Surfing / Cape Town / South Africa
When telling people – friends at home and travelers abroad alike – that we were driving to Cape Town, every response was “oh, you’ll loooove Cape Town.” With hype like that, I was both excited and skeptical.
After spending a week there though, I get it. Firstly, it’s a beautiful area. Mountains meet ocean blue in almost every direction. Secondly, it’s different enough from other South African cities that South Africans appreciate it, yet it’s easy enough for foreigners to figure out and appreciate as unique as well.
Finally, and most exciting for us, there are waves everywhere. We barely tasted what was on offer but it was easy to see the variety of breaks and potential for consistently getting waves here. Just look at this view from Lion’s Head…
Our Cape Town surfari started in Kommetjie. Recommended by my buddy Irving, we were happy to have stayed here for a night and surfed Long Beach (the main break) twice. It’s ~45 minutes South of Cape Town proper on the Western coast of the peninsula. As a result, the water is COLD. That doesn’t stop local groms from getting wet and getting competitive though, as the surf community here is very strong. We caught one afternoon session and one morning session, the latter slightly less crowded and caught some good waves, though I admit I wished I had a little more length on my board to catch some of the bigger sets on the outside. The locals are friendly but they certainly won’t give away any waves, paddling competitively for each set, and they aren’t the most chatty, but who is when it’s freezing anyway?
Kommetjie also has a great little surf shop – Kommetjie Surf – in town with a surprisingly large selection of wetsuits (it’s cold there, duh), and boards, and the owners are super friendly. Also, a good coffeeshop around the corner at Espresso.kom.
I forget who put Llandudno on my radar, but I eventually found it on Magic Seaweed and it was the closest working break to where Annie’s family rented a house, so I hit this spot a few times. Again on the Western coast, South of Cape Town, it’s cold as hell. There was little to no crowd here as the surrounding community doesn’t into it. Feels more like a wealthy retirement neighborhood with a nice cove. Apparently Llandudno can barrel pretty well, but I didn’t see it working great while I was here. Mostly close-out beach break, but it was something. There is a shower to rinse off, but little else in the way of amenities.
We’d driven through Muizenberg once, after having surfed Kommetjie that morning and we weren’t impressed. All white wash and murky water, and just a few lessons out. It didn’t make sense as to why there were so many surf shops around… But then a friend of a friend whom I was keen to meet invited me to surf there per the forecast of some solid swell arriving on my birthday, so I made the drive East, across the mountains, to Muizenberg. I was very happy, upon my arrival, to see some great waves rolling in head high plus! Justin, my new buddy, and a few of his mates and I all paddled out and started picking off some fun, walling waves. Most of the crew was on logs or mini-mals so they could pick off the walling waves and compete with the many SUP’s out there, but I was ok on my 6’0 just the same. Mostly rights, but some lefts to be had, too. The wave breaks far outside, so bring your paddle strength.
Afterward, you can grab brekkie at Ta Daa, or any of the other awesome little cafes along the parking lot. I grabbed a coffee with Justin and his buddy, former Sea Shepherd crew, and then popped into a few surf shops eyeing boards (check Lifestyle for the best selection in SA, by far or Rolling Wood for asymmetrical reclaimed wood boards and the like).
By mid-morning, the place was hopping with surfers everywhere… but it’s a chill break. Wide open with plenty of room, so everyone is having fun and it’s a good vibe. Oh yeah, and it’s much warmer water on this side of the peninsula which made my birthday surf so much more enjoyable.
The one downside of this spot is that it is rumored to be “sharky.” Given its location near-ish to a rivermouth, that’s probably true. Whatever… just keep surfing, dummy.
Because we had spent so much time trying to figure out all these foreign breaks and because Annie is the best girlfriend ever, for my birthday, she booked us a surf guide. He picked us up, drove us to the best spots given the conditions, showed us where to paddle out, and hopped in with us. Super cool present which allowed us to relax a bit and explore a new break called Big Bay, North of Cape Town by about ~45 minutes.
Big Bay has a similarly cool vibe in that there are lots of people engaged with the beach, surfing, etc, and lots of cafes nearby, and showers for surfers to rinse off. There’s an inner and an outer break, and a strong current. We let the old timers and loggers have the larger, outer peaks while we picked off some waves inside. Admittedly, there were some frustrating sections of the session where we were just drifting and paddling and dodging outside sets, but the waves I did get were fun and it was really nice to relax a bit with some local knowledge. Water was cold, but not as brutal as Kommetjie.
So, in a week I was able to surf four different breaks. Not bad. I loved the varierty of waves, the different scenes, and chatting with everyone at each spot, and I barely scratched the surface. I’d love to come back here for longer (to live?) and surf the whole area.
- Do… bring a 4/3, minimum. On the West coast, you’ll want that plus boots and/or a hood. I think I saw some guys wearing a 5/4 minus booties. Whatever works for you, but it’s cold. Muizenberg is warmer, yes, but I was still in a new 4/3 Xcel.
- Do… grab a coffee/baked good/asymmetrical reclaimed wood board at Rolling Wood in Muizenberg. Cool surf/coffee shop specializing in sustainable products.
- Don’t… hide your keys in your wheel like at home in Muizenberg. Give ‘em to Charlie, the car guard who works the parking lot in front of Ta Daa.
- Do… shop for a new board at Lifestyle (Muizenberg). Amazing selection and good prices, especially given the exchange rate and the potential VAT return at the airport. The owner is also a great surfer and legend in the area.
- Don’t… compete with the groms on the inside in Kommetjie. The adults surf outside.
- Don’t… worry about sharks. Just try not to look and act like their food either.