In South Africa, which has about 1,600 miles/2,500 kilometers of coastline, surfers are spoiled for choice. There are thousands of points and bays to explore, each with its unique surf pattern, from the harsh Atlantic coast to the mild Indian Ocean coasts. It seems you’re an experienced surfer looking to master world-famous waves like Supertubes and Dungeons, or perhaps you’re a beginner looking for a more relaxing ride.
Whatever your level of experience, any surfer worth his or her salt understands that the quality of the surf is determined by the magnitude of the swell and the wind direction. Because of this, the Cape Peninsula almost always provides good action throughout the year—after all, if the wind is wrong on one of the peninsula’s twin shores, it should be right on the other. Further north, there are lots of abrupt breaks as well. Put on your wetsuit and head out to one of South Africa’s greatest surf places.
1. Elands Bay, Western Cape
Elands is a great alternative for surfers wishing to avoid the crowds. It is located 135 miles/220 kilometers north of Cape Town on South Africa’s West Coast. There are a few guesthouses and self-catering cottages, but the area is mostly undeveloped. When a southeaster holds up a westerly swell to form a cranking left point break, the wave works best here in the summer. Remember to bring your wetsuit and sweater because the water is really cold here.
2. Long Beach, Western Cape
Long Beach, near the little town of Kommetjie, is an hour’s drive south of Cape Town. The beach, which is located on the Atlantic side of the southern Cape Peninsula, has the greatest and most consistent shore break in the Cape (maybe second in the country after Durban). On a southeasterly with small to medium surf, it works well. If you’re looking for a more intense ride, the Outer Kom produces enormous curlers on a large westerly wave that are not for the faint of heart.
3. Muizenberg, Western Cape
Muizenberg is home to Surfer’s Corner, an exceptionally popular swimming beach on the edge of False Bay. It’s also regarded as a longboarder’s haven, with several surf schools lending outboards and wetsuits. It’s preferable to arrive early in the summer to avoid the throng and the pounding southeastern. In the winter, this area is best surfed with a longboard in a north-westerly breeze, but it may be surfed any day of the year.
4. Stilbaai, Western Cape
Along the Garden Route, east of Cape Town, Stilbaai is one of the numerous good surf sites, with others including Mossel Bay, Plettenburg Bay, and Wilderness. The right-hand point break in front of Stilbaai has a fairly consistent shore break, but those in the know wait for strong south to southeast swell, when the right-hand point break grinds. If you’re lucky, the bay’s semi-resident dolphins will join you on the backline.
5. Victoria Bay, Western Cape
When it’s working well, Victoria Bay, a very narrow, steep-sided bay on the outskirts of George, is zealously guarded by young people. Because of the bay’s shape, this place is open all year and suitable for surfers of all levels of skill. If you plan on staying for a while, attempt to obtain a reservation at Lands End Guesthouse, which bills itself as “Africa’s closest lodging to the sea,” making it perfect for surfers.
6. Cape St. Francis, Eastern Cape
This location is not to be confused with St. Francis Bay, which was immortalized in the 1960s surf film Endless Summer. When the reluctant wave known as Bruce’s Beauties is pumping down the arm of the bay, creating barrels that roll for kilometers, the latter is untouchable. The Cape is a considerably better destination at any other time of year, with a range of point and beach breaks, the best of which is Seal Point near the lighthouse.
7. Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape
Should we explain further about supertubes? This is South Africa’s best surf destination and one of the world’s most consistent tubes, hosting the World Surf League’s annual J-Bay Open. Local legends like Jordy Smith adore it, and it has welcomed a bevy of great international surfers (think Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning). However, Jeffreys is one of the few areas in the country where you could come into some local surf xenophobia.