At a semi-secret rivermouth somewhere between Mossel Bay and Knysna the right conditions can produce some of the best left-hand (a wave breaking from left to right if you look at it from the beach) barrels in South Africa. Those usually happen in winter conditions, when a clean west swell is groomed by a fresh northwesterly wind.
Sharks, of course, are a concern, but statistically you are more likely to be killed by a mosquito and, with the seasonal migration patterns of the Great Whites (closer in-shore during the summer months) and reliable information on their whereabouts from good friends in the shark diving industry, the risk is no higher than at any other break.
To divulge the details of this special place would be to break an unspoken code – only those who know are allowed to go.
However, with some 200 kilometres of coastline, the Garden Route boasts diverse, world class surf spots. Some are remote and demanding – the realm of the most experienced board riders only. Others are more gentle, with rollers perfect for learning. From west to east, here is a handful of the finest:
1. The Point, Mossel Bay
There are two main breaks at the area known as the ‘the point’. Outer Pool works on a low, incoming tide. It offers an easy take-off, before bending onto the reef and turning steep and hollow. This breaks is for experienced surfers only.
Inner Pool is better on a higher tide and usually a lot more forgiving and fun. The take-off and paddle out can be hairy and the inside can get shallow. There is also a rather unfriendly rock mid-break known as ‘peanut’, but, ask one of the friendly locals to point it out and you’ll be fine. It breaks best in small to medium south to southwest swell and light offshore (northwest to southwest) wind.
Ex professional surfer Llewellyn Whittaker [www.wavesschoolofsurfing.com] is the unofficial mayor of the town and your go-to for coaching, advice and equipment rental.
2. Victoria Bay, George
‘Vic’ as it is known in surfing circles, is your classic pointbreak setup in miniature. As with Mossels, the take-off and paddle out can be tricky and on lower tides the inside section of the reef does get shallow, but in general it’s an easy wave. It works best in south to southwest swell and light offshore (northwest to southwest) wind. The locals rule, so smile and wave and try stay out of the way. Contact www.vicbaysurfari.co.za for lessons and equipment hire.
3. Lookout Beach, Plettenberg Bay
When the sandbars are just perfect, this spot can produce some of the most dreamy sand-bottomed right handers in South Africa. Many have likened it to the ‘Superbank’ on the Australian Gold Coast. Machine-like perfect in warm, clear water. Go to to Google and drool.
4. Seals Beachbreak, Cape St Francis
Jeffreys Bay may be one of the world’s best waves, but the long, hollow pointbreak is far from easy to surf and the crowds (and locals) can be rather intimidating. Travel the extra 30-odd kilometres to Cape St Francis, where, depending on conditions, ‘Seals’ (after Seal Point) offers a variety of waves, from the pointbreak near the historic lighthouse, to the sand-bottomed rollers of the beach break. Show respect in and out of the water and we guarantee you’ll have some of the best surfs of your life.
5. Jeffreys Bay
When asked which is the best left-hand wave in the world, surfers will always give you a few different answers: Desert Point or G-Land in Indonesia, Hawaii’s infamous Banzai Pipeline, or, perhaps Skeleton Bay in Namibia. When asked which is the top right-hander, the answer is always ‘J-Bay’. In fact you can’t rightly call yourself a surfer until you’ve paddled out at the keyhole (the gully in the reef where you enter the break), sat in the revered ‘Supertubes’ line-up among pros, locals, ballies (respectful name for the older guard) and grommets (surf slang for the future stars), stroked into an overhead wave and rode it all the way through the carpark section.
That all will come. First you gotta learn to stand, bru. Graduate out of the foamies with Wavecrest Surf School, situated at Main Beach, just round the corner from Supers. It’s a beachbreak, so much gentler than Supertubes.
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Written by: Jazz Kuschke