It’s Sunday 12 September 2010. I’m sitting at my laptop with my cat Cameo, on my lap. To my right the curtains are open and I can peer out to a cobalt blue sky with the mountains beaming out from a slight haze in the distance. The chimney cap is squeaking in the moderate south east wind which is blowing. It’s not good enough for me to go windsurfing so today I won’t be going out anywhere, but just chilling at home. This isn’t a bad thing as yesterday was just so good, so I’m just reflecting. Usually my articles come out weeks or months after the events but today I just felt like sharing this one right now.

Yesterday morning I met Niell Taylor at his house at 08:40, twenty minutes early. We packed his car and readied ourselves when Corné van Daalen rocked up a few minutes later. Niell’s wife, Mari, hopped into the car too and the four of us were ready to drive up the West Coast, or as it’s known in Afrikaans, die Weskus. The weather forecast from Windguru was for a 4.3m swell at 16 seconds with zero wind, clear skies and warm temperatures. Unbelievably perfect! I had kayaked Tsaarsbank on the wreck side once before in a small swell and it was really incredible. On another windsurfing mission to Langebaan I had spied out another spot close by and had convinced Niell and Corné to join. We weren’t exactly sure how big it was going to be but I was reasonably sure the small bay would give us an array of options, from big to small. When we got there we realised how big it was. Huge waves were rolling through on the sets and there was a strong rip current sucking out. If you swam in the wrong spot, you would lose your boat for sure. If one of those lips hit you it would be a pure explosion.

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Ready for action. Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_016_E1 copySome very sweet lefts, but with too much risk. Bodyboarding, yes. Kayaking, no ways. 

I offered to take photos from the water but Niell said he would take first. So Corné and I kitted up and out we went. At the beach it looked small again but the sets looked interesting. We paddled out. At this spot, the swell hits the shore unchecked. There are no islands or headlands to break their long journey and the power in them was felt immediately – damn! The sets were way bigger than what we thought and a few beatings resulted. I managed to get to the backline every time at least and Niell took some really sweet photos of me. The big sets would close out while the smaller ones would provide a better ride, although not great. Hanging around in the shallower water would thus mean you would get creamed by the big sets and taken towards the beach, wasting more energy. It’s always a trade off. In the end, I got a little of everything. Niell even took some big thrashings as the camera man and hit the bottom twice… All good though.

Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_045_E1_CR copy Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_046_E1_CR copy Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_047_E1_CR copy Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_048_E1_CR copy Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_049_E1 copy Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_050_E1 copy Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_051_E1 copy Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_052_E1 copyAdrian Tregoning. The waves weren’t great, but could have been worse. I just carved off as it was closing and heading into the beach riding foamies is really not that fun and wastes energy. Photos by Niell Taylor.

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Adrian Tregoning leaving a few that would have just closed out anyway. Bummer. Photos by Niell Taylor. Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_092_E1 copy Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_093_E1 copyAdrian coming in close to Niell manning my camera. Nikon D80 in a waterproof housing> Nikon 18-135 lens at 18mm. Photos by Niell Taylor.

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Adrian just making it over… Photos by Niell Taylor.  Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_122_E1 copyDamn, I missed this potential left. Photo by Niell Taylor.  


Trusty camera man Niell Taylor.  Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_155_E1_CR copy Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_157_E1_CR copy

Adrian with a little blunt. Photos by Niell Taylor.  Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_171_E1_CR copyMe at long range. Photo by Niell Taylor. 

After what was probably forty five minutes to an hour, Niell swam in. I decided to go the middle where the waves were a fair bit bigger and surf a beast in. My heart started beating, a lot. I can only think of one other session this year when I felt a bit nervous but this was worse. The waves weren’t the biggest I’ve ridden but the rip current called for some concentration. Mistakes would be punished and bad luck would result in bad times. A set came in but I pulled off the first wave. Immediately I sprinted back to avoid a thrashing and left the rest of the waves as they were all close outs. The next set loomed up even larger and the first one looked like a nice right. I dropped in but decided to head straight as the shoulder was very steep and I didn’t feel like getting barreled by what was a wave with a face of almost four metres. I shot out like a canon and the boat didn’t even bounce out of control. I heard the thunder behind me and decided I may as well throw a move. Up I went into a sweet aerial blunt and down I came. The foam pile caught me right away but the impact was quite minimal as I was travelling at a similar speed to it anyway. The wave lost power super fast but I heard a brief hissing noise and a feeling of dread came over me. I looked down and the rear right hand side of my deck had popped off and my boat was already about ten percent full of water. This was bad, this was very, very bad! I tried to put it on one handed quickly but the Element is inherently unstable and it doesn’t help when your seat is raised and the swell is very big. I tried twice again but one hand wasn’t cutting it. I don’t think I would have had the balance to put the back part on with two hands while twisting around to my right. The only option was to reach shore.

Luckily, the sand bank causing the waves is the only one at the back. Between that beasts and the shore there are only smaller waves, or big swell with a bit of a crumbling lip, nothing too serious. I paddled hard in, leaning very far forward to avoid swamping the boat. It was touch and go for a long time. If I had swum there I would have lost the boat for sure. The rip was pulling out and left, right onto the rocks. As I neared the shore, two waves came up behind me. The boat was at least thirty percent full by what I could feel splashing on my legs inside but I at least I was close now. It was also too heavy to catch the waves, so I kept paddling. A large wave broke over me and burst the deck fully. The boat flooded and assumed a nose-vertical-up position. I could not paddle and bailed immediately. I could stand there so held onto the grab handle while the sea pulled the boat and me back into its grasp. A big wave came in and I let go of the boat and moved out the way. It shot the boat up the beach and I went up to get it. With adrenalin I easily flicked over the swamped boat and emptied it within two seconds. I was safe. Damn that was close. I had narrowly avoided a very long swim and losing my boat. There is no ways I could afford to buy another composite Element now! Niell and Corné were on the beach and had seen the wave, but had sadly missed my little swim. I will have to repeat it for their pleasure sometime I’m sure.

Back at the car we lit a fire and cracked open a beer. Just as well I only brought six beers for the three of us paddlers otherwise we would have drank it all. With a fire crackling away, a beer in hand, big waves as the view, the sun shining down on you and good mates around, life doesn’t get too much better.

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Ah yes, the perfect place to chill in between sessions in the water! Niell’s bakkie is kitted out nicely…  Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_188_E1

Corné van Daalen, hiding away from the camera in the water, but not being able to get away from me now! Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_190_E1

Niell Taylor – braai master. Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_206_E1 copy

This is just awesome.  Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_207_E1_CREL copy Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_209_E1_CREL copy Tsaarsbank_11_September_2010_211_E1_CREL copyLike I said, the waves were big. They caned us, but we lived. You cannot ride these though, they break onto rocks. But in the bay are ones this same size. 

After lunch we hit the water again. Corné tried out my Element while Niell and I grabbed our bodyboards. We were skeptical as how good it would be but in the end, we both scored some really excellent waves, with long rides. I had one particular wave where I dropped in, had a bottom turn, rode up a bit, the wave steepened and I dropped in again with a fast bottom turn and a nice cutback on a flattish shoulder, coming down again and then the wave jacked over a sand bank and just barreled for a bit and then I pulled out just before it closed. It was bloody great! It really just made my day in fact. Sort of the cherry on top of a pile of cherries. Corné had a harder time and got clouted several times by some sizeable waves. But in the end, he now wants to buy an Element too and a fantastic day was had by all! Thanks guys :-)

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Photography by: Adrian Tregoning. Unless otherwise stated. Shot Niell, good job on the water shots!!!!
Words by: Adrian Tregoning.