Famous for its consistent wind, clean waves and diversity of sailing locations. There is no questioning that Cape Town is fast becoming the chosen winter training ground for most of the pros on the World Tour, but that’s not all. Three of the UK’s finest amateurs ventured south to brave the sharks, swells and Japanese tourists. The question is, were their expectations met…
Phil Dawson – The First-timer
Being an average UK wave sailor and having sailed my local spots for a few years, I found myself wanting a bit of a challenge. I had heard and seen pictures of Cape Town and knew that if offered some of the most consistent conditions in the months of November through March and keen to avoid another long UK winter off the water, I committed and made the arrangements.
On arrival the local windguru forecast can look a bit disappointing until you realise you can add 10 knots onto the wind speed at certain locations due to the local effects. I was surprised at how different these conditions are to the average cross-onshore days we usually get at my local beach of Rhosneigr. Unless you are used to cross-off winds in powerful waves, you can feel like a beginner until you adapt, but then you start to reap the rewards from the excellent DTL conditions. The conditions vary from place to place so be prepared to do a bit of travelling. You can ease yourself in at some of the tamer spots like Sunset Beach before heading to places like Platboom, where it can be more unforgiving, but the rewards are greater still.
I only brought my smallest board which turned out to be a mistake. Unless you can bring two then it is advisable to bring a board with enough float to plod around on. Even though it can be honking windy most afternoons, you still need a bit of extra buoyancy while you are getting out at certain spots where it can be fluky on the inside. I made this mistake and ended up replacing my board with a bigger one but it was the right decision as I enjoyed my sailing much more from then on.
I would recommend a CT trip to anybody who has reasonable experience in waves. You won’t be disappointed!
Carl Tomlinson – The Returner
Think of Cape Town and I think of Table Mountain, vineyards, amazing scenery, beaches, sunshine, friends and most of all windsurfing and surfing. This isn’t just any windsurfing venue either, you can find yourself steaming down clean, azure blue, over mast high faces and smacking some fat lips whilst sharing water time with some of the worlds best pro and amateur sailors. All that with the added bonus of stunning backdrops such as Table Mountain and Cape of Good Hope.
I’ve made this trip six times, first time on my honeymoon with my wife Jane in 1988 when we took a trip down the Garden Route and yes I did windsurf! Whatever you do don’t be put off by stories of sharks or violent crime, I’ve encountered neither and you’ll return home totally stoked and better for it; I’m 50 this year and as long as I’m windsurfing I’ll always want to go back for more!!
Check out Carl’s full travel review on www.seaspritesports.com and some very worthwhile travel tips below the gallery.
Piet Streicher – The Local
Cape Town is probably the best city to live in as a windsurfer. With the wind blowing mostly later in the day, it is possible to work a full day, and get the best sailing conditions from 5pm to 8pm. In mid-summer the sun sets at around 8pm.
There are many spots, and due to the local effects of the mountain it is also possible to “choose” the most suitable wind strength. When Sunset beach gets blown out in a South Easter, you simply move up north further from the mountain for more manageable winds. Granted, on some days you might end up at Yzerfontein, 80km north of Table Mountain. If the wind changes to a more easterly direction, then there will be more wind down South on the Cape Peninsula. On those very hot windless summer days, the wind might still be blowing at Cape Point. Being at the tip of the peninsula, the water has a brilliant, crystal clear azure colour. With the sun from behind for photographers, this is probably the most photogenic spot and it is situated in a National Park.
I enjoy sharing a session with my sailing friends from all over the world. Many of the visiting sailors come back every year. It does get a bit crowded in January, when there are so many visitors that local sailors seem to disappear completely, but with a bit of effort it is always possible to find an uncrowded wave somewhere.
Real life travel tips (courtesy of Carl):
- November to February inclusive are the months when you are most likely going to get the south east wind which blows side shore/cross off port tack at Sunset and Melkboss (the other top favourite spot for many pro sailors). The rest of the year the wind blows mainly from NW.
- Take a 65-75 l board and sails 3.5 to 5.0. I take a 75L board 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0
- Cape Town is not just a wave location, you can also do flatwater sailing on Milnerton lake, launching from the sailing club, for which there is a charge. Also locations like Langebaan and KraalBai are hugely popular with the freestylers for their famously flat waters.
- Xmas and New Year are very busy times as this is when many South Africans take their holidays. Whilst many Cape Tonians leave, many up country folk arrive from Jo’berg, so getting around can be frustratingly slow and parking can be an issue. It’s a bit like a bank holiday Monday at home.
- There’s lots of people wanting to help you park your car, effectively these guys have nothing else to do (unemployment is at least 30% in SA) and car parking assistance is a way to make a little money and can take a while to get used to the unwanted intrusion. It’s your choice to give a tip but I usually do, 1-2 rand is recommended.
- Get used to very poor people asking for money at all the big intersections, it’s unfortunately a way of life for them. Jane and I cleared our conscience by making extra food everyday and offering it to the folk that look like they need it most.
- On the trips I’ve made I windsurfed 50-60% of the days and surfed on the others when there’s been no wind or light wind. Its very rare that you wont be surfing or windsurfing and if not there’s loads of other stuff to do.
- The most popular windsurfing beaches are North of Cape Town, Sunset and Melkbos. Another beach is Big Bay which has some nice steep ramps for jumping.
- Other sailing spots which are really good are Scarborough and Misty Cliffs, which are South of Cape Town both of which I’ve sailed on previous trips. Scarborough is an absolutely awesome point break which I’ve only sailed once and Misty cliffs is a beach break and excellent for jumps, tends to be cross on.
- You can also sail right along the coast to Port Elizabeth, if you want to travel around a bit further afield. There are a couple of spots near Knysna. Buffels Bay is one of them. Expect to sail alone in big waves with a lot of water movement. J Bay is definitely worth a look.
- You get about 12 SA Rands to the £, so renting accommodation even in peak times is very good value for visitors from UK & Europe. Most windsurfers stay up in Blouuberg a northern suburb with beach front accommodation. The internet has loads of accommodations.
- I chose to fly Virgin as they gave me 23kg allowance for my windsurfing gear provided it was all in one bag plus 23kg for normal luggage. Book early (10-12 months ahead) if you intend to go peak season and don’t have flexibility in your schedule. (Editors note: Keep an eye out for the Virgin sales, where flights can be as much as £200 cheaper)
- On the way back we had a connecting flight to Jo’berg with South African Airways before getting on Virgin the LHR. SAA wanted approx £650 excess baggage, I got them down to £70 after some lengthy discussion which involved calling Virgin in London on my mobile ……….choose your flights carefully, getting the cheapest might not be the most economical for your gear!