A strong pulse of swell blitzed into South Africa over the weekend , setting off J-Bay and some of the more behemoth locales across the country.
Down in Cape Town things were real on Saturday morning. A quick look at Sunset Reef by Matt Bromley and photographer Alan Van Gysen revealed a 25–40ft line-up, with consistent inside sets getting overtaken by giants out the back, showing an impossible paddle zone.
It was tow only, and it was the usual suspects out there for one of the bigger days of the year at this heavy big-wave spot.
Bromley usually prefers to paddle, and has virtually no tow experience. Anyway, he grabbed the rope with Simon Lowe’s insistence, and immediately lucked into one of the waves of the morning.
There were plenty more giant sets, and with a light south east wind and warmish water, the big wave crew enjoyed an adrenalized session. Eventually, Jason Hayes suffered a big wipeout and was dragged all the way into the weed. He was weak and hurting by the time the ski got to him, and it was then decided to cap the session and call it a day.
“That was a crazy session, and my first tow session in really big waves,” said Bromley of the session. “I was riding such a small and heavy board (6’4 x 15kg) and Simon Lowe got me into that first bomb. The waves were so long, like 200 – 300 meters long, and because the swell had some south in it, it kept coming at you. It almost looked like it was going to close out at times.
The guys were so amped to see me get the biggest wave of my life, super selfless
“The guys were so amped to see me get the biggest wave of my life, super selfless. They were just as stoked for me to get that wave as they would have been to get it themselves. It was really special to be a part of that Big thanks to Simon Lowe, Andy Marr and Jake Kolnik.”
Even before the swell hit, the zone was buzzing by last Wednesday, as cars and vans from Durban and Cape Town started arriving and hanging in the car parks. Those of us who were apprehensive at the thought of 20 foot and 18 seconds started thinking up various excuses, trying to avoid the clichés.
The swell started showing a little bit of face on Thursday with all the spots that like a southwest swell filling in during the afternoon with four-foot sets. There was a hungry crew on it, with a little bit of wave starvation the 10 days prior, so there was crew out at Supers, and quite a few down at Point, with the Point section getting a bit of attention out of it.
Then, the swell came in fast on Friday afternoon, and soon there were lines everywhere. Not big, not perfect, but fairly chunky and enough to get the rust out of the system and to get a few turns under the belt and waves on the head.
Saturday was booming at certain spots, and the indicators were all showing big plumes and huge faces. Supers was solid at first light, with six-foot sets pouring down the line. Not as big as expected, and not razor-edged lines to the horizon, but as mentioned the swell had grunt.
There were a few trepidations in the gully, but by mid-morning the line-up was busy, there were some bombs flying through. There was also a huge build-up of sand near the bottom section, with daredevils pulling into some thick bombs down at Impossibles.
By midday the wind was on it, and the swell jacked enough to make the lineup a sweeping wash, and it was time to look elsewhere. It first seemed that there wasn't enough turn in the swell to hit the famous Bruces’ Beauties lineup, and at first light this definitely was the case. Another reef nearby was throwing out some soft lefts on the very edge of the south south-west swell, but the point was small, wobbly and on the bricks.
By 10am however, the conditions had changed and there were 30 guys on it as four-foot lines peeled down the point. It was soft, wobbly and crowded, but a super-fun way to ride some of the energy from what looked like the last big swell of the season. A contingent of Brazilian surfers added to the congestion, but by 2pm it was gone, killed by the tide.
By Sunday at Supers, there were a handful of paddle-weary guys out and perfect bombs cracking down. Twiggy was out there, as was up-and-coming Durban surfer James Ribbink, who had both made the pilgrimage from Durban the meet the swell.
Local JBay goofy-footer Craig Els scored one of the waves of the swell – a big and throaty no-hands backhand and sandy barrel down at the bottom section of Supers.
With the forecast showing onshores for Monday, it can be described as a great swell, with hundreds of waves ridden, but not the most epic of swells that was forecast. Either way, a fitting end to a great season in right-hand point country that saw boards broken, combined minutes of tube time and a few secret nooks and crannies coming to life that rarely see waves break, as well as a tow crew hitting one of the massive JBay outside bommies without fanfare.
No photos and not much talk about those spots however, as local surfers kept to the code.