I've made it! After three years, I was able to return to Cape Town, South Africa for a windsurfing and sightseeing holiday in the Western Cape!
Windsurfing, report: Cape Town, South Africa, february 2023
It was enough for me to disembark from the airplane, find myself under the bright blue sky of Cape Town, breathe the clear air of the Western Cape, put on my sandals and walk again on Sunset beach in the late afternoon, to rediscover wonderful emotions....
But there wasn't too much time to be enchanted, because already the day after my arrival, I immediately jumped into action, in the water.
Sunset beach, 5 february
Sunset is a spot you need to trust, because it often delivers. Today, ECMWF gave almost no wind at Sunset, and I went to explore Cape Columbine, with the idea of trying, then, to ride at Paternoster.... where I understood that you have to go only with forecast of strong winds, and a decent swell (today, it was flat).
Sunset, on the other hand, easily offers some waves, at least a windswell beach break, especially at high tide. And if they give 15-20 knots, it means that maybe I will be overpowered with the 4.2...., as happened.
Nice session from 17.30 to 19.30. Beautiful waves especially at the beginning. Then, as the tide went out, the waves got steep very close to shore. The first year I came here I caught very few waves. Today, I took quite a few, although it will take me a few days to find the right rhythm. Here, the waves are fast. Going down the wave, setting the bottom, sighting through the sail to look for the lip is a wonderful feeling! I have to be more radical in the cut back. I think thate here it will be easier for me to try the aerial! In the next few days, I have a lot to work on. I've already made up for my sacrosanct wipes out. They are part of the game. Luckily, I have sturdy rig (especially Ezzy sails and masts).
I rigged the Ezzy Elite 4.2 2019, but it turned out to be big even if sheeting the downhaul and outhaul. The Tabou Da Curve 88 proves to be the right board, in terms of volume. I am happy with the choice. Maybe tomorrow I'll set it up with the K4s, to have it softer underfoot, and less fast. Wetsuit 5/4, no shoes, no gloves. Water at about 14 degrees, air just under 30. Wearing such a thick wetsuit at the beach in this heat is a bit of a torture, but then it feels good in the water (and I would say that when the sun is about to go down, it is necessary).
Ideal start of the holiday, to familiarize yourself with South Africa. Tomorrow, Witsands!
Witsands/Scarborough - Franschoek, 6 february
In the end, today's spot was the Boschendal winery in Franschoek!
Very busy day today. It began with a trip to Witsands, for a condition check. It was one of the few places where it could get windy. If it did, it was early this morning. I passed by the famous spot around 11.00, and I found very nice waves, even if they broke a little more disorderly than the last time I was here. Inconsistent wind, unfortunately.
But the white sand, the turquoise sea, and the green mountains behind it, make up a panorama that continues to enrapture and excite me. I then moved to nearby Scarborough, where I had a lunch break on the beach, and I also swam, in my swimsuit only. Water at 13.5 degrees, air at 33. A nice refresh.
In the afternoon, I went to visit the Boschendal Winery in Franschoek, mindful of the wonderful experience of visiting Spier, in Stellenboesch, still in the Wineland. Nice place, and good tasting, even if Spier remains unbeaten for the quality of the wines, and the plate of cold cuts that accompanied it, for the courtesy and competence of the staff, and for the setting.
Tomorrow, the wind returns. I should ride in Sunset/Big Bay, or maybe in Yzerfontein, where the wind is a bit stronger!
Sunset Beach - Big Bay, 7 february
This year it is not easy to interpret the forecast here in Cape Town. Today, there was little wind in Sunset and its surroundings, and, as I wrote yesterday, I was afraid of having to grind out a few kilometers by car.... And instead I played it at home! After various errands, I went to take a look at Sunset Beach, a spot that one must always try to exploit. Although the sky was not completely clear, there was already a strong wind blowing, around 20-25 knots, and someone was already in the water. Little wave, but, with the rising tide, I figured the quality of the wave would have improved. After a chat with the English guy Mark (poor boy, his wife is coming on Saturday...), I decided to stay in Sunset, but to move as far upwind as possible (access from Isabella road), since the waves there looked slightly better.
I entered the water at around 11.00, with the Ezzy wave 4.7 2021 (and obviously with the Tabou Da Curve 88, since I only brought this board with me). I immediately caught a nice wave, and I got excited. But then, in reality, the first hour was a bit of a push and pull, because the wind, moreover with a side direction, a bit strange here, didn't want to spread well. This part of the session was a bit tiring. I have often ridden at the floating.
So I went out to not waste too much energy, to eat something, and to take some pictures and some videos. Meanwhile, the wind, as often happens here in Sunset, has picked up, although usually this happens at least a couple of hours earlier.
I returned to the water, and finally the 4.7 was full. No problem going out, having full power to overcome the first waves, and ride in full planing. And the buzz started. I caught more waves this morning than in my entire first holiday to South Africa. By trying, you learn.
The waves were not very big, about 1-1.5 meters, but it is the ocean wave. When you tack on your way back, looking over your shoulder, to spot it and start riding it, it is quite impressive how much water mass moves together with the relief of about half a meter that you start following 200 meters from the shore....
Approaching the shore, the waves became steeper and steeper, and then I quickly set off to bear, to set the first bottom, and try to stay attached to the lip, to do the cut back, letting myself be pushed by the vertical wave face. I saw many aerials done today, one not too far from my head...
Having said about the fun, let's now move on to the bad news .... First of all, today I had confirmation that too many kitesurfers do not respect (or know?) rules of way.... I've seen everything. Kiters generally go out at Blouberg Strand, but on this holiday I'm seeing many of them at Sunset as well, and they're always a problem, because they aren't the least bit cautious, or worse, incapable (even if there aren't just geniuses among windsurfers. ...). They ride you downwind, when you would like to set the first bottom... They cross you just over a meter away, even when you are on starboard tack.... Or, as happened to me, they fall into the waves, their kite is submerged and twisted by a wave, they drift and arrive at you with the lines, while you are trying to restart again.... I lived moments of terror, fearing to get entangled in the Kevlar lines, and that these could go under tension pulled by a wave...... I freed myself from the lines, and moved away as quickly as possible. It went well.
I did the rest by myself, it seems to me. In a wipe out, the fin of the board hit the ball of my foot. Guys, how sharp are windsurfing fins. The cold water (13 degrees, today at Sunset - don't come with the 4/3...), at the moment, didn't make me feel any pain or discomfort. I continued to surf, then took a look at the foot, about twenty minutes after the event. And I realized that the cut wasn't trivial (basically, it deserved a few stitches, but I didn't want to go to the hospital.... and claim health insurance). The adrenalin made me catch a few more waves. Then, I had a flash..... If I bleed (and at the parking lot, I bled a lot), the situation could be dangerous.... We are in South Africa.... After this reflection, I made the last waterstart with some apprehension, and decided to go ashore quickly.
The extent of the injury then emerged clearly in the afternoon, when I treated myself, disinfected and bandaged properly, with what I bought at the supermarket.
I think it was my last session without shoes, because I'm tired of killing my feet. I hope to recover as early as tomorrow, because the next few days promise wind and waves (and on Sunday Marco Maywald, someone who is serious ...., could come to join me).
After the dressing, I went to Big Bay to see the conditions, and acquire elements to better interpret the forecasts. Even in Big Bay, the waves didn't reach two meters, but there were only 4-5 lucky ones in the water enjoying some respectable sets, in the magnificent sunset scenery. I didn't enter the water to rest my foot. Tomorrow, I'm going to buy some shoes, and crossing my fingers....
From South Africa, that's all for today.
Haakgat, 8 february
Today, I took the chance to try Haakgat, a spot known to be more challenging than Sunset beach and Big Bay...
The forecasts, in this area, only gave wind from mid-afternoon. And they have been confirmed. To have guaranteed wind, you had to go to Witsands or Cape Point, just an hour's drive away, but since I'll have to go there tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, I didn't feel like of driving today.... I spent the morning busy with various commitments, including looking for some boots (taken from Atlantic Surf, after going around a lot of shops - boots don't sell much here...); and an adapter for my PC, which I found nowhere. Very hot morning, with the sun beating relentlessly, given the absence of wind....
After a light lunch at home, I went to see both Big Bay (not bad wave, but still uncertain wind), and Hakgaat, which today on paper should have been easy, given the expected modest swell... When I arrived at Haakgat, at 15.00, I was impressed by the beauty of the waves: today, a couple of meters, beautifully clean. Still light wind, around 20 knots, not constant, mostly side-offshore.
Having found convenient parking in one of the few places available, I decided it was the right time to try the spot, which on other occasions can be impossible, at least for me. However, I studied the pitfalls of the spot, and in particular the steep and powerful wave of almost two metres, and breaking about 50 meters from the shore, leeward of the parking lot, where the wind drops further (read the review of the spot here at Waterwind.it); and the shorebreak, 1-2 meters high, and its undertow, impressive, given the day with relatively calm sea. The sandy beach drops steeply, and the wave comes powerfully to the shore. I was reminded of Nazarè (Portugal).... where I saw a similar shorebreak.
I started to rig: Ezzy Wave 4.7 2021, and Tabou Da Curve 88 2020.
Then, I entered the water with a small group of 5 or 6 other riders.
I waited for the right moment, and went out to sea without any particular problems. I also started planing and maneuvering well (fairly flat water offshore, like in the best wave spots, even beacuse of light winds). And I imagined a very fulfilling session. Instead, it didn't go entirely like this, both due to the intensity of the wind which remained a bit at the limit for my 4.7, forcing, among other things, the majority of those present to ride mainly floating and not planing; and because the spot turned out to be very technical in these conditions and not adequately exploitable for my level. The waves are fast and rose well upwind (in front of the only rocks present), and became steep 100 meters from the shore. The better sets rose even further downwind. But once hooked, even if I beared a bit, I found it hard to be as fast as the wave, due to the often too light wind, or I lost it in the cut back, when the lip, inexorably, passed under my board...
Seeing some of the others catch a lot, got on my nerves.... Today, perhaps I should have rigged the sail in order to have it more powerful, or I would have liked to have in my hands a Goya Banzai or one of those Hot Sails Maui, seen in water. In short, I'm not one to cheat.... I haven't done much. To take advantage of these conditions, I still have a lot to learn... And anyway I went back to the beach without any damages.
I have never approached the shore, less than 50-60 meters, after my waveriding attemps, so as not to be "eaten" by the shorebreak in case of a fall. And I got out of the water, without damage, making the most of a gust, and beaching with the board, with a big wave behind me, which appeared out of nowhere and which I hadn't noticed, which tried in vain to catch me.
And from this point of view, I must say that I have seen several skilled guys, who surfed the waves well, then risking to break everything badly on their way back. Perhaps, this is not a spot to try at the beginning of the holiday. I then returned to Big Bay, in the late afternoon, thinking about a sunset session....
The wind was quite good, with some fun waves, less than a meter (but don't compare with the Mediterranean one, as they more powerful anyway). However, the many hours out in the sun, have left me a bit dazed and weakened. I went to buy myself something to drink and eat on the spot (Big Bay big plus) and then went home. Tomorrow, we go to Witsands. And on Sunday, Maywald comes to join me for a few days... And maybe I'll even have someone who takes pictures of me...
Witsand, 9 february
A beautiful day, today, full of emotions and very instructive also to better understand how Cape Town spots work. If you are not a local, is not a simple matter to understand. Today, the center of high pressure has moved further south, and further away from Cape Town. This resulted in a wind rotation (Cape Doctor, anyway), from ESE, which therefore almost cut off the Sunset Beach area, while it blew strong in the spots near the Cape of Good Hope. I bet on Witsands, due to the incredible beauty of the place, and because it's the "easiest" and safest spot among those in the Cape (wide and long sandy beach).
ECMWF had predicted the strongest wind, coming in after 14.00, and so it was. So, I left home early to do some commitments, and then started making my way to Witsand. But first, I took the opportunity to go and see Nordhoek Beach, located a little further to the North West: a very long and very deep beach of white sand, of a shocking beauty. I dream about it the rest of the year. Only surfing is done here. Too bad, I noticed several signs that warn of the possible risk of robberies (I had never seen them in the past), and that invite you not to walk alone. I therefore stayed in the part closest to the parking lot, not far from other people. Anyway, I managed to enjoy the natural beauty of this amazing place.
Since at Nordkoek a bit of wind was already blowing ...., I moved towards Witsands. In this area, there are three outstanding spots one after each other: Witsand, Misty Cliffs, and Scarborough (read the detailed reviews, here on Waterwind). Witsand and Misty Cliffs had amazing waves...., smooth, and glassy, due to the transparency of the sea, which here has an incredible turquoise color. But in these two spots, at about 11.00 there was no wind yet. So I went to see Scarborough, very convenient for logistics, where I found a light wind that was beginning to blow, and waves that weren't particularly big, but a little too close to the rocks, for my tastes.... Today, there forecasts for small swell (and seeing how it went, who knows what it must be like, when there is a big swell here...), and this morning the tide was very low.
Then, I returned to Witsand, to find a place fo my car, on time, in the roadside parking lots, and a tiring wait began, both from a psychological and physical point of view. In fact, the windsurfer always has the fear of a letdown around the corner; moreover, staying under the sun, these days, is not easy .... (30-31 degrees with very blue skies and intense sun). I took the opportunity to eat, and took shelter in the shade as best I could, near the car. However, I also took a few photos of this beach which offers amazing sceneries and colours. At 13.00, the wind gave some signs, and the kiters entered the water, perhaps enjoying the best wave moment (therefore, with low tide), and with an easy shorebrak. The nervousness started to rise, also because I noticed that in Scarborough 5-6 windsurfers had entered the water, gliding and surfing well. In that bay, in fact, the wind had already begun to blow. But leaving the parking lot at Witsands would have meant never finding a place, on the way back.
Around 14.30 the first windsurfer began to rig .... (encouraging). After another 15 minutes, seeing the wind getting better and better, I too started rigging the 4.7, and around 15.00 I entered into water. Meanwhile the tide was rising (peak at 5.30 pm), and this made the shorebreak worse, even if not comparable to the Haakgat one.
I entered the water as windward as possible (just near the rocks in the water, in the southern part of the beach), mindful of the 2020 session (read report), in which I had noticed that the most beautiful waves rise up in front of this area, and at Misty Cliffs.
In the first part of the session, there was still some wind lull; in the central part of the session, the 4.7 was right, and it gave me enough power to overcome the waves when going out; in the second part of the afternoon the 4.2 would have been needed! Well, if I can find a fault with many spots in South Africa, it is the following one: when the wind comes in, it picks up quite quickly, and often reaches very high intensities. A few less knots wouldn't be bad.
Unlike other sessions here, when the wind was side/side-off, this time the wind had a side/side-on direction, probably because going around the Cape, it veered slightly from the South.
The waves have remained beautiful for a long time, and also big, with some huge sets of 3 meters and beyond.
I did three sessions, and I enjoyed it. Overall, I haven't been in the water much, but here I caught some wonderful waves, both standing on the board and alongside it..... Too bad, the spot was quite crowded, even with so many kiters, who only decreased in the moment the wind became much stronger. I also found some of them riding downwind on my same wave, preventing me from doing the first bottom. Instead of watching who was around, he was saying hello to his friends.... (in the video with the GoPro, you should hear my shouts...). But, on the other hand, I was pleased to notice the presence of many girls in the water, both kiters and windsurfers, Pro in every sense ....
The best ones have managed to go upwind well, to take some sensational bombs, in that area. Misty Cliffs (but you get into water further south, for that spot) must be a fantastic spot, provided you don't let your equipment go in case of a wipe out (rocks here and there on the shore).
I caught a wave on my head while trying to restart after a fall, which made me do a forward loop.... underwater .... At high tide, and with strong winds, the quality of the waves got a bit worse (keep that in mind).
After three sessions, and not being able to hold the 4.7 any longer, I decided to end the day, so as not to get myself too tired. I should take some product that gives me a little more energy. If you have legitimate proposals, write it in the comments (I'm not kidding).
Before leaving, I also stopped by to double check Scarborough, where the wind almost sprayed the surface of the water...., and where the waves were mostly gone (at high tide....). I then returned home satisfied for the day, and hungry. And two ounces of linguine (kind of pasta) with tomato sauce were the right reward!
Tomorrow, similar conditions are expected, but with less strong winds. Maybe, I'll give Scarborough a chance, or I'll be forced to try and ride at Cape Point, a notoriously more challenging spot, due to the mostly rocky coast.
I'm not telling you the many details I see about life style and many special situations here in South Africa. I was thinking about it today while driving. Maybe, I will make up for this gap in one of the next windless days.
Thats all folks for today!
Cape Point, 10 february
Today, here in Cape Town, it has been a very hot day: 35 - 36 degrees in the part of the city not reached by any wind. In these conditions, it is not easy to spend many hours out in the sun. You become dumb.... You need to take this into account to better manage your days.
A little tired from yesterday, today I took it easy way. After all, I'm on vacation! Today, the only chances of finding decent wind fell on the Cape peninsula spots and in particular on Cape Point.
I left at 1.30pm from home, hoping to be able to go out at Scarborough. The traffic of Cape Town made me take almost an hour and a half to get there. This factor must also be duly considered when planing where to go: distances are not short, and Cape Town is a metropolis... Unfortunately when I arrived at Scarborough the wind was almost inconsistent, and also the sea almost flat, even if with the usual fascinating colors . In Witsand and Misty Cliffs only surfers.
So I tried my luck and continued on to Cape Point, paying the 376 Rand entrance fee (international visitor) for Table Mountain National Park. I still had plan B in mind.
The Cape of Good Hope area is always exciting, and even wilder. As I proceeded, the ocean breeze lowered the air temperature from 35 to about 23-24 degrees. Finally!
I immediately spotted several baboons at the roadside. I therefore mistakenly took the detour to Platboom, but this was useful to discover the excellent logistics of the spot (convenient parking near the beach), and to make me appreciate the beautiful scene of the dozen windsurfers, in the water in the very blue sea of Cape Point, just upwind. I got excited and started hoping for a nice windsurfing session. But, alas, it didn't turn out that way...
Having reached the spot of Cape Point (and in the meantime the driving hours had become practically 2 ....), I noticed some rather beautiful waves in front of the rocky reef, 1-1.5 meters high, which made the spot not epic, but quite feasible and easy.
But I soon realized the problem .... The wind hardly entered the inside zone at all, taht is, in the first 50-60 meters from the coast, while beyond it, it was quite tense ... Those who came out from the beach of the spot had to swim, taking advantage of the rip curl on the south side, avoiding the foaming waves that arrived in front of the beach; they also had to avoid drifting too much, so as not to enter the rip curl on the north side, which leads towards Platboom, and first towards some rocks. A fair amount of effort, to add to the abundant hundred meters to walk, to reach the beach from the parking lot.
Even more tiring to get back to the beach, as, apart from a few lucky ones who managed to catch a wave that took them almost to the beach, the general rule was to fall off the board in the last 50 meters, and swim against the current for a few minutes. Nothing dangerous, tendentially, but certainly tiring....
Or, you had to enter the water from the rocks, as I have seen a good rider do, however with some risk....
Once in the sea, the riders occasionally managed to catch some nice sets of waves, but I saw that they didn't make more than 1-2 bottoms, so as not to get too close to the reef, which they would end up against, in the event of a wipe out (even if there, there is a rip curl that leads out), but, above all, to avoid ending up in the area of total absence of wind. Only the seal I spotted in the sea was swimming blissfully in the inside zone.
In short, faced with all this difficulties for such a modest goal, I got discouraged, and I lost the desire of getting into water.... And I thought about those beautiful Sunset Beach sessions in the morning, at zero kms.... And seeing that next week the wind shouldn't be lacking, I put plan B into action. Last time, when I rode here, I rigged the 3.7, and I hadn't had much difficulty getting out and back in.... Maybe someone of you would have gone out (and in any case there were several riders in the water, in rotation), but these are subjective choices.
I went to see the Cape Point lighthouse, discovering another incredible scenery, and having to resist almost 50 knots at the top; and then, I went to have a good look at Platboom beach, occupied only by the Kiters and which today had side-on wind conditions, and waves (a sort of beach break) less clean than those of Cape Point. Platboom is famous for the sessions it offers with NW. I spotted some antelopes on the beach, to which a zebra was added on the way back.
Now, we should expect three days with almost no wind (which should return strongly from Tuesday). And I think I'll take the opportunity to go and see the Garden Route.
Garden Route, one day trip, 11 february
Yesterday, I made a one-day round trip from Cape Town to Mossel Bay, then driving along the famous Garden Route to Wilderness. I decided to concentrate the trip in one day, both because I didn't want to be drive even in the following days, and because my friend Marco arrived today, on Sunday; and finally because this afternoon there are some chances to go out here at Sunset.
The journey was long, but I tried to take some breaks to reduce the fatigue.
In short, I have to say that the Garden Route didn't particularly impress me, as I would have expected. Mind you, the places are beautiful, but, staying on the subject of scenic roads, Chapman's drive, and Route 44 (read the article about my ride in 2020), are much more exciting and scenic (at least, for me). And close to Cape Town. However, I don't pretend to be able to make a definitive judgment based on such a fast trip.
First of all, the Garden Route is a two-lane expressway in each direction, and in several points it remains far from the sea, while the other two scenic roads mentioned are one-lane roads in each direction, which run along the coast, often cutting cliffs overhanging the sea. Furthermore, the places visited seemed very touristic to me. Wilderness beach, after having seen Witsand or Nordhoek, or Scarborough, turns out to be beautiful, but nothing special.
Rather, I was thrilled on the outward journey, and especially on the return journey, first crossing green countryside, dotted with vineyards, and bounded by beautiful mountains, and then, on the way back, crossing agricultural and wild areas that made me seem to be in one of the boundless inner plains of the United States. With the added bonus of a fiery red sunset, which set fire to the sky on the horizon in front of me. And then, when it got dark, I stopped in the middle of nowhere to admire a starry sky like I hadn't seen in a long time (with the Orion constellation upside down compared to how we see it in the northern hemisphere).
The return in the evening (at 10.00 pm) to the suburbs of Cape Town was a bit adventurous, and I tried to go straight ahead quickly to get home, for fear of some dangerous situation. After all, electronic panels invited people to pay attention, in some area close to the Townships, for possible theft attempts or other. And I must say that I have seen some surreal scenes (black people crossing highways with shopping trolleys, or simply walking along the edge of the highway at night, or suspicious fellows at traffic lights). Many are simply desperate poor, but better not to discover that they are even worse…
Well, I already knew that South African society is deeply divided between social classes, culturally and economically very different. But listening to the radio, and also listening to the chatter of local windsurfers at the beach (who wonder if they still have a country...), it turns out that even South Africa, in recent times, is a country even more in crisis, where there there are problems for the Government to provide essentials (see load shedding), there is even more poverty (you can even see some white people begging at traffic lights), and there is still a lot of corruption. All that glitters is not gold.
That said, I don't want to frighten those who come here unduly, but it's best to stay in popular places, and keep an eye out.
Going back to windsurfing, from Tuesday to Friday there should be really nice wind and wave conditions. And we aim for the grand finale!
Camps Bay and Sunset, 13 february
A busy and really beautiful day, this one, with the added value of riding Sunset at the end of the day, which was completely unexpected!
Today, the forecasts showed little wind everywhere. We went to see Witsand, Misty Cliffs and Scarborough, for which there were some chances. Upon our arrival, SW wind and dissolving fog (hence the name Misty Cliffs). Perhaps, even here in the afternoon the wind has veered from SE, and has become strong enough for a session. But we didn't want to hang around for hours waiting for a hope that maybe wouldn't have materialized. We went to Camps Bay, always a very pleasant place in Cape Town, passing through the spectacular Chapman's drive. We had lunch at Tiger's Milk, a bar/restaurant with a terrace, where I always like to come, and we also took a cooling bath at sea, after lunch. Then, I consulted the Milnerton windmeter, which indicated 19 knots....
Off in the car towards Sunset, for an unexpected ride with the Sun almost going down. Arriving at Hastula Way, we saw that many were already in the water, and more were on their way. Wind right for 4.7, stronger than yesterday (floating session, not described here), side-off. 1-1.5 meter waves, with some nice sets.
Marco rushed into the water, and I entered shortly after. Even though Sunset can give even better, we had fun, catching some fun waves. With weaker wind, side off (sometimes off), not always able to ensure planing offshore, technique and patience are needed (like the one shown by Piero from Bologna, met in Moulay last June, who remains attached to the lip , and is always very fast). And you also have to accept, sometimes, to recover what you lost in the water, with a 50-metre walk on the shore. In these hot days, with boots you can also go out with a 4/3 wetty. Water a bit brown, as the wind and currents from the West in recent days must have brought seaweed or something else from offshore.
Now, the training is over. Serious conditions await us, from tomorrow!
Yzerfontein, 14 february
Yesterday, the swell arrived. But it is not easy to understand how it interacts with the tide and understand if and where it will produce the most beautiful waves. The tide can intensify or nullify its effect. I look at the tide forecasts everyday, but basically it would take an excellent knowledge of the spots, based on experience.
Yesterday morning, we went to Paternoster, because Marco wanted to try it, and I too would have liked to ride there again.
But, upon our arrival, around 12.00, the wind was coming in, while there were small waves: just a few nice smooth series, as typical here, of about 1 meter every now and then. Then flat. The tide was decreasing, with low tide expected at 4.00pm. We waited an hour and a half, taking the opportunity to eat, but then we assessed that there would have been no changes soon, and we decided to leave.
Maybe, the spot has then worked well, in the late afternoon, with a growing tide.
We then went to Yzerfontein (reminding of a beautiful windsurfing day here in 2020), which, upon our arrival, immediately struck us with the beauty of the scenery and the environment on land, and awed us with the power of its waves : real bombs broke, at about 100-150 meters from the shore. On the spot, only a few kiters and no other windsurfers. We rigged the 4.2 and tried to enter the water.
I remembered the strong currents present at Yzerfontein in the first 100 meters from the shore. The seabed descends gradually and a strong rip current is generated, which pushes you downwind. Yesterday, the wind especially at the beginning was not even very strong, and the current further reduced the apparent wind upon the sail. However, we managed to overcome some bombs, got some on our heads, and found ourselves offshore. But here we realized that the 4.2 was small. We then quickly returned to shore to rig the 4.7. Meanwhile, other windsurfers have arrived to keep us company.
We went out to sea again. The wind picked up a bit, but was still a bit unstable, as hardly overcame the upwind promontory where the village stands. But the tide came back to rise, and, at least for me, a good moment of adrenaline began. About 300-400 meters from the shore, a little downwind of the big rock in the center of the bay, huge mountains of water rose up, which it was wonderful to ride going down, trying to sail upwind as much as possible and control the speed. At 200 meters from the shore, they became wonderful waves to surf, smooth and mast high. Andrea Franchini, met here in 2020, was right: this is the best area of the spot, as far as windsurfing waves are concerned.
Assisted by some appropriate gusts, to bear away, get planing and acquire the same speed as the wave, very fast here too, I caught some of them. I rode a wave that will remain one of the best waves of my life. A nice monster of 4-5 meters, on which I performed two bottoms and two cut-backs, before running away because it was breaking. Incredible emotion.
Unfortunately I have lost many of them, or have ridden them only partially, due to lack of adequate speed. It would have been appropriate to have more assistance from the wind. We spent three hours in the water, until, around 19.00, the drop in the wind caused the sea to reject our attempts to enter, even if the waves (but not the powerful foam) had in the meantime reduced, with the rising of the tide. Return by car at the last light of sunset, and dinner in Big Bay at Mozambik, due to load shedding at home....
Today, there are already twenty knots at 8.00, as average: we aim for a double session. Stay tuned.
Sunset - Big Bay, 15 february
Today, it was almost a perfect day. And if it wasn't perfect, it's only because my knowledge of Cape Town spots is almost perfect...
We woke up, and the branches of the trees in our garden, in Table View house, were already shaked by a strong wind. At 8.00, Milnerton's anemometer read almost 20 knots.... I understood that Sunset would have been rideable for a short time, in the morning. However, we went to scout the spot shortly after 10,00. Wind for 4.2, and waves of 1-1,5 meters, not so bad. Fearing a rapid increase in the wind (the cap of clouds hanging over Table Mountain was impressive), I persuaded Marco, who was already eager to get out, to go and see Big Bay. Here, wind almost for 4.7, and few waves, even if cleaner than Sunset ones. High tide this morning was at 10.40am. We had to wait here in Big Bay and wait with a little patience for the wind to come in, and the tide to drop. Within 1 hour at the most, conditions would have definitely improved (and so they did).
The desire to get into the water, on the other hand, brought us back to Sunset. We rigged the 4.2 and rode 45 minutes, even fun at times, but the wind soon turned out to be more manageable with a 3.7, and moreover the choppy sea made it difficult to see the swell waves and catch them. Instead of rigging the 3.7, we quickly returned to Big Bay, which looked like a playground upon our arrival....
Wind for 4.2 (for us), and smooth and clean waves between 1 meter and 2 meters and more, depending on the set. For the first time, since the beginning of the holiday, I mounted the K4 fins on the Da Curve, instead of the original fins. With the k4s, the board felt much softer underfoot, and help me better manage overpowering. At Big Bay, the upwind reef line prevents the sea from getting choppy in the inside with SE winds. We entered at about 1.00 pm and remained in the water until about 3.30 pm, when hunger brought us back to th beach.
Gorgeous conditions (although late morning must have been even better). The waves, once in the water turned out to be even bigger than we thought, with some sets of almost 3 meters, and some beautiful mountains of water offshore. Furthermore, Big Bay has the great advantage of having almost flat and shallow water near the shore, allowing you to often return to the shore to rest. The water temperature with the strong Cape Doctor has dropped; on the other hand, it has returned to turquoise, and not brownish due to probable algae brought from the sea by the wind from the South and West, in recent days.
Beautiful waveriding, even if to make the most of the spot you need to know it. The best sets rise from the center of the bay to the leeward area. When it becomes big, even the upwind area starts to work well, with clean waves, even if less high.
For lunch, we sat down again at Mozambik, where we ate outdoors, somewhat sheltered from the relentless sun (and also from the wind). Pleasant sensations. Great relaxation. And this is a huge added value, compared to other sports, such as Hakgaat, where you are practically all the time in the sun on a dune. If we add the abundant availability of parking, and the possibility of rigging on the grass and meeting many other riders, generally friendly, this explains why Big Bay is so loved. Today, Mister Ben Proffitt was also here (an easy going guy), and we think we also saw Alessio Stillrich who shot a double forward....
Around 17.30, we returned to the water for the third session! This time with the 3.7, which turned out to be quite full. Still beautiful waveriding, and stellar jumps. However, I was only 30 minutes in the water, because I wanted to save energy for tomorrow, which also promises to be fun. Marco, however, on his last day here, was in the water for another hour. I also ran home to prepare lots of "linguine all'amatriciana", before the load shedding began once again.
Tomorrow morning, I'll probably go straight to Big Bay, and then in the afternoon I'll move to Haakgat.
P.S. My O'Neill wetsuit borked completely, on the butt..... Still gives enough protection from cold water, but obviously not super comfortable. I have to attempt a makeshift temporary repair. Post any ideas in the comments below.
Big Bay, February 16
Today, it was supposed to be yesterday's photocopy. But it turned out quite differently.
By carefully reading the forecast models, something could be guessed regarding the water level conditions. ECMWF only gave swells in the Cape Peninsula spots. But 40 knots were also predicted in those spots... In the spots here in the north, in the area around Table View, strong winds were predicted, but few waves. At 7.00 in the morning I woke up, with the wind already shaking the branches of the trees around, quite well.
With the beautiful images of yesterday still in my head, I arrived in Big Bay just before 10.00. The wind was already strong enough, but the sea was streaked only by a few bars that didn't exceed half a meter. I also tried to scout Haakgat, after consulting with some friends more experienced about South Africa, but the spot was unrecognizable, with the sea surface almost flat, and the wind stronger than in the Big Bay. I returned to Big Bay, imagining a possible evolution in the morning similar to yesterday.
The wind here picked up within an hour with gusts of almost 30 knots. While Ben Proffitt and Alessio Stillrich organized themselves to shoot a video in the water, I thought it could be the perfect day to try the forward. I calmly rigged the 4.2 and entered the water, among the first of the day.
The tiredness of yesterday's demanding day and the past few days (I've been doing waveriding sessions every day since last Sunday) immediately became evident, with a poor reactivity when maneuvering. After a few rides, however, I understood that the 4.2 was already big, and, in order not to get tired prematurely, I went ashore to rig the 3.7, while, in the meantime, the other riders arrived. I got back in the water, and started trying to figure out which maneuver to focus on, also trying to capture it with the GoPro, mounted in different positions.
But the limits of the day soon came out. The wind was very gusty today, with significant changes in direction, but basically oriented from S-SW, instead of, as usual, from SE. So, it arrived on the spot with a bad side-on direction, which brought a very annoying chop into the bay, which made the board constantly jump. Minimal swell. Tiring and not very fun conditions, apart from the two skilled guys mentioned above, which started from the shore, and after 50 meters already performed a back loop or a forward on the first 50 cm wave..... After a couple of hours in the water, I closed the session rather dissatisfied. Even the scarce crowding of the spot demonstrated the poor quality of the conditions.
During the day, I also checked Sunset and Melkboss (I inspected Haakgat again in the early afternoon). All the spots had strong winds, but almost no waves. From what I have been able to understand, even the Cape peninsula spots have not worked well.
Tomorrow morning, I have to play my cards right for the last session before going to the airport and ending the holiday. Then, I will sum up this experience in South Africa.
Sunset, February 17th
Game over! I finished the holiday where I had begun, with a session at Sunset, still with the 3.7, and with a knife between my teeth. At 10.00, the Cape Doctor was already blowing really strong. Swell almost gone, but aggressive chop, for a substantially bump and jump session. In short, not the real South Africa, but a fun hour with some excellent maneuvers, captured by the GoPro. I needed at least one session like this, to bid a good farewell to South Africa, after yesterday's disappointing one.
I did a good hour, then I got out of the water to calmly start the preparations for the departure, and the return home to Europe. Looking at Table Mountain, and the rippling blue sea of Sunset, made the farewell emotionally complicated once again.
It was a different South Africa from the first two (2019 and 2020), in which I was overwhelmed by the continuous emotions linked to the discovery of fascinating places and exciting conditions for windsurfing, and waveriding in particular. Now, however, I have the advantage of perceiving some places and some situations as familiar.
Also this time I was struck by the strong economic-social differences, the extreme poverty of a portion of the population, and the related problems.
I don't know if I will be back in Cape Town anytime soon. We will see. There are many programs, as well as beautiful places to see and where to windsurf among the waves. But Cape Town has definitely earned a place in my heart.
Playlist of the sessions videos
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