There is a general consensus that in these parts of the world – the Eastern Cape, South Africa - the wind comes early and the swell comes late. Those powerful south west swells, wrapping around from a front that slams into Cape Town, has a long way to travel and a lot of curves and landmass to wrap around, bend and traverse, before it gets up to the right-hand point zone. It tends to take its time.
The first swell of the year, broadcast from every forecasting website and telegrammed, whatsapped and tweeted from every weather guru in the world, was a good swell for the area and a great start to the season.
Forecast: J Bay
It had moments of absolute sumptuousness, along with some very eggy times, and was obviously very crowded. The window shut a bit earlier than expected as well; with the onshore coming up a little bit sooner than the weather models had been showing.
Friday was a beautiful pre-frontal but slow day. The sun was out, the weather was balmy and there was some expectation in the air. The forerunners of the swell didn’t really show until late. There were plenty of people biding their time, either in the water or on the beach, getting in their vitamin D doses, watching and waiting, hoping for something to happen, hoping for the sets to start pouring in. A couple of false starts late afternoon to early evening, before it was shut down for the day.
By first light on Saturday morning the crew was out there, working the sets. It was solid, double overhead every now and again, but nothing out of the ordinary with no rogue sets. Definitely a little bit less height than expected, but that was ok because no one really wants the rogue sets and the wash-through monsters anyway.
Regional guide: South Africa
It was hard to get the good ones, and with plenty of energy in the swell, some of the meatier waves were difficult to get onto, especially for the surfers on shorter, high performance boards. Those who opted for a bit of extra length and foam were the ones getting the more woolly sets.
Whenever the first swell comes roaring into town, it attracts a motley crew of surfers from all over, and this swell was no exception. The boys and girls were pouring in, and there were Cape Town and Durban plates as well as hired cars everywhere.
Free surfer extraordinaire Brendon Gibbens was in the mix. Bianca Buitendag came up from Victoria Bay, Simon Fish hopped over from St Francis Bay and James Ribbink and Shane Sykes jumped on a plane from Durban to meet the swell.
The crowd had moments of absolute craziness, including a brief period when there were 80 people counted in the water at Supers, but this was at a shift change, and it soon subsided and settled at a somewhat more doable 50 surfers in the water, and about another 40 spread all the way down the point.
It was consistent, with waves pouring through endlessly throughout the day, and a strong wash keeping the surfers working hard for the good ones. There were some absolute bombs though, with local Remi Peterson getting his fair share of them, and Dan Thornton also getting a couple of good sets.
Charles Reitz from Plettenberg Bay also made the drive up to get a couple and was rewarded with one big clean highline barrel up near Boneyards. For all those that made the effort there were some big payouts, but there was a marathon of paddling going on as well.
This time of the year, with overnight temperatures dropping and holding the next morning’s weather in check, the easterly wind often stays light for most of the day, providing plenty of opportunity at least up until lunch time for those wanting to keep their wave counts ticking over.
By Sunday morning the swell had completely changed direction and angled south. Supers still had a couple of gems in first light, particularly further down the point, and there was another tight crew on it as the sun peeped over the horizon.
It was nowhere as crowded as the day before, the easterly started fluttering from early however, and before long the lineup just had a handful out there.
Just a short drive away saw a few surfers venture out at Bruce’s Beauties and a few other little waves in the area, but the wind was really starting to flap here, and the window was short. Despite the onshore coming up, it was still a great swell, and a few of the more adventurous surfers in the area grabbed their skis and went slab-hunting, hoping to ride the tail-end of the swell at some of the more secret and hardcore waves down the coast.
This morning, the onshore came up nice and early. There was still plenty of swell around, but most surfers were sated and back at work or at home. General consensus that it was a great start to the year, but it seems there are some serious crowds coming, more so than ever before. A good five-day swell normally sorts that out.