This wave doesn’t yet have a name. Davey and Benji Brand spent late August surfing a 3km long left somewhere in Angola. They claim to have mainly surfed the first 1.5km which had up to seven makable barrel sections. These Monopoly number figures seem astonishing – fortunately you can judge for yourself.
To accompany the release of this video we interviewed Davey Brand (surfer) and Dan Mace (filmer).
How did it all come about?
“Alan van Gysen had already headed up there with some surfers – they’d been up there for a few days but had left by the time we arrived. We hoped that we’d judged it right.” Dan told us “Benji and Davey are both chart hounds and we knew a swell was on the way, but no-one ever expected to find this.”
“There were really long waits and when they came through it was the best waves I’ve seen in my entire life. I’ve been to Fiji, Hawaii, everywhere. This was by far the best I’d ever seen. The wave itself is a sand-spit quite far out from a little town. The wind pumps the sand into the perfect shape and it’s just a mechanical barrel the whole way.” Davey Brand
Tell us about the wave itself?
“I’ve been to Donkey Bay (the original name for Skeleton Bay) and whatnot, but from the beach this looked like an endless, endless wave. It was like a dream. I couldn’t believe it.” Said Dan. “Like a machine churning out wave, after wave, after wave. There were really long lulls because the period was around 21 seconds.”
“22 seconds” Interjects Davey, who’s been listening intently until this point. Rubbing his hands down his sides, he elaborates… “There were really long waits between sets but when they came through they were the best waves I’ve seen in my entire life. I’ve been to Fiji, Hawaii, everywhere. This was by far the best I’d ever seen. The wave itself is a sand spit quite far out from a little town. The wind pumps the sand into the perfect shape and it’s just a mechanical barrel the whole way.”
“If you look at it on Google Earth there are thousands of waves which could be this wave” Confirms Dan, keen to make this point. “It will be extremely difficult for people to find it. I don’t know exactly how the spot was found originally, I think it was via the locals or some local miners. But there’s no-one there. The waves were insane and there was just Benji and Davey.
“You can sort of take off wherever you want on the wave because it’s such a perfect shape.” Says Davey “But you have to time the paddleout as there are 25 minute periods when it looks like a lake, and then suddenly, a 10 wave set arrives and you’ve got to be in the right place. There’s a really strong rip which pulls you down the point and if you wait for too long then you will be pushed too far down. If you paddled your hardest you’d still end up going backwards.
“Each section of the wave barrels, some faster, some slower, but you can make it through all of them. It was so perfect that it’s hard to describe the individual sections as it is just a mechanical barrel.”
“The wave was so long I would wait for the boys to catch the set and then head to the bottom of the point to drive them back up. For the first 10 waves you could hear them screaming in the barrel from where I was filming. They’d come out of the water, hang on the side of the car and scream the whole way up to the top of the point before running back out.”Dan Mace
“It’s like Donkey Bay meets an Indonesian reef.” Dan fills in. “It has that Indo feel with a lot of power. It’s kind of a complete wave. It draws comparison to Mundaka or Desert Point.
“The wave was so long I would wait for the boys to catch the set and then head to the bottom of the point to drive them back up. For the first 10 waves you could hear them screaming in the barrel from where I was filming. They’d come out of the water, hang on the side of the car and scream the whole way up to the top of the point before running back out.”
This search for the new. What drives your exploration?
“I’m creating these short forms for Davey and Benji Drand” says Dan Mace. “The last one was in Namibia but that’s now a very marketed wave. So what we have been trying to do is find undiscovered places which no-one has surfed before.
“If it wasn’t for blind luck we’d have been stuck. We blew up a car engine, it was so hectic. Even if we released the GPS coordinates it would never get crowded. To get there is a huge ball-ache.”
“It would be easier to get into North Korea than to get there. Even if we create a load of hype around it there will never be a crowd. Davey Brand
“It would be easier to get into North Korea than to get there.” Agrees Davey. “Even if we create a load of hype around it there will never be a crowd.”
“These videos are the unhatched egg of an idea.” Says Dan “When I go there I try to get really involved in the culture, gather what the environment is really like and then add the surfing in there. I want it to be of interest to other people as well. For people to say, oh fuck they have waves there, but for it to be approachable by a wider audience.”
Angola seems like a challenging place to attempt this?
“Luanda (the capital of Angola) is just about the worst place in the world to film. It is so expensive, and can be tough as they only speak Portuguese, nothing else. When you walk down the street people will come come and bring trouble. Even running for the plane we were stopped by officials who ask, “How many Kwanzas do you have? The currency of Angola.“Give us money, give us money, they demand, knowing we are in a rush to get through. They want to take you for what they can.” Said Dan.
“There’s so much money in Angola.” Continues Dan “The Chinese have arrived hungry for resources, they have come in and said ‘we will build your roads for you, your high-end hotels if you give us X you know” And that X is I ask? Diamonds? “Oil and the mining.” Replies Davey
“When you walk down the road there’s a five star hotel but the road is torn-apart, and there’s dead dogs lying in the street, flies everywhere.” Remembers Dan “There’s poverty right there, and then next door a massive hotel with Audi R8s in it, the fanciest cars, and the richest looking people you’ve ever seen. They probably work in oil. And outside, on the doorstep, just death. There’s nothing when you drive down the road. You’re like, wow what a nice street…. Everything is still torn apart, completely smashed and broken. We found a completely abandoned village near a waterfall, with everything sort of intact but abandoned since the war.
This is all in the film?
“Yes” replies Dan. “It’s hard to know what to include, and there will be more than one edit. But one thing we want to get across is there is no infrastructure. If you crash your car, then you leave it on the side of the road. When you are driving down the road there are endless rusted cars and they have no wheels.”
“They take the engines and leave the scrap metal there.” Agrees Davey.
“Just on the side of the road, lines of rusting wrecks, there’s no space left to crash your car.” says Dan “It’s hectic. And we had car issues, we had huge car issues, and myself and Davey, well, we’re not really mechanics.
“We got lost in the desert the one night trying to find the lodge we were going back to, which is on the beach, but we took the wrong turn and we weren’t really familiar with the desert and we were using our iPhones as compasses and Davey was like telling me where to go “head south this is is good. etc.”
Straight across the sand?
“There are no roads” Replied Davey “There are just sand dunes and big cliffs. You were driving and all of a sudden there were 50 metre cliffs leering out of the dark.”
“We were driving by on iPhone compasses and we compared the phones one was saying North East and the other South West. So we realised we had been driving in a circle. If it wasn’t for a faint lighthouse in the distance, which we knew was pretty close to where we were staying then who knows? We saw it out there in the dark, but it was so much further than it looked, and it still took us another three hours to access the point where the lighthouse was.”
“We were running out of petrol by that point, which was pretty sketchy.” Agrees Davey. “Later we wrecked the radiator and the gasket of the rental car (it had a hole, then two holes, and the water exited) and had to try an explain we needed another car in Portuguese before the next swell arrived. Everything in Angola takes time and everything breaks down. You have to be really, really, patient and it was quite an experience.”
“Benji said, quite truthfully, that you can have the best and the worst day of your life in one hour here.” Remembers Dan “Things can change quickly and to sort something out simply in Angola is impossible. Even going to the shops to buy some food will result in something going wrong. It teaches you to sit and wait for things to happen. It’s tough”
“We want to highlight how difficult it is to get here so people understand.” Says Davey. “In the beginning it wasn’t this exact wave which brought us here. We looked on Google Earth and saw lots of potential, little bays and thought this would be a nice place to go and check out. It seemed to get a lot of the swells which come from South America a sweep through here, and on the large storms it will be cleaner and calmer than say down in Capetown.
“We never expected to see a wave this good, we just expected to find a few smaller, nice waves. We actually camped a night there on the spit, waiting and checking it every hour, getting in our wetsuits at dawn and surfing all day.
This is an easier wave than Donkey Bay?
Donkey Bay is more of a sand grinder. This spot is a little further out and a little better shaped, the barrels are perhaps a little wider, and it isn’t so thick, scary and dark. It was just more perfect.Davey Brand
“Donkey Bay is more of a sand grinder. This spot is a little further out and a little better shaped, the barrels are perhaps a little wider, and it isn’t so thick, scary and dark. It was just more perfect. There was a little air drop, but nothing too technical, and certainly nothing like Donkeys. People will compare it because it is such a long barrel and looks somewhat similar but on the wave it feels radically different. They really aren’t comparable.”
And if you could surf this wave every day how good would you be?
“You’d be very good at barrel-riding that’s for sure. It’s so easy and machine like that you pick your line and know when to race and when to stall but it’s not like Donkey where you have to make the biggest air drop of your life and sneak under the lip and find your line. This is much easier.”
“Halfway through the day Benji came to me and said, ‘I’ve got all the barrels that I need. I don’t know what I’m doing’.” Remembers Dan “When the guys closed their eyes they were just seeing perfect endless barrel shots, tunnel vision. I could hardly drive back after a day of watching waves run along the exact same line, everything was moving in the same fashion as the waves rolling down the point.”
“That day we even left early, about 4pm, after surfing for 9 hours straight.” Said Davey “Only stopping to catch a lift up. Our legs were cramping and we couldn’t move so we called it a day.”