When the mighty Atlantic gets pumping, make sure you can hang ten with the best of them.
The profound mood-enhancing power of surfing is well-documented. Waves heal us – one at a time. It also happens to be prescribed as therapy for depression and PTSD.
But even if you don’t suffer from depression, when the ocean is cranking out good swell, you’ll want to experience the thrill of riding a wave. This adrenaline-charged clash with nature’s forces is an experience like no other. And no, age isn’t a factor.
Before you jump on a board, sign up for lessons to get the lowdown on water safety, water entry, plus land instruction to perfect the pop-up and stance. Thereafter you’ll get instructions on reading the ocean, tides, rip currents and hazards. Soon, you’ll transition with the pop-ups to the whitewash in broken waves.
Whoa, there’s more before you can hit the waves: learning to paddle, timing waves, placement, wave selection, wave physics and the all-important surf etiquette.
By far the most fun comes from learning the lingo – hanging loose with the other dudes.
When you really, really want to commit to surfing, gear up with the right equipment. For beginners, the bigger the board, the better. So we’re talking 8-, 9- or 10-foot boards with enough volume to catch small waves. With the Atlantic’s water temperatures ranging between 10 to 15 degrees, you’ll need to get some rubber as buffer. Your surfing instructor will advise on what thickness wetsuit is best.
The shopping list also will include wetsuit cleaner; maybe a surf rack; surf wax; sunscreen – or even better, sunblock; a changing poncho; key storage; and ear plugs.
There are several surf schools on the Western Seaboard. Former SA champion Michael Moore’s West Coast Surf School in Melkbosstrand is a good bet – WhatsApp him on 060 6083858. At Big Bay, Surf Big Bay is ready to teach you the ropes – phone 071 4255470.
Good West Coast spots
At Milnerton, the surf is quite slow, but the wave in front of the tanks does pack a punch. Now and then, there are large waves at the lagoon mouth, but they’re usually 2- to 3-foot ones that break slowly. Perfect for beginners.
Table View offers a reasonable wave when the south-easter is howling, whereas Blouberg has many surfable breaks – albeit icy.
Big Bay is good for surfers of all skill levels. Waves have a short ride and are best in a south or southeasterly wind, particularly on bigger swells. But, depending on the wind, the waves sometimes tend to dump.
Decidedly crowd-free, Derde Steen occasionally presents with 3- to 4-foot waves which are shaped by the south-easter.
Elands Bay and Lamberts Bay lie on a raw, barren coastline and the waves are the stuff of dreams if you time it right – from knee-buckling shore breaks to slabs rated among the best in the world. Best of all, crowds aren’t an issue whatsoever.
Remember, wipeouts are inevitable. Embrace them and learn from your mistakes.
Finally, when surf’s up and the waves are firing, make sure that you have a blast with the right moves. You’ll be in for a swell time! (Pun intended.)