<<  J-Bay & Garden Route, 17-May-2016  >>

Africa's California and J-Bay check!

Ladies and gentlemen, I have officially surfed J-Bay!!! And then along (bit un-African) southern coast

Coastal drive along the south coast is called Garden Route, and it’s another ”official highlight” of Republic of South Africa. The coast, battered by mixed waters of warm Indian Ocean and cold Atlantic Ocean is dramatic, full of cliffs and forests. It feels more like Europe than Africa – the climate is temperate and there’s a lot of “normal” trees, although virtually all the plants are endemic, so in reality don’t count on seeing the trees you would know from the northern hemisphere.

It is a nice drive, but honestly it doesn’t quite match up with Australia’s Great Ocean Road, or California’s Big Sur. The coast being home to majority of the white population of South Africa, the division between the whites and blacks is at its most obvious here. The whites live in spectacular villas, all luxury and good life, while the blacks are doomed to live in shantytowns, so typical for poor regions of the world. Surprisingly for such an obvious wealth disproportion, the area looks relatively safe: the fences are low or none, there are no “Armed response” signs like in Johannesburg. Beautiful it is, but feels more like California than Africa.

For me the most important stop on the way was Jeffrey’s Bay a.k.a. J-Bay – one of the world’s most iconic surfing spots, true legend of the surfing. Although famous for big waves, by the time we came around the ocean was perfectly flat. It’s becoming sort of tradition for me to visit the worlds surfing Meccas and see them with small waves or no waves at all – Pipeline, Waikiki and The Jaws of Hawaii, Uluwatu in Bali, Mavericks in California, Nazare in Portugal, Gold Coast in Australia. Together with the others epic spots, where I have seen at least some waves – Tahiti’s Teahupoo, Bells Beach in Australia and Huntington Beach California, I have almost complete collection of the World’s Surfing Meccas, with the only big one missing probably being Cloudbreak in Fiji. I must be the world’s worst surfer who has visited so many legendary surf spots :-)

Apart from big waves, J-Bay is famous for shark attacks – last year a shark attacked pro surfer Mick Fanning right during semifinals (or was it the finals?) of the World Surfing League event. The ocean being flat, with only small waves breaking near the shore ,I rented a board on both days we spent there and went to paddle and try to catch a wave. While waiting for the waves, I heard the local surfers talking about today’s shark spottings. Just 3 of them today, no big issue :-D
The water is very cold there, so my feet and hands went numb after 1 hour in the water, and let me tell you it’s no friendly place to surf. Just to get in the water you need to walk across razor sharp rocks and mussels which cover them and then, the swell being so small, the waves break so near the rocks that you are risking some seriously hard collision with them. Nevertheless, I got a few waves and that counts! I surfer J-Bay! Yeeeaaaah!!!!

From Jeffrey’s Bay we continued along the coast, stayed in a beautiful eco, hippie, organic, gluten-free guesthouse, but finally we got too bored by the West is The Best look and feel of the coast and turned inland to get into the arid Karoo region. The coastal mountains, lining the whole coast, stop the ocean’s humidity right there and thus on the other side of the mountains a giant semi desert rules supremely and takes you back to Africa.

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak