Photography & Captions by Alan van Gysen
Alan van Gysen has been documenting peak surfing action, natural beauty, and everything in between for the best part of two decades now.
Based in South Africa, a notoriously sharky part of the surfosphere, he'll be forgiven for putting his faith in the Big Guy upstairs for protection from attack, much in the same way the ancient Hawaiians believe their aumakua (ancestral spirits manifested in the form of an animal) could protect them.
Whether he's setting up for classic, iconic J-Bay lineups, scrambling up the bluffs on lesser known parts of that wave-rich coastline, or exploring the furthest reaches of Madagascar, one thing remains consistent -- stunning oceanic imagery.
And while Africa tends to see most of it's surf infamy at polar extremes, the north west in Morocco or the extreme south, there's so much to see and explore in between.
South Coast, South Africa. A seldom-surfed point unwinds with no one around save for a lonely goal posts and a well worn, makeshift field. Surfing barely registers in the lives of the Zulu people in these parts, but soccer certainly does as the most loved and played sport in South Africa.
Skeleton Bay, Namibia. It’s difficult to appreciate a point break from sea level. Even more so at a point that breaks over 2km long. Namibia’s now famous Skeleton Bay, known by locals as Donkey Bay is a true nature wonder of the world, incomparable to any other wave. It will and often has given surfers the best waves of their lives. The problem with that is where do you go next? Or do you just go back year after year, as many surfers now do.
Southern Angola. No matter how many waves roll on by at remote spots like this in Angola, you can’t help but stare. Kepa Acero and Dane Gudauskas, 2013.
The Pirate Isles, Eastern Madagascar. The north east coast of Madagascar is one of the most remote and difficult places to access in the world. With no road access and few places to anchor, it’s not a trip many have done or will ever do. Cyclones, sharks, disease and supplies are just a few of the problems. But then there is the reward. If you’re willing to search, uncrowded perfection is out there.
The Pirate Isles, Eastern Madagascar. Village children are always the first to warm to foreign visitors the world over, despite fears by elders that we might have been human traffickers when we dropped anchor just outside the bay of this particular village in eastern Madagascar. The reefs and wave potential in this region are as good as any in Indonesia.
Jeffrey’s Bay. The feeling of standing in the keyhole about to jump out into perfect Jeffrey’s Bay as demonstrated by freesurf wonder Creed McTaggart.
Alan Van Gysen
Lagos, Nigeria. Changing money in Lagos, Nigeria. The west African nation is Africa's most populous with 186 million people and counting, and for anyone wishing to experience the continent's culture and lifestyle, a must-visit.
The Cape Town. The southern tip of Africa around Cape Town, South Africa is arguably one of the most consistent regions in the world for big, heavy waves as seen here with local big wave charger Josh Redman. Dished out from the Roaring 40’s and spurred on by big cold fronts, the waves in Cape Town have nurtured some of the worlds best like two time big wave world champion Twiggy Baker, Josh Redman and Matthew Bromley to name a few.
Jeffrey’s Bay. Africa’s world champion hopeful, Jordy Smith with the weight of a nation - and continent - on his shoulders.
West Coast, South Africa. 4x4’s, tents, camping accessories, surfboards, friends and a whole lot of stoke. This is easy living up South Africa’s desolate and raw West Coast.