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SSurfing is synonymous with South Africa, which is not surprising when one considers that we have 2 000km of coastline on which to search for a wave.
Add to this mix ideal weather for the greater part of the year, and it’s not surprising that so many talented surfers have emerged from South Africa to take on the world's best.
A surfer’s life has its perks – the thrill of the waves, admiring glances, tanned bodies and a brotherhood that links surfers worldwide – so while you’re visiting, why not become part of the vibe?
From Sodwana Bay’s crystal waters in the north, to the tourist meccas of Umhlanga and Durban, the South Coast spots of Amanzimtoti, Scottburgh and Margate, KwaZulu-Natal province on the east coast will spoil you for choice.
Further south lies the rugged Wild Coast to mark the start of Eastern Cape province, with many secret spots known only to the pros, followed by East London and Port Elizabeth with their cooler, green waters and classic barrelling waves.
In Eastern Cape, locals will tell you about ‘the pipe’ in Port Elizabeth. At Hout Bay near Cape Town in Western Cape, it’s all about the monster waves at Dungeons. In Victoria Bay on the Garden Route there’s a point-break you can walk to, and back in Eastern Cape, Jeffreys Bay (known universally as J-Bay) is the home of the legendary long right.
J-Bay is where reputations are built and destroyed. Take a road trip to the scenic Eastern Cape to watch the pros carve up classic waves at Supertubes, Boneyards or The Point.
South African surfing activities include surf schools at all the larger tourist destinations. Beginners are better advised to start small, at Durban’s Addington Beach or Cape Town’s Muizenberg Beach, where conditions are fairly small and consistent.
Local and international events lure professional riders with big purses, while development surf school trainers offer disadvantaged youngsters from impoverished communities a skill to aspire to.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
African Ubuntu Backpackers (Jeffrey’s Bay)
Tel: +27 (0)42 296 0376
Gary’s Surf School (Cape Town)
Tel: +27 (0)21 788 9839
Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Umzumbe Surf House and Surf Camp (Umzumbe, KwaZulu-Natal South Coast)
Tel: +27 (0)73 536 8728
Best time to visit
Although surfing is enjoyed on both east and west coasts all year, summer can be blisteringly hot and humid, especially in tropical KwaZulu-Natal. Winter in both Western and Eastern Cape requires serious wetsuits, hoodies and booties.
Tours to do
If you’re keen to experience a variety of surf conditions, it would be advisable to spend time on both the east coast and west coast of the country, since conditions between the two vary considerably.
If you're keen to do a surfabout and test all the top spots, then car hire is the best option, and driving from the West Coast to KwaZulu-Natal will give you an overview. If you have a specific location in mind, national airports take you to the bigger cities from where you can drive.
What will it cost
Access to most beaches in South Africa is free of charge. Small spots with limited parking facilities may charge a nominal fee, but a free beach is always nearby. Popular spots are usually manned by lifeguards.
What to pack
A visit to the beach, especially in summer, requires a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF) sunblock to protect your skin from the sun; a sunhat; sunglasses and slops to save your feet from burning on the hot sand.
Where to stay
Bigger seaside resorts offer a variety of accommodation, from flatlets to B&Bs and top-class hotels, while smaller spots are likely to have caravan and camping facilities. Some of the best, wildest surf spots will have a nearby backpackers’ lodge tucked away, with a steady stream of international wave riders passing through.
Several local and internationally rated surf contests take advantage of the excellent South African conditions during the year, most notably the Mr Price Pro in June-July in Ballito and the Billabong Pro at Jeffrey’s Bay.
South Africa is home to some of the world’s top board designers, many of them retired pros. If you’re bringing dollars, euros or pounds with you, the exchange rate means you could buy a custom surfboard while you’re here at an amazing price.
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