Cape Town is one of the top choices for a winter getaway for people all over Europe. Warm weather, consistent winds and a dream lifestyle, all make the place pretty special, and once you have tasted its best, its hard to stay away for long.
Carl Tomlison clearly loves the place and after a long time away decided to head back and give us the low down on the Euro paradise.“Just back from my 4th trip to South Africa. We decided to go back after a 7 year break as it was our 10th wedding anniversary and we spent our honeymoon in Cape Town and the Garden Route way back in 1998!
I wasn’t expecting much windsurfing on the first week as week as we’d planned to drive up the west coast from Cape Town & have the first week exploring the coast of Western Cape, Northern Cape and the Fish River Canyon area in Namibia. On the first day we arrived and headed up to Lanegbaan, which is a small holiday town beside a large sea lagoon. It’s a very popular flat water destination about 60mins drive from Cape Town. Then we drove round the coast road calling in at the trendy little holiday spots such as Paternoster, to see where the wealthy South Africans have their holiday homes.
Eventually we arrived at Elands Bay. It’s a top surf spot immortalised in the famous 60’s surf film “Endless Summer”. The swells wrap round a headland and pick up on a rock ledge to form a wave that continues to peel off onto a sandbar in front of a beautiful sandy beach. After a 4 hour drive and really not expecting to get any sailing I was greeted by head high waves peeling perfectly off the rock ledge and continuing onto the sandbar. It was cross off with about 20 knots and 10 surfers in the pack on the point picking the waves off in the kelp anchored to the rock ledge. I was rigged up in record time and to my surprise the surfers didn’t give me the expected unwelcome gestures and shouts and didn’t actually seem to mind me picking off some of their choicest waves and riding them off 6 maybe 7 bottom turns back to the beach. It was one of the most perfect sessions I’ve ever had windsurfing, not the biggest nor the most challenging, but a combination of stunning location, karma on the water, perfect peeling peaky waves held up by a cross off wind, no aggressive Euro wave heads dropping in…. even Jane was happy taking some photos! Because the fins are so short, one great advantage of the new twinzer is you can blast straight through the kelp without getting snagged and loosing speed as you would on a single finned board.
The next 5 or 6 days were spent doing touristy things. Namibia is a truly beautiful country, but very hot it was over 35C, and we only had windows for air con! Had we had more time I’d have visited Walvis Bay, but that was another 2 days drive and 2 days drive back just to the SA border!
Back in Cape Town, first job was to buy a new surfboard. If this is something you are planning on doing; I’d recommend Lifestyle Surf Shop in Muizenberg. They have a huge choice and loads of stock. If you’ve not surfed before Muizenberg is also a great place to learn as the waves come off the Indian Ocean and tend to be softer than on the Atlantic coast of Cape Town and also there’s a couple of surf schools right on the beach. However, that said, one of the biggest swells to hit the SA coast hit during Xmas and Muizenberg had 6-8ft faces and a cross off wind making for very nice peaky long beach break waves for a couple of days. By the way my board and bag cost the equivalent of £215.
One of my other favourite surfing beached is Long Beach by Kommetjie, which is on the Atlantic side. Nothing too radical, just nice powerful fast left and right beach break waves peaking on a sand bar. On one of the days over Xmas the swell was so big “Dungeons”, SAs big wave break, was working. I watched 4 surfers take it in turns being towed in by powerboat from probably a mile away from Long Beach, see the pics. A little later on in the day a south wind kicked in and I scored a scary hour and a half at Milnerton Lighthouse in mast high beach break waves. After that the swell dropped over the next two days but the South Easter kicked in so there was a couple of good days a Sunset which is probably the most popular windsurfing beach in Cape Town.
No trip to Cape Town can be complete without a trip down to Platboom Bay at Cape Point. It’s a long drive, the launch can be tricky and your non windsurfing partners will make friends with one of the three baboon troops who live on the Cape nature reserve. On our last trip in 2000, Jane was reading on the beach and turned round to find a baboon sitting inches from her just watching her. What they really want is food and they’ll jump in your car and take your bag of lunch and merrily yomp off into the fynbos throwing away what they don’t want and scoffing what they do want. The other thing with them is that they piss & shit everywhere, so if they get in your car expect to be cleaning it up afterwards. They’ll also happily leave a “Mr Whippy” on top of your favourite board bag if you leave it on the roof of your car, so be warned!! Baboons apart, Platboom is one of those special places, hefty fast surf, side shore wind, beautiful turquoise blue ocean and like most of the beaches in SA a stunning backdrop. On New Years eve I got there just before mid day, only 6 sailors out, logo high waves. I really got into gear and spent the rest of the afternoon ripping as the waves got bigger as the strengthening wind built up the underlying ground swell. The word must have got out as more and more sailors arrived, but most took a few runs and decided it was a bit too much…. Another perfect day!!!
CARL”S TOP TIPS
-Here’s some tips if you’re planning to go for a windsurfing trip.
-November to February inclusive are the months when you are most likely going to get the south east wind which blows side shore/cross off port tack at Sunset and Melkboss (the other top favourite spot for many pro sailors). The rest of the year the wind blows mainly from NW.
-Take a 65-75 l board and sails 3.5 to 5.0. I take a 75L board 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0
-Cape Town is not just a wave location, you can also do flatwater sailing on Milnerton lake launching from the sailing club, for which there is a charge.
-Xmas and new year are very busy times as this is when many South Africans take their holidays. Whilst many Cape Tonians leave, many up country folk arrive from Jo’berg, so getting around can be frustratingly slow and parking can be an issue. It’s a bit like a bank holiday Monday at home.
-There’s lots of people wanting to help you park your car, effectively these guys have nothing else to do (unemployment is at least 30% in SA) and car parking assistance is basically begging and can take a while to get used to be constant unwanted intrusion. It’s your choice to give a tip or not but note that most South Africans don’t tip.
-Get used to very poor people asking for money at all the big intersections, it’s unfortunately a way of life for them. Jane and I cleared our conscience by making extra food everyday and offering it to the folk that look like they need it most.
-On the 4 trips I’ve made I windsurfed 50-60% of the days and surfed on the others when there’s been no wind of light wind. Its very rare that you wont be surfing or windsurfing and if not there’s loads of other stuff to do.
-The most popular windsurfing beaches are North of Cape Town, Sunset and Melboks. Another beach is Big Bay which has some nice steep ramps for jumping.
-Other sailing spots which are really good are Scarborough and Misty Cliffs, which are South of Cape Town both of which I’ve sailed on previous trips. Scarborough is an absolutely awesome point break which I’ve only sailed once and Misty cliffs is a beach break and excellent for jumps, tends to be cross on.
-You can also sail right along the coast to Port Elizabeth, if you want to travel around a bit further afield. There are a couple of spots near Knysna. Buffels Bay is one of them. Expect to sail alone in big waves with a lot of water movement. J Bay is definitely worth a look.
-You get about 14 SA Rands to the £, so renting accommodation even in peak times is very good value for visitors from UK & Europe. Most windsurfers stay up in Blowberg a northern suburb with beach front accommodation. The internet has loads of accommodations.
-I chose to fly Virgin as they gave me 32kg allowance for my windsurfing gear provided it was all in one bag plus 23kg for normal luggage. Book early (10-12 months ahead) if you intend to go peak season and don’t have flexibility in your schedule.
-On the way back we had a connecting flight to Jo’berg with South African Airways before getting on Virgin the LHR. SAA wanted approx £650 excess baggage, I got them down to £70 after some lengthy discussion which involved calling Virgin in London on my mobile….. choose your flights carefully, getting the cheapest might not be the most economical for your gear!
Happy travelling, Carl“