JULY 14TH - JULY 24TH 2011
At the base of the African continent, St Francis Bay is open to relentless icy swells making their way from Antarctica. Herein, the long offshore rights break best at Jeffreys Bay. They break on lava, not as spiky as Hawaii or The Canary Islands, but it can still knock you out if you’re the type who digs falling off your board, the bottom can cut you too as it’s coated in mussels. It’s made up of famous sections, such as Boneyards, Supertubes, Tubes, Impossibles, that on great days connect and make it the right-hander upon which all other right-handers are judged. The velodrome liquid walls mean it’s always been about supersonic speed at J-Bay.
‘Twas ignored as Bruce Brown discovered Cape St Francis, just around the corner, as ‘the world’s most perfect wave’ when filming Endless Summer in 1964. If he’d driven 15 minutes East he would have discovered the far superior J-Bay. It was discovered proper by Cape Town surfers in the late 60s, cruising the coast in Kombies, as surfers all over the world did in this crazy mull-fuelled era. And if anyone had reason to be a peace loving hippy it was these guys, living in a country with dicey politics and huge crime rates, young blokes were forced into national service, and thus J-Bay was a peaceful and remote place to disappear. Overseas surfers could smell the purple bong haze from other parts of the globe and made it a holy ‘Station Of The Cross’ stopover on around-the world trips. The 70s were marked by style-masters and speed runs, with notable rollercoaster performances from Terry Fitzgerald and Shaun Tomson.
The White Shirts, the White Sharks.
The teenage Occhilupo turned the place inside out in the mid-80s and is still a physical nuclear reactor when Supertubes is thundering. Suits the classicists - Wills, Fanning, Andy, Parko, Kelly; and the bulldogs - Jake, Pancho, Lowey, Hog, who revel in fan-forced offshores.
Billabong. Africa’s ‘First Lady of Surf’ Cheron Kraak is Queen Bee of Billabong in South Africa, the company is actually based here, always has been, custodians of the point in a way, employing about 300 people and it’s the biggest business in town. Which can, at times, mean a lunch-time session at J-Bay has more traffic than peak hour in Johannesberg.
Make like a Mexican cliff-diver in lycra meat-hangers and do a big swan dive off nearby Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bungee jump (220m) on earth. Surf Cape St Francis, go to the lovely town of Humansdorp and check out some humans. Drive up to the Drakensberg Mountains and stop off at the Shamwari Game Park along the way. Rhino’s are a favourite here because they’re like hippos, only more compact and have a horn on their head that they use to ram into stuff. They can, they have, and they will continue to use these horns to flip short-wheel-based Land Cruisers if they find any of the passenger’s irksome.
Mushroom houses everywhere, and hardly any girls ... you could be confused for thinking you’d stumbled onto the set of The Smurfs, albeit an up-market Smurf neighbourhood. The town is a happy mix of wealthy families and down-at-heel surfers. It’s not a big nightlife place, people are to here to surf, and this natural, windy ampi-theatre is also one of the finest places to spectate. Kick back on the grass, bask in the sun, eat handfuls of biltong and pretend you know what the locals are talking about in their peculiar accent.