Before you paddle out, there are a few things to keep in mind. Sharks are a reality in Cape Town, particularly along the False Bay coastline. Fortunately, the Shark Spotters are there to keep an eye on you, so familiarise yourself with the different flags and always adhere to their instructions. The water in Cape Town is cold, so forget the baggies and put on a decent wetsuit. If you’re here without one, there are several surf shops around the city that’ll loan you one. The weather here also changes quickly and it can affect the swell dramatically, so be sure to check the forecast before you venture all the way to the beach. Finally, respect the locals; some waves get crowded in the summer months, and dropping in on a Capetonian who’s surfed much of his or her life at the beach probably won’t go down too well.
Muizenberg is the beach to head to if you’re new in town, if you’re looking to learn how to surf, or if forgot your board at home. This small seaside suburb is a laid-back surf spot that may not have the biggest waves on the peninsula, but when the swell’s pumping, there’s enough going on for most surfers looking to have some fun. There are also several surf shops where you can rent boards and wetsuits or sign up for lessons, and a recent revitalisation of the beachfront means there are now several restaurants, bars and coffee shops to relax in post surf.
Llandudno has a reputation for being either incredible or decidedly average. When the swell arrives, it’s one of the best and busiest waves in the city, and it’s particularly good in the spring and summer months when storms haven’t dug into the sand and you’re able to thaw out on the adjacent beach. It’s a wave best left to the more advanced surfers, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the conditions and uncomfortable with big, hollow barrels.
If you’re looking for a step up from Muizenberg, but are not quite ready for the more daring breaks, Big Bay is a good middle ground. The waves here are usually short, and they’re good for all skill levels. When the south-easterly blows, the waves often pick up and the more advanced surfers paddle out. It’s also a popular destination for kitesurfers, and when the summer winds are pumping, most ditch the boards and take to the skies.
Kommetjie’s Long Beach is a great destination for more advanced surfers, and if you approach this popular surf spot with respect for the friendly locals, you might learn a thing or two about the wave here. The swell is among the most consistent in the Cape, and when the conditions are just right you can find near-perfect left and right breaks. The waves are often too big for inexperienced surfers, and there aren’t many rental facilities or restaurants nearby, so be sure to come prepared.
Dungeons is one of Cape Town’s most infamous surf spots, and is talked about in hushed tones by most locals who drive visitors across the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive. It’s located across the bay just off Hout Bay’s Hangklip mountain, and was once a regular feature on the Big Wave World Tour. When it’s firing, the wave here is monstrous, and you’ll need a tow-in to catch it.
The wave at the Crayfish Factory is heavy and thrilling, particular when the north-easterly winds blow. It’s a long drive out of the city and weather conditions here are often different to those closer to town, so it’s important to read up and plan carefully on the day. It’s an advanced surf spot with swell that can reach up to several metres, so this one is best left for competent surfers, preferably in the company of a knowledgeable local.
Scarborough Beach is one of the most pristine on the Cape Peninsula and, owing to its distance from the city, it’s typically a little bit more serene. When the conditions are just right – usually in spring or summer, with an east-north-easterly wind – the wave here is also surfable, and can offer both left and right breaks.
Dunes requires some effort to get to – it’s located close to the quiet suburb of Noordhoek, some 40 minutes from the city and some way from the general parking area. But it’s a favourite among locals, and offers fairly consistent surf that’s best in the winter months. Because of the location, and some dangerous rips, it’s often one of the peninsula’s quieter waves.
Cape Town’s Glen Beach offers a short ride, but in the right conditions it’s one of the most popular waves on the Atlantic Seaboard. The wave is a hollow right-hander, and it’s usually sheltered from the south-easter common during the summer months. It’s also a superb beach from which to enjoy the sunset, and there are various facilities and restaurants in Camps Bay, just across the way.
The waves just off the coast of Sea Point and Mouille Point may not look like much to the untrained eye but, when the conditions are right, it’s common to see locals paddling out among the kelp and rocks to catch some of the Seaboard’s most thrilling waves. Off the Wall in Mouille Point offers a short, sharp take off and beautifully hollow wave, but is best left for those who know how to handle the conditions and submerged hazards.