CLASSIC DOWNWINDERS: CAPE TOWN
INTRO – Home to the Cape Doctor sou'easter, Cape Town's residents are regularly dosed up on healthy downwind prescriptions along the wild coast of one of the funkiest cities in the world
WORDS – Brad Symmington
PHOTOS – Ian Edmondson/Expix.co.uk
|SUNSET BEACH TO HAAKGAT
DISTANCE: 12 KILOMETRES
AVERAGE TIME: BETWEEN 30 MINS AND THREE HOURS
WORKING WIND DIRECTIONS: IT'S ALL IN THE DOCTOR'S HANDS FROM THE SE!
CONDITIONS ENCOUNTERED: UP TO THREE METRE BEACH BREAK WAVES
Love 'em or hate 'em, there’s something about downwinders that make mowing the lawn backwards and forwards at the same spot seem like hard work. Those text messages and phone calls to sort the logistics out with a bunch of mates start the blood pumping for the long wave rides, big airs or for perfecting that new trick and pushing the envelope. Covering the miles from one spot to another leaves a feeling of a journey completed, exhausted smiles and thirsts ready to be quenched with a cold beer.
The Cape Doctor southeaster funnels through the mountains during the warm summer days as the 'Table Cloth' covers Table Mountain ready for lunch. The ten kilometre stretch of white sandy beaches and a rolling beach break make this a definite downwinder to do before you die.
Cape Town is so popular for downwinders that there's a shuttle service set up, so no need to even drop a car, remember the keys and drive back afterwards to collect it. Debbie Kennedy gathered local die-hard Brad Symington, plus Jo Wilson, Ester Oud, Matt Larsen and Luke McGillewie, aged just 13-years-old, to experience what’s probably one of the best downwind rides in the world. Meeting up at the Kite's Nest, a guest house at Sunset Beach, the crew launched for a classic afternoon session.
The Western Cape downwinder starts at Sunset Beach, twenty minutes from Cape Town and five minutes from the kiters' mecca, Table View. Sunset beach is where the southeaster first hits the Atlantic at just the right angle; helping the swell that hits the sand banks heave and throw full lips of cold water in the slightly cross-offshore wind. The launch on the sandy but pebble strewn beach is one to take cautiously before enjoying the very hollow waves when a good swell is running. There is usually a nice, big period between the waves which allows time for setting up jumps or a moment or two longer for recovering that mobe that's gone wrong.
After two-and-a-half kilometres you come to Dolphin Beach where the beach curves slightly more laterally to the wind, and by the time you reach here the wind cleans up really nicely. The wave can run for longer with two big sand banks to ride at ‘Nudie Beach’. Dolphin is probably the busiest beach with its small car park getting crammed with people who pretty much stay in the same place, attracted by the wide, soft sandy beach. The advantage of the downwinder of course is that you can cruise through the crowds riding wave after wave or throwing boost after boost.
Another kilometre and you're at Kite Beach at Table View. When the wave gets big it holds a left run that can take you way down, virtually right to the front of a beach bar called Pakalolo. Two schools operate here so take care to swerve the body-dragging students littering the inshore area.
Probably more famous for its double happy hour, Doodles is two kilometres on from Kite Beach and marks the end of the first half of the downwinder - a run often enjoyed by locals in those after work sessions. The Cape Doctor has a habit of gradually increasing through the afternoon and the strength of the wind is always greater further upwind. So if timed to perfection, the downwind rider can indulge in a constant wind as the wind strength eases along the journey but increases in general through the afternoon. But the ride doesn’t have to end here at Doodles…
The long haul lovers continue round the rocks of Big Bay and sneak a quick jump at Small Bay in front of the Blue Peter restaurant, before jumping the sand bar back into Big Bay. This is where the likes of Ruben Lenten, Aaron Hadlow, Luke McGillewie and many other pros can be seen training as the water becomes super flat in between the waves. The little waves on the inside offer perfect launch ramps for unhooked freestyle tricks with high speed landings not a problem in the slick stuff.
Just beyond the bay, Kamers has a well known left hander that peels at any hint of a swell. This is a good warm up for the waves to come. From here on down the waves can get pure filth as the underlying rock beds gather sand to form good banks at Eerste Steen one kilometre down, and then again at Derde Steen another click on. These have been well known surf breaks for over twenty years with both left and right spitting barrels. Civilization stops at Big Bay so there’s an element of solitude that adds to the downwinders here.
The wind has a slight offshore tilt here that allows a variation for smacking-the-lip as well as the fact that a lot of riders come off the water claiming to have been in the ‘green room’.
To the left Robben Island offers a new perspective and the rocky section warns of the classic right hander onto the last sandy bay before Melkboss Strand. This is Haakgat where a left hand wave holds massive swells and has been ridden by many windsurfers over the years, and now kiters. The waves here wall up and run all the way to the beach so that your last turn on the shore break allows you to step off onto the sand. With yet another angle on Table Mountain in the background, this brings another awesome downwinder to a close.
The smiles that can be seen on the rider’s faces speak for themselves – they're always just that bit wider than at the end of a normal session. Whether they’re a wave riding guru smashing-the-lip to death with a directional, or a total air head looking for the Albatross, the opportunity is there, and the ocean, seemingly endless.
OUTRO - Downwind Shuttle offer a great service for just R30 a pop. You get a wind check and local knowledge to start with and a cool drink to enjoy over a Playstation game on the way back! Check out: www.downwindshuttle.com
Thanks to Ian Edmondson and locals Derek Carlow and Phil Otto on the jet-ski who captured the downwinder on film. Also to Katie Urquhart for putting the crew up at the Kite's Nest guest house: www.thekitesnest.com.
Read issue #35 HERE