostrich riding a la Endless Summer II, and if you like your team sports more hand/ egg than foot/ball, you’re in the right place. Just like Australia, time it right and you can combine a surf trip with watching Test Match cricket, which is still one of the more civilised ways of spending an onshore afternoon or five.