Acting as the heel of the African continent, South Africa slices the southerly swells of the Antarctic Ocean in two. Surfing in South Africa you’ll enjoy bays and jagged coves which transform ocean pulses into perfect peeling waves.
Shark bumps and chilly water temperatures aren’t enough to overlook the amazing surfing potential here.
And out of the water there’s much to be discovered, in a country that’s vibrating with enthusiasm for its own future.
Back with the waves, a South African surfing holiday would not be complete without visiting one, or more of the following top 10 breaks:
The holy grail of South Africa’s surf map. A long right starting at the top of the point and peeling down to the beach break. Each section has its own name and vibe, and associated wave – they often don’t link up when conditions aren’t perfect.
‘Boneyards’, besides being a world-class tube, is very localized and sketchy, breaking over a nasty reef. Just inside is ‘Supertubes’ – usually where the world tour stop is concentrated. Pick one off here and start pumping for a fast, hollow barrel and perhaps the wave of your life. Further down is ‘Tubes’, ‘Coins’, and the section aptly named ‘Point’. Start here to get your feet wet at J-Bay.
Sometimes compared to a lefthanded mirror of Supertubes, Elands turns from a firing barrel to a carveable face and plays host to any kind of board imaginable. Southerly winds pick up in the afternoon creating offshore conditions that also entice kiteboarders and windsurfers. Located on the Western Cape, the wave can get messy when there’s too much swell. Catch it just right on a rising tide for an epic session.
One of the most consistent, easily accessible waves in South Africa. Located on False Bay just south of downtown Cape Town, Muizenberg is a playful beach break with plenty of peaks for everyone to catch waves.
Definitely the best bet if you’re only in town for a short while or on your surfing holidays and not looking to take on more advanced waves. There’s several surf camps and rental shacks for beginners.
Often knocked for its inconsistency, Buffels can get cooking with a perfect SE swell. Towards the tip of Cape Peninsula, the point is close to Cape Town but rarely crowded.
A peaky beach break here is often the call, or a more consistent left called Murphy’s Reef. Be cautious of rocks on the low tide and be on the lookout for gray fins slicing through the water…
A mecca for up-and-coming surfers on the East Coast of South Africa. Durban’s waters are warm, as is its weather – a welcomed escape from the Antarctic winds of the South Coast. There are plenty of beach breaks to surf in town, as well as world-class waves at New Pier and Cave Rock. These spots are not for beginners so stick to smaller, sandy bottom waves at Dairy Beach if you are just starting out. Another perk – shark nets protect the municipal beaches.
A popular Cape Town spot on the western side of Cape Peninsula. The water is cold, the wind is often howling, and the wave is easily worth all the discomfort.
The Hoek works best with a medium-sized swell and needs plenty of offshore wind to make it barrel, but when it does, the result is unmistakable – a punchy left and right barrel over a shifting sandbar. It’s easy to see why this spot can get a bit crowded on windy days.
Cape St. Francis
Not far south from the epic rights of Jeffreys Bay, Cape St. Francis has held its own as a great surf destination for years. Popularized by both Endless Summer films, the cape churns out heaving right-handers on strong eastern swells.
Seal Point epitomizes point breaks and works best on a high tide – although it may fatten waves and send you back to the truck to grab your fish or longboard.
Explore the inside beach break or around the point. If you’re visiting on your surfing holidays, you’ll notice there are always some locals on the best peaks, but there are plenty of waves for all. Great whites – the true locals – are the ones to look out for.
Back on the eastern flank of the Cape Peninsula is the sandy beach of Kommetjie. A fun beach break exists close to shore and although it doesn’t hold up in massive surf, it will get good with a medium swell and throw excellent lefts. Further out are shifty sandbars, which command bigger surf and demand commitment.
The paddle-in will leave your arms burning, the shark sightings are frequent, and the waves can get massive, but one ride out here and you’ve conquered South African surfing… at least for the day.
About halfway to Jeffreys Bay from Cape Town is the town of Mossel Bay. The unique geography of the bay causes swell to wrap all the way around the point until waves are actually breaking in an easterly direction.
Outer Pool is the wave to ride for exceptional barrels and fun walls; Inner Pools is better for the beginner or longboarder.
The area is lightly surfed compared to other municipalities in SA and conditions turn quite favourable in the winter. The water is warmer here and plenty of outdoor recreation can be enjoyed when the waves aren’t cooperating.
More of a novelty mention on this list. Dungeons is one of the gnarliest big wave slabs in the world. Saddle up in Hout Bay Harbor and gas your sled due west. When you see a 30-foot wave face doubling to 60 in mere seconds, stop. You’re here. And unless you’re a pro, don’t stick around.
A better place to watch insane tow-in crews is from the headlands behind the harbour. Cold, sharky, windy, huge, scary, unmakeable, Dungeons encapsulates all the risks of big-wave surfing. Better to leave it to the guys with a few loose screws.
For more surfing info and guides, check out: Top 10 surf spots in Hawaii / Buying wetsuits for surfing: A ‘how to’ guide /Surfing Equipment: How to buy a Longboard /Top 10 Surf Spots in the Canary Islands
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