Every once in a decade a wave is discovered that changes the very fabric of surfing. A wave that offers more than any other, a wave that cannot be compared to any other wave in existence. Back in 2009, when a single wave ridden by Corey Lopez at Namibia’s Skeleton Bay was beamed over the web, surfing had a real kick up the consciousness. That wave, that went on to feature in Lost’s 5′5″ x 19 1/4″: Redux, showed Corey riding a wave that went for a well over a minute, where he threaded about five different tubes, racing for kilometres at warp speed only metres from a windy sand shore.
Ian Walsh who also surfed that session told me not long afterwards, “This is the best wave in the world. End of Story.”
Now Corey and Walshy’s waves weren’t the first surfed at Skeleton Bay. South Africa’s preeminent surf journalist and editor Paul Jarvis told Surfline, “Ten years prior to Corey Lopez’s ridiculous wave, they were surfing it, or attempting to surf it. Emails were bandied about often enough between a few hardy Namibian locals and the South African surfing mag editors, telling them about the spot, inviting them up, begging them to have a look. Being the dumb, unbelieving fools that the editor’s were at the time (me) they never took the offer.”
One surfer who did take up the offer was Grant “Twiggy” Baker, the South African had been told about a mythical left in the desert over a few beers in a South Africa bar and had made the pilgrimage half a dozen times prior to its “rediscovery”. Surfing magazine’s Evan Slater also surfed it 2006, however the resulting images didn’t quite do it justice. After Corey’s wave though, the word was out and since then multiple clips have shown just how special wave this is. Aritz Aranburu has been there numerous times, slotting himself into backside tubes that look like Mundaka, just eight times as long and breaking only two metres from shore. Jeremy Flores and the French connection have also scored.
So far so good then. A new wave that offers the longest tubes in the world, breaking over sand and looking like cartoon perfection. So is it too good to be true? In some respects, well, yes. For Skeleton Bay to come alive it needs a pretty specific swell, the tide needs to be just right, the wind needs to be fresh offshore and the swell needs to have a perfect direction. These variables don’t happen that often. The current is so diabolical it is pointless trying to paddle against it. There are plenty of big sharks around, but they’re pretty well fed on the huge seals that live here, and it is a bleak, wind-swept beach that you spend your time on. It’s also a 36-hour drive from Cape Town, and you’ll need a 4wd, and probably a guide, or ideally a guide with 4wd.
It’s also deceptively difficult to ride. “The drop is all-important at this wave,” says South African Pro Dan Redman. “We’ve had some of the top surfers from South Africa go there and not make a takeoff for two days. And this can happen regularly.”
Of course if you do manage to handle the drop, a wave of incomparable length, speed and tubetime awaits. By the time you have finished you’ll be about a kilometre down the windswept desert beach, ready for a walk back and aiming to start all over again.
The perfect day:
A massive Atlantic low creates a huge long period swell. Short period swells don’t make it into the bay.
How to get there:
Fly into Cape Town and then drive 36 hours north up the west coast of South Africa into Namibia. We can’t give you any more information than that.
What surfboards to take:
Short, thicker and stronger than normal. This place breaks normal boards like toothpicks.
Other things you’ll need:
A local guide, advanced take-off and tuberiding skills, heavy duty fitness, a sense of adventure.
There is a local accommodation nearby, used by the kitesurfing crew for years. Once again, you’ll have to find the details on your own