Our beaches are going AWOL. A few years back, Avo's, Hummies and the Pier would almost guarantee you a wave on the low - no matter how small the swell. Great sand banks coupled with nice drop-offs ensured a steady supply of speedy little waves. Each break had it's regular local crew. The morning low tide sessions were the best. Just a coupla peeps sharing fun waves, before the varsity and school kids engulfed the breaks after lunch.
Problem is, none of these spots work any more. The sands just buggered off, leaving gaping holes where there used to be sandbanks. It's definitely upped the crowds at the remaining breaks. It's not like we had that many good surf spots to start with, and quick as a flash we just had 3 great spots wiped off the surf map.
So what gives? Where's the sand gone, and more importantly, will we get it back? Millerslocal went off in search of answers and got hold of the ever helpful Dylan Anderson, a local surfer (& Coastal & Environmental Scientist) who works for AfriCoast. Check out what he has to say.....
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A beautiful addition to any beachfront....not! Image by Jonker Fourie.
New Brighton Pier gets some cooking surf - you'd just get lank sick surfing there. Image by Sue Hoppe.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing PE beaches at the moment?
In general our beaches are in good condition compared to the beaches of the other coastal cities, however the following issues are of concern:
Marine pollution from the pollution from the Papenkuils canal and New Brighton Beach sewerage outfall.
Manganese dust on Kings Beach from the manganese handling facility any health issues with this?
Low volumes of sand on the PE beaches between Humewood and Pipe.
What went wrong at Avo’s? There always used to be enough sand there, but in the last few years it’s all disappeared.
The large storm wave events of the last few years have taken much of the sand offshore and the slower process which transports the sand back inshore during calm conditions have not had sufficient time to restore sand to the beaches and shallows.
To compound this situation these storms have coincided with high water levels. For example the storm of March 2007 coincided with an extreme high tide occurring at 18.6 year cycle. In fact there is evidence that erosion cycles are linked to this longer 18.6 year tidal cycle. These tidal cycles are believed to have resulted in the Kwa-Zulu Natal beach erosion over the same time period.
This same pattern is evident at Humewood, Hobie Pier and Avo’s. The gabion baskets (Ed – rocks in chicken wire) placed at Pollok will have fixed a small volume of sand however this should not significantly affect the sand supply at Avo’s (Ed - I'd asked whether the rock baskets at Avo's had hastened the sand loss, instead of preventing it.)
Warri @ Avo's back in the day when it used to break at every low tide.
Saul on another bog standard Avo's day back then - PLEASE bring back the sand!
How come the sand’s all disappeared at Shark Rock Pier? Similar story?
Once again my impression here is the same for Avo’s, Shark rock pier and Humewood - all spots being affected by the large storm wave events of 2007 and 2008 and the extreme tides which transported large volumes of sand offshore and this sand has not had a chance to return to the beaches.
Millers is losing its sand dunes, could we see them disappear all together?
Storm waves and extreme tidal levels have resulted in most of the significant erosion along our beachfront; in particular large waves coinciding with extreme tides allow more wave energy to erode the beach and dunes. This is what has happened over the last few years. If this continues the dunes at Millers could be lost and when large wave events occur in the future the waves could wash onto the lawn behind. However we have passed the peak of the 18.6 year tidal cycle and the beaches should build up again.
Will the beaches eventually build back up – what brings sand to our beaches, and what makes it stay there?
Small waves and less tidal range (mainly lower high tides) will bring sand back onto the beaches over time. Hopefully coming out of the peak phase of the 18.6 year tidal cycle we will see sand return to the beaches and our surf breaks.
Dunes getting chowed at Millers, from the end of the sea wall
The outflow pipe opposite Chomp Rock at Millers totally exposed
Is the council aware of all these “loss of beach” issues – and if so, are they doing anything about it?
Yes, there is motivation to reactivate the Noordhoek dunefield in Cape Recife which will supply more sand to the beaches within the bay.
Afri-Coast was involved with the ASR reef guys who were over here a few years back, investigating the possibility of constructing offshore reefs. What happened with that?
ASR completed the final design for multi-purpose reefs for four sites in Algoa Bay in 2008. These plans are still alive and the metro intend implementing these reefs one at a time starting in 2012/2013. Well's Estate & New Brighton will be the first beaches to have reefs constructed.
What would be the best way to protect our shorelines from further erosion?
Coastal dunes should be protected, the vegetation on these dunes helps trap sand and these dunes protect the land behind. In addition the surfers should get behind the municipality to ensure that the Noordhoek dunefield in Cape Recife is reactivated.(Ed - watch this space, Millerslocal reckons this is a good idea and will
Kings Beach is the only beach in the city that’s grown. Would it not be possible to pump the extra sand building up at Kings and to the east of the harbor entrance up towards Pipe – so it could drift back down?
The city could also motivate for Transnet to take the sand it dredges from the port entrance channel and discharge it in the vicinity of Pipe, but it would be unlikely to get this right due to environmental authorisation and the obvious cost implications.
Kings beach used to have rocks in the old days. Check Denvils.
Now there's so much sand it's screwed up Fence
What would happen if we just trucked in a whole lot of sand and dumped it at Avo’s or Shark Rock Pier – would it stay there?
No, it would get washed away pretty quickly. The potential longshore current transport rate along this section of coast is high due to the angle of wave approach.
What are the main threats to our beaches?
As discussed above, extreme waves and high tides are the key ingredients, and rising sea levels attributable to climate change will only make this worse.
Is there any measurement of sea level rise in PE at all?
Yes, the South African Navy measure tidal levels in all the ports. Analysis of the long term record indicates that the sea level has risen at an average rate of +/-2.5 mm per year over the last 30 years. (Ed - note that recent research indicates we could be facing a minimum of a 1m increase in sea levels by 2100. Worst case scenario - if we don't get our asses into gear and get a grip on climate change - we'll be looking at 2m+! Might see us surfing a lekker wedge either side of Summerseas!)
With sea level rise, Kings Beach might start to look like this spring high day back in 2008. Image Sue Hoppe
The breakwall at Millers got taken out in a recent storm
Clubhouse got clubbed by the storms too
You better double click this one! Spot the ou's head popping up just to the left of middle behind the first wave. Beeeg, very beeg. Problem is, what's good for surf isn't always good for our beaches!
Luc Hostens Storm damage gallery
Double click to open up the full size slideshow and captions.
Check out the GREEN WAVES page (under the Parking Lot tab) for more on environmental issues. It's your beach & your planet bru - look after it!