I am a very keen kayaker, but I have to say my main love is in the sea, surfing the ocean waves in surf-specific kayaks. However, every time I go away
on a kayaking trip it always seems to be kayaking on rivers dropping into big holes on the Nile and the Zam. Don't get me wrong, it's great fun, but
I was due to a trip abroad and felt it was about time I went to find some waves! Having been out to Africa a fair bit I got to hear that South Africa
is home to some of the best surf there is!
So after a long flight, we finally touched down in "Joburg" and went to retrieve our toys from baggage collection all with tightly crossed fingers that
they were still in one piece! Then it was to the car hire shop to try and convince the kind chappy behind the counter that he should lend us a set of
wheels for 4 weeks! "No sir we wont be putting anything on the roof" and we didn't (not till we went round the corner anyway!).
The mixture of kayakers was gonna prove to make an interesting trip. There was Duncan Dares and Daz James, two top river kayakers with more guts than
sense! Richard Berry, a top surf kayaker from Swansea who's been at the top of the sport for far too long, and then myself, the youngster of the group;
I enjoy rivers but love nothing more than screaming down huge ocean faces!
We went to South Africa fully equipped with UFOs- the latest toys that Mega has to offer. They are set up with tri-fins and the hulls have developed a
long way since the original surf shoes of the 70s. The UFO "Marauder" would give a surf ski a run for its money on sheer speed and the UFO "Prowler"
is almost on a par with the maneuverability of a surfboard.
"...the best part of all; absolutely no surfers and awesome waves charging in at a solid seven to
So armed with the right tools for the job, we jumped into our 2.4 litre Toyota Corolla (ugly, ugly car- but big) and headed for Durban which would be our
first stop on the coast and proved to be quite a culture shock for Rich who has spent most of his life in Swansea and was experiencing his first trip
to Africa. Durban itself is quite a humid city, which faces the Indian Ocean, so the painstaking humid temperatures were rewarded with bath-warm water
to surf in! I would say though that out of all the places we stopped, Durban is at the bottom of the list! The surf was pretty good, but the city was
pretty full-on and very in your face! The waves were cool though and we stuck around for a couple of days to show the locals what a kayak is capable of.
One thing I should probably say about the atmosphere on the breaks in South Africa between kayakers and surfers is that it's pretty non-existent. This
is mainly due to there being very few kayakers in South Africa and even fewer that take them onto the swell. The idea of a surf kayak is totally unheard
of and most boardies were pretty fascinated by our toys and we often got a crowd of intrigued ocean dwellers gathering.
So back into the Ugly car and onto St Michaels, where we spent three days surfing a fast, fast right-hander with a solid six foot face, which had us all
scared-Darren more so when he decided that he would take up breast stroke instead of surfing and broke Rich's boat in the process-nothing too serious
and with a few dabs of resin he was back in business. We landed on our feet in St Michaels, somehow out of all the guest houses we chose from, we
managed to pick the one owned by the only wave skier in St Michaels, who was totally blown away by our kayaks and showed us all the best spots in
the area-top bloke!!
Twenty miles out of St Michaels saw the end of civilization as we called it and this meant no more tarmacked roads or 'Nando's burger bars' for 250
miles. So we filled our 2.4 litre up for a bank breaking fourteen quid, locked the doors and set off into the wilderness for a long day before
eventually and to our great relief we reached Port St Johns. This place was rad; it was full of hippies and looked like total paradise -unspoiled
beaches with white, white sand and blue ocean, and the best part of all; absolutely no surfers and awesome waves charging in at a solid seven to
eight foot! Here we stayed in a cool place called the "Island Vibe" backpackers, which is owned by this doolally hippy woman who, to our delight,
did the best home cooking and always kept the fridge well stocked with Lager. (Which until now I forgot to mention, only costs 30 pence a pint!!)
We all decided that with great surf with only ourselves to ride it, we should stick around for a couple of days before we would stop in another dodgy
city by the name of East London.
East London is a very smoggy city, which, like Durban is also pretty humid as it is still on the East coast facing the Indian Ocean. Most of the city
breaks are fickle and crowded but we headed out of town for about 15 minutes and found a wicked left hander, which kicked up off quite a shallow and
hollow reef (depending on how deep into the section you wanted to go) and then eases off slightly as it reaches the river mouth-it was a pretty fast
one which hurt if you got it wrong, but when you got it right it felt sooooo good!!!
By now we were into week two and although we had covered a lot of ground, we decided we should do some hefty mileage and press on to Port Elizabeth.
Here we would meet a somewhat odd character by name of Bruce who runs Port Elizabeth backpackers and has done everything, and been everywhere-and
according to him, he can communicate to animals!!?? If you fancy a laugh, I definitely recommend you pop in and have a chat with him, only don't
believe too much of what he says-he's a bit of a nut job!!
While in "P.E" we tracked down Mackski-the pioneering wave ski shaper of the 70s/80s. We loaded ourselves with fins for our boats and then headed
on to Jeffrey's Bay, which I'm sure everybody has heard of and for those of you that haven't, Jeffrey's is to Africa, what Pipeline is to Hawaii!
This is the most awesome reef break I've ever set eyes on! It's got five breaks in total, all breaking on a shallow reef so it hurts if you mess it up.
The breaks start from gnarly to not so gnarly and the line up is like this, Magna Tubes(totally gnarly), Super Tubes, Tubes, Bone yards, and The Point
(a little less gnarly). We surfed "Tubes" and the "Point", as all the rest are far too fast for a kayak although we still got severe beatings on Tubes!!