DURBAN'S New Pier consistently produces during cyclone season, easterly swells hammer the coast, serving up picture perfect surf. In early March, cyclone number two of 2009 hit the beaches of Durban, culminating in a good ol' barrel-fest on Saturday and Sunday, March 6 to 7th. Starting off grey, rainy, and almost too big, the weekend just kept getting better. Photographers, Mike van Heerden and William 'Billy' Course were on hand to document the experience.
Cyclone: a rapid inward circulation of air masses about a low pressure centre
In the lead up to the weekend, local wave forecaster Spike (Steven Pike) was quoted as saying something along the lines of, "The swell on Saturday going to resemble the WWE Smackdown", and true to his word, 8-12ft heaving slabs unloaded across Durban's sandbars. Hammering Durban from Wednesday, 4 March, until by Friday afternoon when it was just getting ridiculous, with 8ft bombs detonating on the sandy banks of the New Pier. The swell reached 8-10 feet on Saturday when all hell broke loose. A straight east swell chundered straight off the end of the production line of a seriously strong 40-50 knot gale. Slamming straight into Durban, with not even 100 miles to really clean up and straighten out, it was heavy stuff! Timing-wise, this is pretty much the season for cyclone surf. It was just the magnitude of this pulse that made it epic.Mike van Heerden
Saturday morning, only the light was failing
I was down at the beach pretty early on Saturday, but was not the best for photogrpahy as it was still overcast. I got a few shots of the guys anyway as the waves were amazing - here's Jason Ribbink getting some in.William Course
Saturday morning, too fast to paddle
The jetskis arrived at North Beach adding to the spectacle. Tow-in slingshots put the guys on some open faces at speed. Pictured is Rowan putting it on the rail and getting set to line-up the inevitable barrel.Mike van Heerden
Saturday afternoon, going glassy
It was raining and gloomy in the morning and by midday the sun was shining brightly and the wind backed off completely. What a day. But, it was still heavy, just more aesthetically pleasing. Here Jason Ribbink speeds across glassy perfection after being spat from yet another barrel. Easily one of the cleanest waves of the day.Mike van Heerden
End of the pier show
The surf was epic. Far too heavy for the weekend warriors to even contemplate the paddle, so the piers get jammed with onlookers. Most of them are surfers or photogs and stoked to be able to get that close to the action. This is North Beach pier and in the background you can see a few brave souls waiting for a lull at New Pier so that they can attempt the paddle. Commentary from the crown went along the lines of "Oh no bru, that ou is about to get smoked. Aaaah! That was a thick closeout. He pulled into a monster barrel, and got absolutely crunched. Now he has got to paddle. Here comes the set. Oooh! It's gonna mow him down. He is toast! He's about to get 10 eight foot waves on the head." It was mayhem.
Saturday was a set-up
This must be the biggest surf I've seen Craig Johnson out in. Here he comes off the bottom of a huge green froth monster as he gets set to...
Saturday, job done
...pull into one of the biggest barrels of his life. He was super stoked with this wave, but got badly worked against the pier after this. The amount of water moving around between the piers when it's this big is incredible and one wave pushed Craig straight into the pier. Fortunately he had the sense to put his board between himself and the pier, snapping it like a twig, but giving him enough momentum to wash around the front and escape.Mike van Heerden
Sunday, backlit Sunday
These were now taken on Sunday morning, you can see from the back-light from the rising sun. The swell had dropped off a bit and now the line-up was a lot more crowded, compared to the handful of people that were out the day before. Unknown styling.William Course
Sunday, a day of rest
Travis Logie gets some air while most others are just trying to survive. Just have a look at the amount of white water surrounding him!Mike van Heerden
The barrels were clean and flawless and Roy Sills wasted no time in tucking into a couple.Mike van Heerden
Sunday, barrelled again
Josh Redman was also on fire. Tracking through another green room.
New Pier local Graeme Bird charging hard on his backhand. Most of the guys are riding in just boardies. That's because, along with the epic surf, we had 30 degree C sunshine and 22 degree C water. What an insanely perfect surfing spot South Africa can be.Mike van Heerden
Sunday, barrelled again
Josh Redman was joining in the fun, it looks easier than it was. New Pier is always heavy.Mike van Heerden
Sunday, finding salvation
This is one in a sequence of shots. After doing a carve off-the-top he pulled in for a nice tube ride.William Course
Sunday, backhand hook
1.Travis Logie was one of the smoking on Sunday with his trademark backhand hooks in critical sections of the wave.Mike van Heerden
Sunday, late drop
Now for two of the real standouts of the weekend's action. On one end of the age spectrum, Kane Bennewith, who is only 15, showed that he has the balls to charge anything. Seen here dropping in late on one that is about to explode on the sandbank.Mike van Heerden
Sunday, 49 not out
The other standout was a 'Ballie' who is 49 this year. Rudy Palmboom snr spent six hours a day in the water at the height of the swell and he charged so hard that jaws hung open in awe. He and his son (Rudy jnr) traded wave for wave and, in my opinion, Rudy snr came out tops. Well, that's the weekend that was and now we're all watching the charts for the next cyclone activity.Mike van Heerden