In February this year my waterwear sponsor NP asked me to join their photoshoot in South Africa. I felt honored to be invited along with kite wave champion Keahi de Aboitz, freestyle talent Liam Whaley and my teammate Antoine Martin. Reading the invitation I got more and more excited. We were supposed to spend two weeks at one of my favorite places in the world – Kommitje, half way down the Cape peninsula from Mother City. Further, it read, Alan van Gysen was going to do still photography. Whenever I saw insane surf images from Africa, whether it was massive Dungeons, spooky Namibia, remote Mozambique, perfect J-Bay and so on, there was always his name below the pictures. I was psyched!
My plan was to travel a few days earlier to South Africa and have some time to tune into the place – get a couple of sessions in before we would actually start to “work”. A bitter snowstorm destroyed these plans as Istanbul airport got shut down and my flight postponed for three days. Once I finally arrive in Cape Town I pick up my usual ride, a Mercedes SE 280, and head south. The stretch of coast towards Cape Point is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. And what makes it even better: it is littered with amazing spots. There is a lot of movement in the water but it´s too early for the wind to fill in yet. First stop is Long Beach for a surf session, then the Kom for some bigger waves. As soon as it looks like the wind is a little stronger I roar further south into the Cape Reserve to sail my favorite spot: Platboom. Clean and powerful masthigh waves and just a couple of guys out on the water are awaiting me. After a while I have a solid number of incredible waves under my belt. I did so I decide to not push my luck too much and to drive back home. Suddenly, passing the coastal road towards Kommitje, I see a rarely sailed spot called Misty Cliffs going off. I feel there is a bit of energy left in my arms so I can´t resist to give it another go. The swell is quite big by now and I get some more insane rides. Every set is breaking closer to the rocks as the one before. At one point it gets too scary and I sail downwind to Witsands and finish the day with a solid jumping session. What I had planned to do in three days I fit into one. I am dead.
The alarm rings at 7:00. I realise I am in South Africa. I realise my body feels weird, legs and arms are hard to move. I realise my face feels weird too, sort of feverish. It takes me a while but finally I am able to get up. A glance in the mirror tells me I should have used sunscreen the day before. Ah, I almost forgot again, I am in Africa, not in Germany anymore. Through the big bedroom windows I can see the Chapmans Peak across the bay catching the first glimpses of the morning sun.
Downstairs I meet the rest of the crew: NP creative director Alex and product designer Terence, filmer Jason, photographer Alan and the kiters Liam and Keahi. Antoine´s flight was delayed so he had to spend a night in Paris and another one in Johannesburg. Living in the Caribbean doesn’t only bear advantages. He is expected to join us later that day. Luckily there is lots of coffee as we plan our first day. Actually, there is not too much to plan for. Alan says the morning light is beautiful, its windy already and there are some waves. We are heading to a spot called Scarborough.
We are all motivated, except my body that wants a few more hours of sleep. After the first couple of waves this changes and I want more waves! So does Alan and we are shooting a few good hours in the fun beachbreak before heading for lunch, a little nap, and going back to Scarborough. Antoine has arrived and the crew is complete. We shoot until no more sunrays bend around the horizon and find their ways into Alan’s camera.
The alarm rings at 7:00, again. I wake up but my roommate Antoine is still asleep. I figure out that where he comes from there are probably no such things as alarms. I actually thought, coming from the Caribbean, there are no such things as sunburns either but his face doesn´t look much better than mine right now. I wake him up, as day two of our photoshoot is about to begin. The feverish feel from my face has spread into my whole body. After a 24 hour flight and two intense days with way too much sun, my immune system simply shut down. We basically repeat the previous day and shoot the whole day in Scarborough. Alan and Jason are stoked with the photo outcome. I feel like I need to go to bed.
The next morning I feel better but Keahi´s voice sounds terrible and his eyes look very small. Liam and Antoine also caught a cold. The long flights plus all the sun was simply too much most of us. Brand manager Alex is happy with what we got in the box and decides to slow the pace a little. The wind has dropped as well and Alan says he knows a surf spot that will be pumping later today. As we arrive it doesn´t look good at all but Alan is optimistic. He grew up along this coast and worked as a lifeguard before his career as an photographer began. He is as local as one can get and sure enough, half an hour later the waves are pumping. With the waves, the crowd comes as well, but Alan knows the guys and collects high-fives and small talks in between shooting Keahi, whose eyes are wide open now. He gets a couple of bomb waves but rest of the set waves are reserved for local surfers. I realize without Alan´s integrity it is impossible to have a brand shooting at such an insane place. The rest of us is happy to sneak into a few closeouts on our surfboards and relax from the intense windsurfing during previous days.
The next days are relatively similar. We get up early, see what wind, waves and weather look like and then head out to shoot either windsurfing, SUPing, Kiting or do lifestyle and product shots. We eat delicious food, spend a lot of time in the water and everyone is fit again – the vibes are good. As the NP girls couldn´t fit the shoot in their schedule, Alex books two models for one afternoon. Antoine is highly excited, especially as Alex instructs we are going “to mess around in the pool” first. Later we take them for a ride in my Mercedes and take pictures of the women wetsuits range. Product designer Terence is happy with how the wetsuits fit. Life is hard these days.
The two weeks run by quickly and many more great memories will remain in my mind. Alex is super stoked with how the shoot went down. So am I. While we head for a night out on our last day, we wonder why brands normally shoot in Maui, year after year, for decades already. Different riders, different brands, different colors, but the images remain the same. Those two weeks south of Cape Town demonstrated how refreshing it is to experiment and discover new places.
Photos: Alan van Gysen
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