The Awesome Waves of Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town – the second most populated city in South Africa and a major hotspot for tourists. It is truly a beautiful city that offers a hell of a lot within a 100km radius. It also offers a massive choice in terms of surf spots, probably more than any other city on earth. No matter what the wind or swell direction, there is always a good break, somewhere. Naturally local knowledge is needed to make the best of your days but if you can’t get it together, there’s always something else to do. In the end, you can’t lose. Winter time is the ideal time for swell, as well as rain. So then it’s kayaking time for everyone as they make the best of the great conditions while most normal ‘Capetonians’ hibernate. All 3.5 million of them it seems! Summer time the temperature rises, the rain stops completely and the South East trade wind begins to blow, hard. As a windsurfer, you’ll find me wave sailing at my favourite spot, Sunset Beach during the windiest months – November and December. I’ve been sailing there a few years during my holiday times when I wasn’t living here and the conditions are world class. It attracts many professional sailors who flock here in large numbers to take advantage. Cape Town, it’s a good place to be.

Shortly after I moved here, there was a huge swell set to roll in. It was the Saturday and I was scheduled to go under the knife on the Monday. I was not allowed to paddle so I searched for a brave volunteer to take on the swell, and try out my Fluid Element. I had had two lekker sessions with it already but then my shoulders just couldn’t take it anymore. Todd Post was the man to take on the challenge so we met at the world class reef break known as Kalk Bay Reef. A heavy, hollow wave that has hurt a lot of people in the past, including a broken neck. The wave was too small, so we headed off to Kommetjie – another first class break.


The drive down to Cape Town. I had to leave at least one boat out! So I took the Element down with me and let the rest of the boats go with the movers.


Taken from


From the road, I could see the waves breaking, above the dunes! It looked insane. Well, they had predicted a 6.4 metre swell at 15 seconds and a light wind!!!


When we got there, we stood at the Inner Kom and looked out to our left, where the Outer Kom breaks. It was closing out totally and while standing there, a surfer with a thick, strong neck stood next to us and shook his head. He left to surf elsewhere. To our right, just over the rise, people were being towed into the monster wave over Sunset Reef. Todd decided he would go in, and then try and hook up on some waves across the little cove, between the Inner and Outer Kom. No one else was out. Not even the bodyboarders that usually surf the Inner Kom, a sweet left break. It was a brave move and I wished I could have joined him.


Todd Post waiting for the wave to come in....


And then it does. Oh oh!!! Todd Post starting off wildly.


Todd about to experience the Atlantic Ocean. Look at the background!


Todd enjoying the speed of the Fluid Element on a small wave, close in. Watch those rocks...


Going out through the foam piles. That 'stuff' in the front is some thick kelp, aka seaweed for those that don't know this coastline.


What's that behind you Todd? :-)


Todd getting into a better position for some waves, but then blowing it.


Some 'soft' foam about to eat Todd.


Todd coming in to the welcoming fingers of the kelp. Watch out.... By the way, the wave at the back, is only about the third last wave from the back. The big boys at the back were even bigger.


I could have sworn I said watch out... Todd rolled twice over those rocks. Nice one! There were many more photos to that sequence but already there are a lot of photos in this article.


From almost brand new, to slightly used in one easy step.


Todd put on his deck, and before he knew it, a wave washed him right off the rocks, and into the maelstrom of white. He held it together, with some dodgy bracing and then charged out. The waves were really big and although he could have definitely surfed some of them, he wasn’t feeling that confident, and I don’t blame him. He would paddle out, but then turn when a big one came in, instead of charging and heading further out. He took some beatings, but not too bad actually. Of course, a swim would be bad news there, on that day. Very bad in fact, and the boat would have been lost, without a doubt. In the end, he still had balls to go out. On his way back, he mistimed some waves and got absolutely creamed on the rocks. It was pretty hectic and some local dude standing next to me was ultra concerned. I managed to get it all on camera and Todd came out, bleeding from his hands, some bruised ribs, and a very, VERY scratched Fluid Element. Oh well, boats can take a lot. My once almost brand new Element was now looking a lot less healthy. At least we got some photos.


Looking down towards Kommetjie.


The Outer Kom looking a lot more runnable from this angle - high up on a mountain pass.


Big wave spot - 365's. Doesn't look that big here, but trust me. Look at Sunset Reef in the next photos...


Sunset Reef  - well known big wave spot! They were tow surfing that day.


See the tiny little surfer on the wave. Sunset Reef it all it's beauty and glory.


Todd and I were not finished yet and decided we would seek out another big wave spot to get the goods. After driving around a little, we eventually stopped at a very rare break, known as Thermopylae. This big left break only works a few times a year with very big swell and then becomes very crowded. It breaks off the boiler of a wreck that sank there in 1899. It actually has two take off spots, which is just as well, as the people that flock there when it breaks would probably rival a big day in Maui. Todd went in, and managed to get out easily enough. The wave is fast and the ride long. Every wave had a surfer on it. There was no aggression really but in the end, Todd said he lost his nerve. He never caught any waves but I guess he got to watch the action from close up. Next time I’ll join you Todd, and then we can both hit it! He was damn brave to go out anyway. Respect, and get better soon from the surgery!!!! (not related to kayaking I might add...)


Todd about to nervously launch at Thermo's!


A stand up with an awesome cutback. Note the swell in the background.


Another stand up styling the incredible wave known as Thermopylae.


Todd eventually coming in around on the right to end off the 'session' at Thermo's.


I had another photograph session with Rowan, after my surgery. We set off to Muizenberg and managed to get a few late afternoon, cloudy (bad light!) photos. Seemed to have worked alright though. It was great to at least see some kayaking and helped to lift my spirits. Rowan managed to have a good time too, and produced the goods.


I’ll let the rest of the pictures do the talking. Enjoy...


Yep, I helped Rowan Walpole make this river board, under Charl's instruction, and then I was convinced to test it out. Not one of the smarter things I've done. This was 10 weeks after surgery...  Shhhh, don't tell my surgeon! Photo by Niell Taylor


Then I decided to step it up and got into bodyboarding about a week later. Getting this awesome board for a super price from Gareth White. He even threw in some free fins. So while surfing some hollow little waves next to the harbour wall in Hout Bay, I clowned it! Damn nose was screwed for ages, cut on the inside of my lip, some mild concussion and a new scab on my forehead. Oh well, all in a days' work! :-) The surgeon was not impressed.... hahahaha. Photo by Rowan Walpole.


Walking between Sunset Beach and Woodbridge Island.


The famous Table Mountain in Cape Town.


Sunset at Sunset Beach. Late evening in summer, with a pumping SE wind and out in the swell and waves flying along on a 4.7 with your board flying your feet - nothing better.


The road out of Hout Bay, and the beginning of Chapman's Peak Drive.


Another day, another wave. That is Robben Island in the background, behind the ships.


A fishing vessel returns to Hout Bay.


Chapman's Peak Drive on a calm and clear day.


An African Penguin at Boulders Beach. This used to be known as the Jackass Penguin, but then our fantastic government decided that name wasn't allowed. Same as the Black Eagle. It's not called that anymore. Didn't you know, if you say the word black you're a racist! Ah, I'm so sick of that crap...


Unhappy Chappy...


Llandudno on an onshore, messy day, but still as hollow as ever.


The Inner Kom on a small day. Note how different it is compared to the photos in the beginning of this article.


Late evening at the Outer Kom. Note the lack of waves compared to when Todd was there. Scroll all the way to the top.


Sometimes we even get snow!!! This is the view from our house. Living on top of a hill has it's advantages.


Sunset a few days later. The snow stayed on the tops for more than 2 weeks.


Hout Bay harbour. Note the seals waiting for some food on the slipway.


A seal swimming next to the boat.


One of the Red Bull jetskis. It was, afterall, the Red Bull Big Wave Africa.


Another seal taking it easy and catching some rays.


The South African Police with a bouy and a wave in the distance. This was the Friday - the warm up for the competition day which was held the following day.


Our motley crew that day...  :-)  Thanks to Sean Walpole (front, right) for taking us out on the boat.


A nice hollow wave. This spot is known as Dungeons, and is every bit as scary as the name suggests.


A different angle look at the beast. The swell was larger the following day, but I didn't go out again.


Big swell hiding even the largest of boats.


Some spray after an exceptionally heavy wave. Not seen any yet? Keep scrolling down...


Dungeons is a very big, powerful wave. It broke ribs that afternoon. The following day it caused one shoulder dislocation, and one concussion. It has, in the past, almost killed a few people.


Another very large wave.


A look at the spot known as Dungeons.


3 stand ups alredy on the wave. The rode that wave all the way!!!


Swell larger than 6m!!!!! It was good fun to even just be in the boat. I love it...


An empty wave.


A surfer taking on the challenge and styling it.


The same surfer as above finishing off. Think you can handle this wave???


Monster wave. If the wave doesn't get you, the Great White sharks might. Did I mention there was a seal colony a few hundred metres away.....? :-)


A beast exploding at Dungeons. You DO NOT want to be pushed onto the reef below!


Looking to the back of the waves. Several guys were out practising.


Another big one but with no takers.


The action from further away.


Looking back towards land.


One of the event boats close to the action.


A surfer drops in nicely.


Back on land life was very different again.


A boat in Hout Bay harbour.


Another boat, this time a wooden one.


A harbour local.


Rowan Walpole about to surf his Fluid Element. Note how large the fins are that he was using.


A calm and chilled day at Muizenberg - one of the sharkiest beaches on earth!


Rowan waiting for a set.


Rowan with a cutback.


Rowan with a bottom turn, showing the speed of the Element.


See? It is possible to spin with some very large fins on!


Rowan Walpole picking out another good wave.


Muizenberg Beach has these colourful little huts on the sand.


Rowan Walpole with a powerful bottom turn on a small wave. Now you can see how big those fins are.


Late evening perfection at Muizenberg.


An awesome rainbow near Constantia, Cape Town.


Llandudno as hollow as ever, on another crappy, onshore day.


A random bodyboarder surfing a spot known as Caves.


My boats are getting dusty and lonely while they wait for their owner to heal up!!!! :-|  Less than 3 months, in theory... Looking forward to getting back on the water.


Well, I hope you enjoyed all the pictures! Hopefully I’ll be able to afford a bigger, better camera lens at some stage. Then I can get some better quality photos. Until then, this will have to do. Less than 3 months (in theory) until I can paddle again. Yipee!!! Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock....



Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.

Words by: Adrian Tregoning.

Next article: The Palmiet River.