Everyone has their surfing bucket list. Places you just seriously want to get to somewhere along the line. Am so stoked to finally be heading off to what was probably one of the first on my list when I started surfing. Remember turning the page of a Surfer mag back in the mid 90's and getting blown away by this double page spread of an incredible right point just barreling down a deserted jungle fringed beach. It was captioned Tropical Jbay. I was hooked.
Nearly 20 years later and it's still one of the more remote surfing destinations on the planet. A handful of magazine articles, and a short segment in a single surf video. It's not an easy place to get to. Put it this way, if you have to apply for a Restricted Area Permit and arrange to have a "fixer" meet you at the airport to get you through, you know it ain't mainstream. Which is good. It means you're unlikely to spot another surfer other than a handful who may be living feral in huts at one of the reeling left points. But they're stuck there cos there no roads going anywhere else! If you're in a yacht like we are......empty beaches and waves await.
You have more chance of getting dropped in on by one of the swimming elephants than another surfer.
Another reason for it remaining off the surf map is that it has a really, really short surf season. Basically April or bust unless you happy to put in a bit of time to make sure you score. It works on the same groundswells that feed Indo, but the SW monsoon is onshore at most of the best spots. So you gotto catch some early season swell before the winds kill it.
Luckily there are 2 nice looking red blobs lurking in the Southern Indian Ocean right now, which will make their way northwards just in time for our trip.....
It was dubbed “The land of the head-hunters” by Marco Polo, who was the first Western visitor to this chain of over 500 islands, islets and rocks. As with most places, the British pitched up and annexed it, and used to dump Indian convicts sentenced to life imprisonment there. Geographic isolation, heavily restricted travel, mysterious Stone Age culture and totally uncharted waters are what this place is all about.
Home to stone-age tribes that still practise age old rituals including some cannibalism, means you definitely don't go ashore in the restricted area's....unless you like the prospect of being dinner. Unwelcome visitors are generally greeted by an arrow or two. Seriously. Gotto hope you don't break a leash, as fetching your board on the beach might turn into a Survivor episode.
Remember reading a story about how the UN aid helicopters flew over the villages to assess damage after the Boxing Day tsunami, and the locals shot arrows at the chopper! Local is lekker!
Besides the tribes not being keen on outsiders, other hazards include salt water croc's. That moment as you realise the log in the line-up you've been looking at is staring back at you....
It's not a cheap trip. Boat costs are high as there's no local live-aboards, so your yacht has to sail there from Thailand...which takes a good 5 days, so factor that into the cost. Two weeks here will easily get you 6 months styling in Bali for the same price. And don't think you'll be able to sneak in there under the radar with a mate's boat. The Indian Navy patrols the waters and normally checks in on all vessels twice a day to make sure you're legit. And being legit there costs cash. Plenty of it.
The heavy military presence is a good thing, as the whole area is a non-commercial fishing zone and they make sure that's adhered to. Which means the fishing is positively off the charts. Huge GT's will smash your poppers and big tuna will chow down on your lures. If you're in luck you'll hook up a marlin or two. So even if the waves aren't co-operating, the fish certainly will. We're lugging over as much fishing tackle as surf stuff!
This place is as far off the grid as you get. There's basically no cell phone signal, and absolutely zero internet connection, other than at the main port. So advance apologies for no updates to the site for the next 2 weeks, other than one day mid-trip where we go back to port for provisions.
Remote, uncrowded surf. Warm water. Jungle fringed beaches without a footprint in the sand. Epic fishing.
To say my froth meter is off the charts would be an understatement.
Let's be honest, you gotto know weather if you wanna make sure you score the surf. Sure, it's as easy as logging on to your favourite surf report or wind forecast sites, but it's still a helluva lot cooler if you're able to have a stab at what the weathers gonna be doing without having to consult www.com
Here's a few old school ways to predict the weather.
Starting with an easy one. Sure you've heard the old saying that goes "Red sky at night is a sailors delight, red sky in the morning a sailors warning" which implies it's gonna be a lekker day tomorrow if there's a kiff sunset, and the possibility of a kak day if there's a beaut sunrise. But where does the saying come from, and does it actually make any sense?
The saying dates back thousands of years and just might have some scientific truth behind it. Kind of.
The colors we see in the sky are due to the rays of sunlight being split into colors of the spectrum as they pass through the atmosphere and bounce off the water vapor and particles that it contains. The amount of water vapor and dust particles in the atmosphere turn out to be pretty good indicators of weather conditions. And guess what - they also determine which colors we will see in the sky.
During sunrise and sunset the sun is low in the sky, and so light is being transmitted through the thickest part of the atmosphere. A red sky suggests an atmosphere packed with dust and moisture particles. We see the red, because red wavelengths (the longest in the color spectrum) are breaking through the atmosphere. The shorter wavelengths, such as blue, are scattered by the dust & moisture and broken up. The red sky at sunset often results from clear skies, which means there's most likely a high pressure cell around which will keep storms at bay.
"A Ring Around the Sun or Moon, Rain or Snow Is Coming Soon" is another of the old sayings.
It’s an effect of our own atmosphere that meteorologists call a “halo effect,” because diffracted light rays create a halo around a bright object.
The halos are caused by tiny ice crystals that have gathered thousands of feet above the ground, as thin, wispy clouds (called cirrostratus for the technically minded). These clouds are so thin, you might not notice them at all if it weren't for their effect on the sun or moonlight. The incoming light rays from the sun or moon are bent, or diffracted, by these ice crystals at an angle of 22 degrees.
This means that in addition to the direct sun/moonlight, you will also see diffracted sun/moonlight in a circle 22 degrees away from the sun or moon. This is about the distance of your fist, held at arm’s length. Which is what we see as the halo.
Does it mean that rain is coming soon? Those high, wispy clouds could be the forerunners of storm clouds right behind them, so yip - rings could mean rain.
Another good way to find out if a front's on the way is to ask a ballie! If he moans about joint or bone pain, then there could be waves on the way.
Arthritis pain and physical discomfort kick in when the barometric pressure changes. Many people with joint problems, teeth issues or recently healed broken bones will feel some aches as the barometer drops. Low barometric pressure means an approaching cold front, which might bring some surf with it.
Big Dave's had a hip replacement - so he's a walking barometer....just drop him a line to ask him how the hips feeling!
Moving from old wives tales to new urban legends. This one may or may not be true. But given the amount of posts I see every morning on my Facebook feed of ou's cups of coffee - I'm thinking there should be plenty peeps out there that can give this one a test. You just gonna have to forgo the fancy froth and go old school basic for this one though....
So, wanna know what the weathers doing - take a look at your cuppa coffee in the morning and check out the bubbles (no bubbles? no problem. Just give your cup a good stir!)
Do the bubbles collect in the center? Supposedly that means you’re in a high-pressure system, which is making the coffee’s surface convex (higher in the middle). Since bubbles are mostly air, they migrate to the highest point. It’s going to be a lekker day.
If the bubbles form a ring around the sides of your mug, you’re in a low-pressure system, making the surface concave - so the highest points on the surface of ya coffee are around the edges. Rain is likely.
A word of caution about the coffee barometer - you gotto be drinking strong, brewed coffee, as this has enough oil for the trick to work, and your mug must have straight sides. Those instant coffee granules ain't gonna tell you nothing. Another good reason to drink real coffee!
Keen to see what the local PE coffee-culture surfers make of this - please report back on your bubbles guys! Jamie Bell, Gino Fabbri and the rest of the coffee crew - we await your verdict on this one....
First South African Surfing Pioneers Inducted into Surfers’ Circle Walk of Fame in Muizenberg
The first 12 pioneers of surfing to be inducted into the Surfers’ Circle Walk of Fame were announced on Saturday at the launch function for the national landmark that will celebrate the past, present and future legends of South African surfing at Muizenberg in Cape Town.
Honoured for their inspirational and influential contribution to the surf community in the period up to and including 1964, the inaugural group of honourees consists of three pioneers each from Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town where the majority of the country’s surfers resided 50 years ago.
The crowd of nearly 400 surfing and local celebrities were treated to the wacky antics of MC Deon Bing, a thought provoking talk on community spirit and songs by Verity Price, the grand niece of Heather Price who in 1919 at Muizenberg became the first South African recorded riding waves standing on a surfboard, and presentations on the background and aims of the project and the need to raise funds to design and implement the landmark.
Tony Smith, chairman of the Muizenberg Improvement District (MID), explained that the non-profit company that is driving the Surfers’ Circle project and obtained permission to use the traffic circle at Surfers’ Corner for the landmark was inspired by Heather Price’s historic achievement, the role surfing has played in the economic development of the town, the way it has fostered cultural diversity and social cohesion and gained international recognition for Muizenberg as a destination of choice in South Africa.
He noted that the MID’s mandate included maintaining the landmark once it was built, but that all the estimated R2 million required for the design and construction of the centrepiece, walkways embedded with plaques honouring the country’s surfing legends and the landscaping would have to come from fund raising efforts such as the Big Jol and donations.
An audio visual production on the landmark, live music from the Robin Auld Trio and a heartfelt rendition of Andre de Villiers’ tribute to the late John ‘Oom’ Whitmore, the Doyen of South African surfing, were followed Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker celebrating his recent crowning as the 2014 Big Wave World Champion and inspiring everyone to follow their dreams.
The highly anticipated announcement of the names of the first surfers whose names will be honoured in perpetuity on the plaques in the Walk of Fame, and particularly the appearance and comments by Cape Town inductees Dave Meneses and John Grendon, were the highlight of the evening..
Meneses, 76, commented wryly on the rigours of surfing in the frigid waters of the Cape Peninsula in the 1950’s and early ‘60’s before wetsuits and leashes were invented and the effort required to hang onto surfboards that weighed 20 Kgs or more in giant waves at the Outer Kom and other powerful West Coast breaks to avoid having to swim 300 metres to the beach to collect them after a wipe-out.
Grendon, an extreme waterman and multiple SA Veterans champion, who is credited as the first surfer to ride a wave at Jeffreys Bay in 1964, laconically replied ‘Lonely’ to a query on what it was like surfing at Scarborough back in the early ‘60’s. He went on to explain that he, his brother Robert, who graced the cover of the SA Surfing magazine in 1966, and sister Jane, an early women’s surfing champion, shared a single surfboard and were the only surfers in the town that is now home to more than 100 wave-riders with many more visiting when conditions are good.
The Cape Town pioneers include Whitmore whose energy, inquiring mind and pioneering spirit saw him experiment with innovative board building techniques in the ‘50’s before introducing the polyurethane foam and polyester resins that the vast majority of surfboards are constructed of now. He also imported the first international Surfer magazines and surf movies (including the iconic Endless Summer where he starred in the SA segment), invented surf racks, hosted the first daily surf report (which ran for more than 30 years on Good Hope Radio), was the first Chairman of both the Western Province and South African Surfing associations, managed the first official Springbok surfing team at the World Surfing Championships in California and won the SA Masters surfing title twice.
The Durban contingent comprises George Thompson, a three-time SA men’s champion and four-time Springbok acknowledged as the country’s best surfer of the ‘60’s, along with George Bell, a standout in the early ‘50’s who introduced fins to the hollow wooden surfboards of the era enabling surfers to ride across waves instead of straight towards the beach and the late Leon ‘Dux’ Coetzee whose equipment innovations after returning from representing South Africa at the lifesaving championships held alongside the 1956 Olympic Games in Australia led to Finn Anderson surfboards becoming the equipment of choice for the country’s surfing community between 1957 and the introduction of urethane foam in 1961.
The trio of inductees from East London comprise the late Bobby Joubert, a legendary man-mountain who mastered many of the breaks in the area, led Border surf teams in the early national surf contests and manufactured Joubert Surfboards before introducing Rick Surfboards under license from the USA. He is joined by supreme surfing stylists Roger Taylor and Mike Hornsey who discovered new surf breaks in the area and motivated their peers with their dedication to the surfing lifestyle and inspirational surfing.
Port Elizabeth is represented by John Heath, who was also nominated as a Cape Town inductee for his surfing skills in the late 50’s before becoming influential in the Eastern Cape in the early ‘60’s by taking many youngsters along on his regular trips to nearby Jeffreys Bay and forming the Eastern Province surfing association that hosted the first interprovincial surfing contests. The evergreen Leo Davis, who still travels to exotic equatorial surf locales, inspired generations of 60’s PE surfers by forming the Commodore surf club and fellow inductee, the late Sandy McGillivray, became the era’s ‘Mr Surfing’, operating the first surf shop and building Seal Point surfboards.
The party continued with nine recipients awarded prizes totalling nearly R25 000 before legendary surf muso Steve Walsh joined the Robin Auld Trio for another rocking session and the evening closed out with dance music from the Bacardi mobile disco.
The success of the Big Jol launch party was made possible by the support of True Blue Travel, African Perfection Guest House, RVCA, Quiksilver, WaveJet, Roxy’s Surf Emporium, Boekenhoutskloof Winery, Hurley, The Drift Villa and Winery, Blue Bottle Liquors, Khuluma Meals, Soundworx, Grit Security and the staff and students from the False Bay College Catering Department, along with many dedicated volunteers and unsung heroes.
Surfers’ Circle Walk of Fame
2014 Inductees – The Pioneers
Leon ‘Dux’ Coetzee
They're dropping like flies. Just last year alone 3 surf mags I used to read bit the dust. They were great mags. Good editorial backed up with solid images. Yet they've folded. RIP Transworld Surf (USA), Surfers Path (UK) and Waves (Aus). Local mags The Bombsurf and African Soul Surfer suffered similar fates a few years earlier.
The death of print media has been prophesied since the advent of online content. It's all about the here and now, no-one wants to wait a month to see stuff in print. But you should. It's better. So much better. Anyone can publish anything on the net anytime.
But to make it into a mag images and stories have had to survive the editorial cut. Which means someone in a lil office somewhere has sweated away in an effort to sift through all the information overload to bring you something really unique and interesting - whether it be images that will blow your mind or stories that'll inspire you to travel.
At least Transworld Surf kept their wacky brand of humour right up til the end - here's the cover of the last mag they produced.