Going Left at J-Bay

Craig Jarvis

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Updated 28d ago

It was a warm, dry summer’s day many years ago. The then ASP had rolled into Jeffrey's Bay to run their event. But the waves went flat for the duration of their waiting period. Still, the wind had suddenly swung into the north-west, and the anabatic mountain winds were a precursor to a cold front on its way.

I headed down to the little beach break at Magnatubes to try and get a quick grovel surf. It was small and so clean in the offshore. While the north-westerly was called the ‘devil wind’ at Supers, around the corner, it ruffled the waves at the beach perfectly, giving them that classic corduroy look. 

Forecast: JBay

The Boneyards left... inviting?

The Boneyards left... inviting?

© 2020 - Kody McGregor

While watching a two-foot set approach, I happened to look across at the set approaching Boneyards. A surfer paddled hard for the left coming off the peak, a wave I had never seen surfed before. He took off goofy, with his feet quite close together. He proceeded to absolutely gouge the wave to pieces, obliterating it as only Luke Egan could. I think he was contest director or had a role on the ground at the event, but that was the first time I saw the Boneyards Left as an option.

It is relatively fickle and is most fun when it is small and high tide, with a few rippable sections and air sections. When it gets a bit bigger, it does tend to throw some barrels but often closes out, hard over the reef. When the swell direction turns a bit and goes more to the south and east, and the wind from the southwest, then things can get interesting. 

It is quite a gnarly reef, as Kelly Slater can attest to after breaking his foot out there a few years ago during a free session. At low tide, on a big day, it can get quite dramatic. Twiggy Baker is often out there, as well as a local lad and CT rookie who has yet to surf a CT event, Matt McGillivray. They love it when it gets big and gnarly. 

That whole area does come with a few fairly energetic locals, as well as sharks, so be cool out there.

It is hard to believe that a wave that breaks in front of a car park with houses and units on both sides was a secret, but when it was first surfed, it was quite secret. Secrets works best on a tiny swell and is frequented by the groms. It is also a handy little contest venue because it is away from the main breaks and rarely has a crowd on it.

Getting tubed at Seals.

Getting tubed at Seals.

© 2020 - Kody McGregor

It is a predominantly left breaking beach break, and a couple of decent rights further down the beach. There are rocks on the inside, but it is a fun wave with high-performance sections and the occasional barrel. There are a few strong rips and currents around, so not recommended for beginners or learners.  

Due to the lie of the land, Main Beach in JBay delivers mainly lefts, over a sand bottom. Being down at the business side of town, with several beach amenities and restaurants, Main Beach gets a bit more crowded. Still, there are always plenty of waves for everyone. The best thing about Main Beach is that when the onshore easterly comes up, it can still be surfed, while the point waves like Supers, Magnas and Tubes are impossible

There are quite a few local groms who hang out at Main beach, getting their fair share of waves, and using the ramp sections to up their air games. The best thing about Main Beach is that when the onshore easterly comes up, it can still be surfed, while the point waves like Supers, Magnas and Tubes are impossible. When the onshore blows, those waves just break onto the rocks shelf. At Main Beach, you have some room to move, and some space to find you own little left-hand peak and get a whole bunch of waves uninterrupted.

Pulled back, the left looks like a good time.

Pulled back, the left looks like a good time.

© 2020 - Kody McGregor

Heading down, even further, there is the well-known Kitchen Windows break. It is a fun, soft reef that delivers some right-handers and a really fun but vastly under-rated left-hander. Being relatively soft, Kitchens attracts the groms, SUPers, beginners and longboarders to all come and have a go. It seems to accommodate a decent crowd with ease.    

It is also situated in front of the surf shops and factory shops, with Billabong, RVCA, FireWire and Rip Curl all in the area, and well as several fabulous restaurants.

Over in St Francis Bay, there are some excellent left beach breaks that all produce excellent barrels on their respective days. Although it is also deep right-hand point country, the beach breaks get quite good, if you know when and where to go.

The whole area is fickle and tide dependent, but mostly it is about the swell direction. The majority of swells that hit the area are from the southwest, originating from cold fronts that hit Cape Town, with the swell moving up the coast in a south-westerly direction. These swells generally cause the beach breaks to close-out, and it is all the other, rare swell directions that see the beachies light up.

One last glimpse of Seals from pulled back.

One last glimpse of Seals from pulled back.

© 2020 - Kody McGregor

Craig Anderson was born relatively close nearby and is a frequent visitor to the left beach breaks of the area. Jordy Smith usually pops in and pays a visit when he’s in the neighbourhood as well.

When the tour is in town, and the light berg wind is blowing, then many pros, their friends and their families can be found surfing the left beach breaks around St Francis on small days.

As mentioned, there are waves for everyone when the beachbreaks come alive, and if it wasn’t for the sharks, there would probably be more surfers in the area. One of the left beachies sits nearby a headland called Shark Point, a notorious breeding spot for Great Whites. With a set-up like that, it’s never going to get crowded.