Surfers are spoiled for choice in South Africa, a country with over 1,600 miles/ 2,500 kilometers of coastline. From the rugged Atlantic coast to the balmy shores of the Indian Ocean, there are literally thousands of points and bays to be explored, each one offering its own unique surf pattern. Perhaps you're a pro hoping to master world-famous waves like Supertubes and Dungeons, or maybe you're a novice in search of a more mellow ride.
Whatever your experience level, any surfer worth his or her weight in Mr. Zog's Sex Wax knows that the quality of the surf depends on the size of the swell and the direction of the wind. For the latter reason, the Cape Peninsula pretty much guarantees good action year round - after all, if the wind is wrong on one of the peninsula's twin coasts, it should be right on the other. There are plenty of radical breaks further north, too. Suit up, hit the water and explore our pick of South Africa's best surf spots.
Located 135 miles/ 220 kilometres north of Cape Town on South Africa's West Coast, Elands is a top choice for surfers looking to avoid the crowds. There are a handful of guesthouses and self-catering rentals, but otherwise, it's pretty frontier. The wave here works best in summer when a southeaster holds up a westerly swell to produce a cranking left point break. Don't forget your wetsuit and hoodie - the water here is freezing.
An hour's drive south of Cape Town brings you to Long Beach in the tiny town of Kommetjie. Situated on the Atlantic side of the southern Cape Peninsula, the beach offers the best and most consistent shore break in the Cape (maybe second in the country after Durban). It works best on a southeaster, in small to medium swell. If you're after bigger fish, the Outer Kom kicks up massive curlers on a big westerly swell that are not for the faint-hearted.
Nestled on the edge of False Bay, Muizenberg is home to an extremely popular swimming beach called Surfer's Corner. It's also known as a longboarders' paradise, and has a selection of surf schools renting out boards and wetsuits. In summer, it's best to get there early, before the crowds and the pumping southeaster ruin things. This spot works best on a north-westerly in winter, but can be surfed most days of the year with a long board.
Heading east from Cape Town, Stilbaai is one of several excellent surf spots along the Garden Route, with other constant producers including Mossel Bay, Plettenburg Bay and Wilderness. Stilbaai has a pretty constant shore break in front of the village, but those in the know wait for a big south to southeast swell, when the right-hand point break really grinds. If you're lucky, you'll be joined on backline by the bay's semi-resident dolphins.
A very narrow, steep-sided bay on the outskirts of George, Victoria Bay is jealously guarded by young locals when it's working well. Due to the shape of the bay, this spot operates most of the year and is suitable for surfers of all experience levels. If you're planning on hanging around for a while, try to get a booking at Lands End guesthouse, which touts itself as "the closest accommodation to the sea in Africa", making it ideal for surfers.
Supertubes, need we say more? Home of the World Surf League's annual J-Bay Open, this is South Africa's premier surf spot and one of the world's most consistent tubes. It's beloved by local giants like Jordy Smith, and has welcomed a slew of top overseas surfers (think Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning). However, Jeffreys is also one of the few places in the country where you could end up on the sharp end of local surf xenophobia.
Cape St. Francis
This spot is not to be confused with next-door St. Francis Bay, which was made famous by the 60s surf classic Endless Summer. The latter is unbeatable when the reticent wave known as Bruce's Beauties is pumping down the arm of the bay, creating barrels that literally roll for kilometers. At any other time, the Cape is a much nicer place all round, with a variety of point and shore breaks, the best of which is Seal Point near the lighthouse.
Located just north of Scottburgh on KwaZulu-Natal's South Coast, Green Point is one of the province's best-known surf spots. It needs a medium, southerly swell to get it going, but when it does, it's a classic right-hand point-break that rivals several of its more famous counterparts down south. It can get busy on weekends, but for most of the year it's a relatively off-the-beaten track option for those that don't like to compete too much for space.
Sometimes referred to as the Bay of Plenty, Durban is a mecca for South African surfers. There is seldom a day when the wave is not working, and you can choose your spot according to the size of the swell. It gets bigger the further north you go, starting with beginner-friendly waves in front of uShaka Marine World and progressing to the pro-worthy left and right-hand breaks at New Pier. Keep an eye out for territorial locals at New Pier, Dairy and North Beach.
We've left this one for last, because it works only on a winter storm surf, and is classed as one of the world's “big wave” venues. The 15 to 30 foot swell at Dungeons breaks over a shallow reef on the sea side of Hout Bay and is accessible only by watercraft. For the brave (and seriously experienced) only, the adrenaline rush is made even more intense by the fact that this area is one of the sharkiest surf spots in South Africa.
This article was updated by Jessica Macdonald on October 19th 2017.