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Cape Town, South Africa

17:19 21st February 2012 by Letitia Hristodorescu
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Twelve hours flight away, the Cape of Good Hope breaks into the Indian and Atlantic oceans. The next mass of land is Antarctica, hence the water is cold and the fetch is long.

However, the climate of Cape Town during the winter months can only be described as hot! Combined with the summer south-easter, the place is perfectly situated to be one of the best winter windsurfing destinations in the world.

Cape Town

Is Cape Town the best winter destination in the world?
To quote Cape Town regular Phil Horrocks, “If you don’t go, you don’t know”! Quite an ambiguous statement, you might think, however after listening to the stories and reading numerous travel reports, I decided to find out for myself. Having spent time in Western Australia and Maui, the other main winter locations, I thought it was time to try Africa.

Fact File

Windy Season November – February
Water Temp In Summer 17 degrees, take a wetsuit
Air Temp In Summer 25 degrees centigrade
Average Wind Speed 20knots plus, 4.7 is the most popular sail size, but it starts off light then nukes.
Flight Time (From UK) 12 hours
How To Get There

Flying is the only option. During the windy season (late autumn and winter), the average price is around the £700 plus excess baggage which ranges widely between different companies. Add on about £50 per bag of windsurfing equipment.

Airlines

  • South African Airlines
  • KLM
  • Lufthansa
  • Virgin
  • NOT British Airways

Try the following travel agents as well as booking direct with the airline.

www.travelbag.co.uk
www.ebookers.co.uk
www.cheapflights.co.uk
www.lastminute.com

Hiring a Car

You will definitely need a car in Cape Town. All beaches are within an hour apart from Platboom and E Lands which take a bit longer.

Bakkie and combi van: The most luxurious in windsurf transport are Bakkie’s (pick up’s) and work out at about £17 a day and are good for keeping all kit locked up in.
United Van Hire: Ask for Mandy +27 (0) 21 683 0431      . info@cabs.co.za

Golf: The next step down are the Golf’s, which are quite neat MKI’s at £15 per day. 
Car Mania:
  +27 (0) 21 447 3001      www.carmania.co.za

Beetle: On the other end of the scale and for the classic retro look, you can get yourself the most unsuitable car for windsurfing in the world: the VW Beetle! Book early because they are in short supply as they only cost £5 a day.
You now DON’T have to leave a deposit.
Best Boland Motors:  +27 (0) 21 981 4113

How The Wind Works

What’s up with the wind?

To answer this question you can use a WINDFINDER service by BLOWFEED, and by texting FINDto 36010 I would get the three current stations that experienced the most wind. This is very useful!  For more information www.blowfeed.com

The prevailing wind is a South-easterly and the main windsurfing spots stretch north from the Cape. This translates into port tack jumping and starboard tack wave riding. The start of the wind is generally signified by a ‘blanket’ of cloud (called the Table Cloth) forming over the imposing Table Mountain on the Cape. The cloud literally pours over the top and is quite a sight. The wind starts at the Cape where it is always the strongest. It then fills in at Sunset beach and as the day progresses it makes its way north. Eventually it becomes very windy everywhere. It follows that once it gets too windy at Sunset (you heard me right – too windy!) everyone heads north.

Occasionally the wind will go north-west and then you head down the Cape for some starboard tack sailing. There are a number of texting services that offer regular wind reports (see Hot Tips section below). If it is not windy where you are, then it is likely to be windy somewhere else, although this usually involves an hour in the car.

The Sailing Spots

There are three main areas; the Cape itself, in Cape Town and further north to the infamous Elands bay.

Platboom Bay

Platboom can be found on the Cape of Good Hope National Park. An idyllic break with white sand, aquamarine sea, surrounded by shrubland. Platboon picks up the swell first, and when flat everywhere else it will be working here.

Beach faces: SW
Best wind direction: SE or NW
Worst wind direction: Any other.
Tide: Best on the out and at low tide as the waves form better on the sand bar.
What’s on the bottom?: Sand.
Any hazards: Sharks, rocks, baboons. Do not get out of your car with a crisp packet in your hand, the baboons will have you!
Other water users: none.
Suitability/levels: Expert. Even on a ‘small’ swell, its big.
Wipeout factor: It’s a heavy wave, so you may have to swim a lot and there is a nasty rip.

 

Scarborough Bay

Just down the road from Whitsands, Scarborough is a small bay with good parking that gets over crowded very easily. An excellent starboard jumping and one hit wave riding in a NW. Get here early to make the most of it.

Beach faces: W/SW
Best wind direction: SE with a big swell, NW gives cross-on starboard.
Worst wind direction:
 All others.
Tide: Low tide is the best bet.
What’s on the bottom?: Sand
Any hazards: A big, rocky, kelp point on the left. There are also plenty of rocks on the right. It is quite a small bay, and gets overcrowded very easily.
Other water users: Mainly windsurfers.
Suitability/levels: Intermediate to expert. It’s fairly friendly in a NW.
Wipeout factor: NW is no real problem, a huge swell with a SE if a different story!

 

Whitsand Bay

Park at the top of the cliff and walk down to rig up. It’s a sandy bay where the waves and the winds always look smaller than they actually are. A crayfish factory lies to the right pumping out fishy stuff for the sharkies.

Beach faces: SW
Best wind direction: In a SE it is cross-onshore with really good jumping. Most sailors go here in a NW were it can be cross-offshore to very offshore.
Worst wind direction: All others.
Tide: Low tide is best, high tide is too sheltered from the cliff and the waves get messy.
What’s on the bottom?: Sand.
Any hazards: Heavy shorebreak and very dumpy all the time. A few rocks down wind and one rock in the middle of the bay. If it blows a proper South Easter, it can be too windy to sail.
Other water users: Mainly windsurfers, surfers if the wind is light.
Suitability/levels:
 Advanced to expert.
Wipeout factor: Pretty high if you get caught in a dumping wave but you should make it back to a sandy beach unless you wipe out too far to the left. Then it’s rock time!

 

The Lake

On the way to Table View, the Lake, otherwise known as Milnerton Sailing Club, is perfect for all levels and excellent for a pre sea sail. Membership for a month is about £22.

Best wind direction: SE. The lake is usually the first port of call, once it fills in properly here then the wind will be more constant on the sea.
Worst wind direction: All directions are sailable but it is the South Easter that brings the best wind.
What’s on the bottom?: Sand and weed.
Any hazards: None really.
Other water users: Dinghies and powerboats when the wind is light.
Suitability/levels: All levels, from beginner to freestyle or speed freaks.
Wipeout factor: No sharks, no killer waves just plenty of wind.

 

Sunset Beach

The wind fills in on the sea first at Sunset Beach. There are are three parking areas to choose from. Sunset offers perfect down-the-line wave riding, as long as you get some swell, and there are several peaks along the beach. It is always lighter on the inside and nuking on the outside. South Easterlies are cross offshore. Get here early to avoid the crowds.

Beach faces: West
Best wind direction: SE and the occasional NW (which is cross-on).
Worst wind direction: All others.
Tide: It is best when the tide is fully out because the wind will be less gusty. There is a small but vicious shorebreak at high tide.
What’s on the bottom?: Sand.
Any hazards: Apart from various aquatic life from the top of the food chain and powerful waves when the swell is big, nothing else!
Other water users: The odd kitesurfer and surfers.
Suitability/levels: When the swell is small Sunset is a good introduction to waves for the aspiring intermediate. Experts can take full advantage of the excellent down-the-line wave riding conditions.
Wipeout factor: High, if you do not hold onto your kit on a big day. You will be in for a fairly long swim in. On small days it is reasonably safe.

 

Big Bay (Bloubergstrand)

A big car park and grassy rigging area accesses one of the best jumping spots. There is also a café and changing facilities. The wave is more peaky to the right and cleaner but smaller to the left. The swell here is always a touch bigger than Sunset Beach. However it does gets frustratingly crowded.

Beach faces: W/SW
Best wind direction: SE is the best and is cross- shore.
Worst wind direction: All others.
Tide: It is not a very big bay (yes, an odd name), so low tide will not have so much room.
What’s on the bottom?: Sand.
Any hazards: The bay is small and gets extremely crowded with out of control windsurfers, surfers, body boarders and even the odd lost kitesurfer. These are the main hazards! There are also rocks that jut out to the right which are best avoided.
Other water users: Surfers, swimmers and body boarders.
Suitability/levels: Advanced intermediate to expert, but with the crowds Big Bay can be quite intimidating.
Wipeout factor:
 Quite high due to the many almost crashes and horrendous number of drop ins, from many that are unaware of wave sailing rights of way!

 

Melkbosstrand

The South Easter will reach here later in the day. Melkboss is a massive stretch of beach hosting several different peaks along its length, so don’t just get caught sailing in front of the car park when there are less crowded waves to be had downwind. The water is colder here, and there is a long walk to the sea. It is also more exposed to swell than Sunset Beach.

Beach faces: W/SW
Best wind direction: SE
Worst wind direction: Any others.
Tide: Any state of tide is good, but there is a bigger tidal range than the other beaches described. If the tide is in – the walk is shorter!
What’s on the bottom?: Sand and the odd bit of kelp.
Any hazards: It always feels quite “sharky” at Melkboss. This is partly because the evening light gives the sea a ghostly appearance. There is also random bits of monster sized kelp floating at the back. The water is much colder at Melkboss, so you will prefer to have a long armed suit.
Other water users: Mainly windsurfers.
Suitability/levels: Advanced intermediate to expert, although getting out through the breakers and the crowd can take plenty of skill.
Wipeout factor: Quite high, the small waves double up and combine with a strong longshore drift to make sailing out tricky. If you do have to swim, you will tend to drift down the beach a long way before catching up to your kit with your little, tasty feet flapping away just beneath the surface.

 

Langebaan

Langebaan is a idyllic green water Lagoon that is perfect for blasting and freestyle. It is about an hour north from Table View. There are also plenty of restaurants overlooking the beach, allowing the luxury of a beer and pizza after sailing.

Beach faces: West
Best wind direction: SE, if it is not windy at the Cape Town beaches, then Langebaan may well get some wind due to thermal and funneling effects. It often gets windy a few days before the South Easter kicks in at Cape Town.
Worst wind direction: Anything not SE or NW.
Tide: Langebaan gets really good wind against tide conditions when on the tide is on the way in. This is the best time to sail.
What’s on the bottom?: Sand.
Any hazards: None really.
Other water users: Some kitesurfers.
Suitability/levels: Langebaan is a flat water lagoon and because of this is excellent for ambitious windsurfers of every level.
Wipeout factor: None really

 

Yzerfontaine

When it is absolutely nuking in Cape Town (3m + weather), then this is the place to be. The waves will be a good size and clean.

Beach faces: SW
Best wind direction: SE
Worst wind direction: All others.
Tide: Any state of tide is good because it is a shallow, shelving beach.
What’s on the bottom?: Sand.
Any hazards: None other than the wave which can be quite chunky.
Other water users: None.
Suitability/levels: Advanced intermediate to expert.
Wipeout factor: If there are big waves, then definitely expect some good wipeouts.

 

Elandsbaii (E Lands)

You need big swell, 4 metres plus on Wind Guru, for this place to work. 25knot thermal winds arrive at about four in the afternoon so you do the 3 hour drive from Cape Town in the morning. The wave is a big, chunky point break. If it is not too big there is a bit of a shoulder. On a massive day you can ride the point break all the way from the beach and link up with the beach break where you line up for big aerials or close out, mast crunching man beaters! To get there you launch from the campsite or the carpark in front of the beach break, and then sail upwind. More than 20 people, and E lands becomes too crowded. Try mid-week.

Beach faces: West
Best wind direction: If the wind forecast says SW or SE just go and it will get windy.
Worst wind direction: All others.
Tide: Incoming tide will bring the swell
What’s on the bottom?: Sand on the beach break, reef on the point break.

Any hazards: The beach break, down from the point break is very dumpy and very chunky.
Other water users: Elands is a world famous surfing spot. Surfers guard the point more fiercely than men in big hats guard Buckingham palace. Expect to be shouted at.
Suitability/levels: It is recommended not to go unless you know what you are doing in waves, in particular rights of way and rules of the road. It is a point break and you cannot have two people on the wave. I repeat, you can not have TWO people on a wave!
Wipeout factor: As you are riding on the shoulder of a reef break, unless you do something stupid, you cannot really fall off. But if you do fall in then you can get easily washed on to the reef which is not pleasant. There is also plenty of kelp. Ugghh.

Instruction And Kit Hire

Shops

BaySports on the road out of Table View (away from the sea) is run by Paul Wagstaff who is the most welcoming windsurf shop owner in the southern hemisphere! If it’s your first time in Cape Town just turn up on his doorstep and he will guide you to the best spots and help with car rental/accom etc. You can email him in advance: baysports@vodamail.co.za.

His shop stocks Tabou, Starboard, JP boards and NeilPryde, Gaastra sails. It also does kitesurfing kit.

Suntrax in the Bayside shopping centre offers Ezzy Sails, Fanatic boards, loads of accessories as well as a range of surf clothes. www.suntrax.co.za
Cape Sports Centre in Langebaan.
Rent equipment or get lessons for all levels. You can also buy from their Fanatic and Tabou range and sails from Gaastra and Severne. info@capesports.co.za

Sail Repair

BaySports do repairs on site (see above). Also Second Wind Sail & Repair Loft on the way into Cape Town. Cheap, quality work and it will take between 2 – 4 days to repair depending on how busy he is. A rip in one main panel cost R150. A sail that was torn completely in half above the third batten cost R500 to fix.
Phone Paul Lagesse on 082 650 9290

Accommodation

For windsurfing, most choose to live in the suburbs of Table View, Blouberg or at Sunset Beach. These areas are about a 30 mintues drive into central Cape Town.
Some windsurfers stay up at Langebann if they are either into flat water sailing or have a kitesurfing partner!
Most estate agents in Table View will provide you with some long term accomodation.
Some examples…

SurfSide Properties   0866 3011 44  linda@surfsideproperties.co.za

Linda is particularly welcoming of Boardseeker readers!

info@capesurfvillas.co.za A 2 bedroom flat in Table View will set you back R300 per night. Phone Peter 072 938 4898 He also does car rental at R150/day

www.capestay.co.za/bigbayapartment Email John at yidi9192@yahoo.co.uk

West Coast Accomodation & Rentals, Table View Tel. +27 (0) 21 557 6392

Blouberg & Dolphin Beach Holiday Apartments Tel. +27 (0) 21 556 1670

Dolphin Inn Guesthouse, Sunset Beach Tel.  +27 (0) 21 551 0880

Local letting agencies

www.janelle.co.za  Tel. 021 557 0703  Janelle@mweb.co.za

Campo Estates      Tel. 021 556 0680  campoestates@mweb.co.za

Blouberg Homes    Tel. 021 557 3682  www.bloubergstrand.co.za

Steer Estate Agents Tel. 021 557 3539 tableview@erasteer.co.za

Hostels

Ocean Way Backpackers Lodge in Sunset Beach Tel. +27 (0) 21 552 4192
Fax. +27 (0) 21 865 2113

Langebaan

Langebaan Friday Island B&B: from R265 per night through Cape Sports (address in Shop section). Langebann waterfront apartments: Long Beach Cababana’s, from R299 p/n for 2 bedrooms.  +27 (0) 22 772 1114   cwcsa@iafrica.com

Cost of Living:

Food is less than in the UK when bought in the big supermarkets such as Checkers.
Milk (4 Pints): R79.99
Bread (whole wheat loaf): R5.50
Chicken (4 Breasts): R11.50
Tuna R4.50
Baked Beans R3.95

Windsurfing gear is varied in price, for example a brand new Fanatic Newwave will set you back R7990 (about £660). But a 430 Powerex skinny mast retails at R3990 (£360) with a bottom range mast at R1400 (£130). Expect to pay 20% more for a decent wetsuit too. The general advice is to bring your own!

Food

Food is very cheap, especially meat! There are several Shopping Malls. Bayside Shopping Centre, the most common hangout amongst the windsurfing community, is in Table View.

Eating out is also extremely cheap. An average meal will cost about £5. There are many restaurants so it is best to explore for yourself. A beer can be as little as 40p! As beer is now on the topic of conversation, a recommended place to go for a sundowner is a bar called Blue Peter just south of Big Bay.

Nightlife

Cubana, Stones and Buckley’s are pool bars/discos in Table View which are always good fun at the weekends. There are also plenty of Nightclubs and Bar’s in Cape Town itself. Do go to La Med on a Sunday night in Clifton to hang out with the beautiful people.

Bored Of Windsurfing

There are some days which are not windy, and since you have come this far then have a go at some of the following.

Mountain Bike Safari’s: Cycling is a major past time in Cape Town and is a great way to explore.             +27 (0)44 877 0567      , info@bikeabout.co.za

Surfing: There are numerous surfing spots around Table View and the Cape. Big Bay is a popular sheltered break.

Table Mountain: Walk (slowly) to the top, or get a lift up there by a cable car. Lower Station Tel:021 424 8181

Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope; You have to go there! Amazing scenery and plenty of cheeky baboons. If you don’t want to sail Platboom Beach, (mast high swell, very sharky etc) you must at least go and see it: it’s beautiful. It takes about an hour and a half to drive their from Table View.

Golf: Milnerton Golf Estate, Wood Bridge Island: 021 552 1047 bookings@milgolf.co.za

Gym: Virgin Active, Table View Tel: 021 557 3995. Huge, well equipped with the best view ever from your rowing machine. You can join for one month for approx R400 which allows you to use the squash courts, pool and all the fitness classes for free. Or try Planet Fitness, Parklands, Tel: 021 556 5595 which is slightly cheaper.

Constantia Wine Route: This is the oldest and most famous on the eastern side of the Cape. It’s like doing an exclusive pub crawl where you only drink the finest wines. Take a sober driver! Tel: 021 794-5128.

Nature Reserves: 
Reitvlei, Table View: 021 557 5509
Koeberg: 021 424 8181

Hot Tips

Essential Information:

Police: Milnerton 552 2856
Hospitals: Table View Clinic: 557 1065/6
Rescue Chopper: 10177
Blaauwberg Tourism Bureau: +27 21 557 8600/556 4399
Cape Town International Airport : 021 937 1200
Table View Chiropractor: 021 557 7088 (Kim Needham or Gregory La Cock)

How Does it Compare to Western Australia and Maui?

In a way it combines both. Cape Town has the variety of WA but within a much shorter distance. Over a month you will also get many starboard tack opportunities. There are long drives if you go to Elands Bay or Platboon, but most destinations are nearby. Compared to my stays in both Maui and Oz, I would say that South Africa has been consistently windier, but much more crowded than both Oz and Maui for the same time of year (How about that – less crowded than Maui !) Of course it should be pointed out that Oz and Maui have you in the luxury of being able to sail in shorts. I had an excellent time and I think I preferred the variety of sailing within a day, for example, it is possible to sail at three different venues and still be back for a sundowner. The cost of living and climate of Cape Town were also plus points. But why limit yourself to one destination, a round the world ticket will cover all three, with an inclusive 65kg limit on excess baggage!

On the water

Regardless of the beach, get there early, as soon as the wind looks like arriving. Get rigged and be the first to go out, you’ll have the place to yourself for 30mins or so.

You can sail almost every day but you may have to drive up to an hour to find the wind. However, if you’re into freestyle as well, you will get the most out of the trip.

Join the Lake if you’re into freestyle. Don’t bother if you’re not.

Off the water

Security: Windsurf kit is more likely to be stolen by foreign windsurf tourists rather than the locals. When sailing, always lock up and don’t leave kit lying around especially at Sunset Beach and Big Bay. We never had any trouble other than someone threw a rock at our windscreen on the way back from E-lands. The idea is that you stop and then they rob you. The window cracked but we didn’t stop!!

Don’t go to Saddle Ranch restaurants.

SHARKS

Yes, they are out there and if you’re lucky, you may spot one. Within our group of sailors we spotted them at Sunset Beach and Scarborough.

Big Bay has a flag system and will close the beach if a Great White wanders into the Bay. However, the majority of attacks have taken place on the warmer side in False Bay. The old dear who was doing backstroke in her flower cap one early morning was eaten whole just outside Muizenburg in Dec 2004. Consequently very few sail Muizenburg or Glencairn even when it is windy there and nowhere else. I bet you’re thinking right, forget it, I’m never sailing in Cape Town. But when you turn up to the beach and the sun is shining, the wind is cross- shore, the swell is head high, there are 30 other sailors out with Table Mountain twinkeling in the background, you’ll be out there!

Tourist

Clyde Waite: clyde@boarseeker.com

  1. Cayman Condos

    Cape Town looks like a beautiful place to visit. While I usually enjoy the Cayman Islands, I might have to give it a shot! Thanks for the info!

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