Surf Retreats

Book Rail Journeys In South Africa

Sun, sea, sand and ... stupendous surf. South Africa's coastline is 3,000 km long so it's not surprising that it has some of the best surf in the world. Here's a very condensed run around the coast from east to west.

You get places that have good surf, and then you get places that are just defined by surf. Durban is one of those places. The whole city has a surf culture. The central business district flows right down to the beaches and it has the country's only surf museum. There's also great surfing on the North and South Coasts to either side of Durban. The water is warm and many locals surf without wetsuits.

Heading further south, the Wild Coast is just that - wild. And it's a rite of pilgrimage for all South African surfers to - at least once in their lives - travel up the Wild Coast, camping on deserted beaches and discovering secret breaks, but it's not an option to be taken lightly. Rather head towards Port St Johns or Coffee Bay, where the surf is great and there is some infrastructure. As you head down the coast, the water gets a bit colder, and most people wouldn't surf here without at least a shortie wetsuit.

East London has some fabulous surf - particularly Nahoon. Port Alfred, known to the locals as Kowie, has a cooking right break off the pier. Port Elizabeth has some nice surf, and it's a fun little city but there are better waves to the east and west. West of Port Elizabeth is Jeffrey's Bay - or J-Bay - the mecca of South African surfing.

Supertubes at J-Bay is reputed to be one of the fastest and most perfectly formed waves in the world, and Bruce's Beauties, at the nearby Cape St Francis, is legendary. If you saw Endless Summer, you'll remember it. The waves are still awesome, but the magic has gone. Hideous yellow brick apartment buildings line the streets and J-Bay definitely scoops the award for the ugliest town in the prettiest surroundings.

There's great surfing in the Garden Route towns of Plettenberg Bay, Buffalo Bay and Wilderness. Mossel Bay, which is otherwise the least attractive of the Garden Route towns, has some awesome waves but it also has a shark-cage diving operator that regularly chums so it's a bit of a dicey one there. The tiny settlement of Victoria Bay, between Wilderness and George is a little gem that's reserved for locals only during December and early January. No kidding.

The coastline around Agulhas, which is the most southerly tip of the continent, faces the open ocean with nothing between there and Antarctica, so it has some pretty impressive breaks. Arniston, Jongensfontein, Stilbaai and Struisbaai all offer quite big right reef breaks but there are some fun shore breaks for beginners as well. The water here is getting a tad chillier, and a good wetsuit is pretty well mandatory.

Cape Town, of course, offers awesome surf.

The shape of False Bay and the height of the peninsula make for loads of micro-surf environments, so there's almost always something surfable somewhere. Koeelbaai, on the eastern side of False Bay, is a long, hollow break that's not really for beginners. Muizenberg, on the other hand, has a shallow sloping beach with long shore breaks and it's where almost every Cape Town local learned to surf. It is still richly endowed with surf schools. Further along False Bay, Kalk Bay Reef is a short but sweet left, and Fish Hoek usually has some nice, gentle waves.

On the western side of the peninsula, the water is really cold and a good, full wetsuit is essential. Most surfers also wear a hoody and booties and some even wear gloves. The whole area from Scarborough through to Noordhoek offers fabulous surf. Outer Kom, just off the little town of Kommetjie, is one of the best big wave spots in the country. The well named Long Beach, which runs from Kommetjie to Noordhoek, has some great breaks. North of Noordhoek, the mountains run straight down into the sea so the coast is rocky and inaccessible, except for the lovely little Hout Bay beach, which has a reasonable break on the eastern side. But, in the bay itself, is a legendary, scary surf spot. Dungeons only starts breaking at about three metres and it's right next to a big seal colony (which is a larder for what kind of fish?). It's the venue of the annual Big Wave Africa competition held every June. Llandudno and Glenn Beach both have pretty powerful hollow beach breaks and the odd territorial local.

The West Coast has a couple of good spots but the real gem is Elandsbaai, about three hours north of Cape Town. North of South Africa, Namibia, on the west coast has icy cold water but a couple of good spots. Walvis Bay and Swakopmund are relatively easily accessible but, if you want to experience true wilderness surfing, head out to Cape Cross, which has a left that can break continuously for hundreds of metres. No infrastructure, no water, no shark nets and millions of seals (and what eats seals?). Still north of the border but on the east coast, Mozambique has some lovely warm water surfing just off sparkly white palm-fringed tropical beaches. Tofo, near the town of Inhambane, is reputed to have the best surf in the country, and Ponta do Ouro, which is just north of the border, is easily accessible and has a long right point break.

For something a little more wacky, you can river board on standing waves in the Batoka Gorge on the Zambezi River between Zimbabwe and Zambia. There is a wave pool at Sun City in the North West Province, and the Gateway Shopping Centre, outside Durban, has an awesome wave tank with the world's first (and possibly only) artificial double point break.

South Africa offers some of the best surfing locations in the world. Probably the best known of these is Jeffrey’s Bay in the Eastern Cape, rated the world’s second best surfing destination. This undoubtedly makes it one of the Best places to surf in South Africa.

Hout Bay’s Dungeons, once the venue for the annual Red Bull Big Wave Africa challenge, is another of South Africa’s Best places to surf.

Another of the country’s Best places to surf is Muizenberg, acknowledged as being the birthplace of surfing in South Africa. Drive past Surfer’s Corner any day of the week and you’ll see surfers doing what they have done since the first surfer caught a wave in 1919… It is also a hugely popular spot for long boarding.

A great place for beginners to surf in South Africa is Big Bay between Blouberg Strand (beach) and Melkbosstrand. It is undoubtedly one of the Best places to surf when the wind is blowing east to southeast, though when the waves are bigger it’s more attractive to seasoned surfers than beginners. This is a good place to get lessons at a Surf school when you go Surf in south africa.

The remote Wild Coast of what was previously an independent Transkei (now part of South Africa again) has a magnificent coastline that offers some fabulous surfing locations. Generally, surfers say the best time to surf is when the wind blows west to south-west and the swell comes in from the south. Overall, it’s the time for the Best surf trips is when it’s warm and dry in the winter months.

One of the other Best places to surf is in KwaZulu Natal at Dairy Beach where conditions range from calm to surfer-style awesome! It makes it a great location for everyone – beginners to pros, depending on the day. Other great surfing locations in Durban are south of the Bluff or at Ansteys or Brighton Beaches

Surf in south africa

A handful of highlights relating to surfing in South Africa include:

• Rides of up to 800 m in Jeffrey’s Bay.
• Located behind Hout Bay’s Sentinel, the Dungeons offers 3 m swells in winter (July). You can, though, only get here by boat.
• The long, sandy Long Beach at Kommetjie that has a permanent sandbar that allows waves to break on both sides. It’s ideal for intermediate surfers.
• When the south-easter blows, surfers at Noordhoek Beach’s Dunes get 2-2½ m-high waves with world-class tubes suitable only for the pros.
• If you want a more remote location to surf in south africa, try Eland’s Bay on the west coast of South Africa. The town is tiny but the surfer hugely popular! This is a good place for a summer Surf in south africa.

Best surf trips

Your determination of the Best surf trips in South Africa will depend on whether you want to visit one of the Best places to surf, attend a Surf school, or even have an alternative-type vacation and go on a Surf camp. Some of the Best places to surf are listed above, but these are just a handful. There are many more.

Before you plan your surfing vacation, determine exactly what you want to do. You can even combine an exciting African safari with one of the Best surf trips if you want to.

If you want to attend a Surf school, then consider a reputable Surf camp where all the equipment is available as part of your Surf in south africa vacation price!

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