With nearly three thousand kilometres of coastline it is small wonder that South Africa is a surfing paradise. From sandy beach breaks with perfect barrels to massive reef breaks that attract the top names in big wave surfing from all over the world. Starting at the unofficial tip of Africa in Cape Town and stretching either up the cold, desolate west coast towards Namibia or crawling along the south coast before climbing slowly north towards Durban and Mozambique, you’ll find surf that will suit any type of board and any level of expertise. We’ll start on the west coast and move in a clockwise direction around to the top of the east coast naming what are generally considered to be the best surf spots in South Africa. This list is compiled using various different resources but the important thing to remember is that surfers are incredibly territorial beasts and will do anything to protect the location of a local’s only surf spot. There may be other spots that can only be discovered by spending time with the locals.
This small “town” is a three hour drive north of Cape Town up the west coast. There is not much here other than epic waves which are best in summer, when the south eater holds a westerly swell creating a perfect left point break. This is definitely a wave for the experienced surfer and involves a tricky walk and a long paddle out to the break. Wetsuits are essential as the west coast waters are frigid so a hoody is preferable too. There is a smattering of accommodation consisting mainly of campsites and backpackers accommodation.
On the same coastline but on the Cape peninsula this break works only during winter storms. It is classed as one of the official “big wave” surf spots and hosts a leg of the red bull big wave competition. The swell, when it’s breaking, can reach to between 15 and 30 feet and breaks over a shallow reef which can only be reached by boat. This wave is for the very experienced surfer only!
Still on the Cape peninsula on the same coastline this shore break offers one of the most consistent wave in the country, possibly second only to Durban. It works best when the South Easter is blowing and gives small to medium yet technically perfect waves. This break is ideal for the moderate surfer looking to up their game.
On the slightly warmer Indian Ocean side of the Cape Peninsula this small bay hemmed in by a harbour offers a consistent left hand shore break. The occasional barrel can be caught here to. Although part of the greater Cape Town municipality Kalk Bay still has that small town feel to it and the locals can be vicious.
This is traditionally a swimmers beach and the consistent small to medium waves make this break a paradise for long boarders and beginners. That said the warm water offers a reprieve from the colder west coast and often attract more experienced short boarders. For those wanting to ride with a short board the waves work best in winter when the north westerly wind blows offshore. It can be ridden all year round on a long board and it is best to get there early in Sumer as the beach and thus the parking lot get crowded.
East of Cape Agulhus this consistent shore break is one of several on the South Coast. The sandy beach in front of the town offers a decent and consistent medium sized shore break but the more experienced local will wait for the big south to south east swell that sends the right hand point break going off.
Is one of those fiercely guarded locals spots mentioned in the introduction, especially when it is working well. It is however a good consistent wave for all level of surfers. The very narrow steep sided bay provides a decent wave all year round. When it’s pumping though beware of the locals.
It doesn’t even feel worthwhile writing about this premier world famous surfing destination. Known as Supertubes this break plays host to the Billabong pro surf challenge once a year and is surfed regularly by the likes of Kelly Slater. The sand that blows off the dunes into the sea and settles on the ocean floor creates the perfect surf break and one of the most consistent tubes in the world. Its popularity to outsiders means that it guarded, often violently, by locals. It is recommended only for the experienced surfer that has a sound understanding of wave etiquette.
Cape St. Francis
This is different from St. Francis bay which was made famous in the original endless summer movie. The barrels that have been known to role for kilometres, (literally!) come down the arm of the bay to the point, Cape St. Francis. The advantage of Cape St. Francis is that it offers a variety of point breaks.
Yes, I know Durban is a city and not a surf spot, but the fact is there is seldom a day or a place in this town when the waves aren’t working. The swell generally gets bigger from south to north so there are a variety of waves for all levels of experience. The locals tend to gather most at North beach. The “locals only” vibe varies from place to place but the truth is there is usually space for everyone.
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