WATCH: How this sleepy fishing town became a surfer's paradise and how SA can do the same

2018-12-07 18:00
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waves, surfing, portugal, nazure, travel, europe

(Photo: Big wave surfing in a sleepy town)

Nazare in Portugal was not always on the lips of surfers from all over the world like it is today, but the sleepy fishing village is the new hotspot among big wave surfers. 

Once a popular town thanks to its historic structures and picturesque views, it was always the sea that the residents of the traditional villages had feared. Off the coast is the underwater Nazare Canyon which causes the formation of massive waves. 

Garret McNamara, pro-surfer, changed all this when he decided to hit the surf and rode a monster, record-breaking 23-metre wave which sent waves through the surfing community. 

WATCH: Surfer takes an epic 1.5km ride into history off the coast of Namibia

Since then, the waters off Nazare have been attracting surfers seeking to test their mettle and conquer the waves. In the 7 years since the record-breaking wave was surfed, Nazare has seen 220 000 tourists visit. Surf schools and shops started to pop up. 

What was once a quaint fishing town has - seemingly overnight - become a bustling big-wave surfing destination.

Closer to home, Wesgro has also attempted to woo travellers to SA's shores with their #ItsAllStillHere campaign. Speaking at the launch of the campaign Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris said that the negative Day Zero campaign had pushed Cape Town off bucket list considerations and that it's time to speed up the recovery of the drought.

They want to move away from the drought imagery, especially the use of rain and dams, but instead create a different narrative around water resources in the city - and this is where surfing comes in.

Adventure travellers are more resilient than your average travellers according to Harris, looking for, not only, adrenaline by cultural experiences and are environmentally conscious on their travels. These youthful travellers are also setting the future travel trends, and they can help shape the message that Wesgro wants to spread about Cape Town - that the city is open for business.

Surf tourism can be niche, but it seeds into other avenues like beach, coastal, road trip and backpacker tourism, and locally bred surfers that shine on the international stage have been nominated as the city's ambassadors for this campaign.

But where exactly can you find the best waves in South Africa?

South Africa’s best-known surf spots are Jeffrey's Bay, East London, Durban and Cape Town.

WATCH: A holidaymaker's guide to SA's Sunshine Coast

The Cape's best surf spots are fiercely debated

The Cape is much loved for its surfing and beach culture and it’s pretty much a 360 degrees, 365 days a year ride.  

Some say Muizenberg on the Indian Ocean side of the peninsula – where the water is warmer and Surfer’s Corner buzzes. Others say it’s on the Atlantic side – at the Kom in Kommetjie  - a big wave spot that delivers Hawaiian style massive curlers on a big westerly swell.

Other hot spots are Kommetjie’s Long Beach which has a consistent shore break and is utterly beautiful – and ditto Kalk Bay, which has been described as a surf spot with a Mother City attitude - consistent, left-breaking waves, and the occasional savage barrel.

SEE: Big waves lead the way at Wavescape Festival's lineup of ocean-conscious events

Jeffreys Bay is supertube central

Better known as J-Bay. Think of those kilometre-long rolling barrels featured in the 60’s surf classic Endless Summer – which was filmed at nearby St Francis Bay.  

Ranked by South African Tourism as South Africa's premier surf spot, J-Bay has consistently amazing tubes and one of the best right-hand point breaks in the whole wide world. 

SEE: Get gnarly at 8 of Eastern Cape's top surf spots

Durban - surfers call it the Bay of Plenty

Where the warm waves pump all year round, Durban is the home of surfing, beach boys and babes, and an intriguing mosaic of people and cultures concentrated in the Golden Mile. 

Durban’s Dairy beach is famous for its good surf. In the middle of it is New Pier, which carves up some of the best man-made waves in Africa, courtesy of the massive pier. 

Cave Rock at the Bluff is known for its serious surf – and South Beach is beach bummers paradise - a long languid stretch of Indian Ocean beachfront.


SEE: From soft shell crab burgers to a 220m Big Swing - 5 reasons to visit Durban

The surf’s always up along the Western Cape’s Garden Route

With Buffels Bay (or Buffs as it's dubbed) Mossel Bay and Stilbaai being popular surf spots. Up the coast, both Port Elizabeth and laidback East London have a thriving beach culture, with kickass scenery and great waves. You’ll need special speed and power to master the reef waves at Nahoon and Gonubie in East London.

Living up to its name, the Wild Coast is known for its razor-sharp reefs and powerful swells – and Port St Johns, Wild Coast is a legendary beach bumming place, with a good surfing, swimming, chilling and hanging out scene. And on the other side of the country, Elandsbaai on the West Coast has been described as a J-Bay in reverse – when a south-easter hold up a westerly swell to produce a cranking left point break.

SEE: These are the best 16 coastlines in the world - and obviously SA made the list

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