South Africa


(Cape) Doctors
story by Steffi Wahl (translation by Claudia Vogt)
German wave- and windgirl Steffi Wahl is a frequent
visitor at the Cape of Good Hope. Here is her story.

mpeg-VIDEO: you can watch Steffi rippin' in SA here!

(355 kB, rightklick and "save target as")

Capetown, the metropolis in the South of Africa, and its surroundings have fascinated us right from the beginning. We arrived there in February and got addicted immediately. In my eyes there are only very few places in the world that offer you perfect conditions for windsurfing, clean breaks for surfing, fascinating landscapes, wildlife and the pulsating life of a city at the same time. Apart from that, there are so many different cultures to explore, which, almost surprisingly, seem to co-exist in harmony.

So I´d say forget about all the myths that people have spun around the sharks of South Africa and read this travel report – only to get prepared for your own adventure there. The best season for windsurfing is European winter, from November to March the Cape Doc will give you a demonstration of what blowing like crazy means (Cape Doc, by the way, is the local name for the south easterly wind.). That and water temperatures between 10 and 15 °C in the Atlantic and 20-25°C in the Indian Ocean, respectively, have lead us to speak of South Africa as our windsurf paradise.

Steffi Wahl
table mountain


Having the right weather conditions, which you can tell by having a look at Table Mountain and checking the “Table Cloth” (name for the typical clouds hanging over Table Mountain like a linen on a table), you can be almost sure to have wind every day. Then it´s time to check out Sunset Beach. There the wind is coming in side-offshore, port tack. Unfortunately, the conditions get quite choppy when you´re on 4,5 or smaller and it´s not too good for jumping either, considering that it´s gusty where the waves break. The break is due to a sandbank close to the beach, and that makes Sunset Beach a unique place for waveriding when the swell is not too big and wind´s still moderate. Sensational wave rides with an amazing background provide the right stuff for the glossy surf magazines.

The more the wind picks up, the more northwesternly you can go along the coastline – it might get too windy on Sunset Beach anyway. Similar wind conditions as just described is what you find at Big Bay, but the waves here are steeper, real ramps. On both sides of the bay there are rocks, and since it´s a rather small bay it gets crowded easily. On days without wind, Big Bay is the city´s main paddle surf spot. 15 km more to the Northwest is Melkboss, a spot that due to the chaotic break and the wide sandy beach, reminded us of “our” Northsea. On the water, you quickly figure out that the waves here, other than what we know from back home, are powerful and the wind is sideshore, guaranteeing great wave riding again.

The next stop on the R 27 if you head northwest is Silverstroom Strand. Here we get a day with 2 meters wave and steady side-onshore wind from the left, perfect for jumping and reminding us once again of home, but this time of the “Ostsee” (northeastern shores of Germany). On days with loads of wind and swell you should consider the 80 km to Yzerfontaine worth the trip. “Yzer” is our declared favorite, because its long wave allows you riding it till you just gotta take a rest! The surf rolling in has to turn around a spit of land which makes the waves come into the two bays with some nice distance between them.

Steffi rips

In case there´s no wind in Capetown although the forecast promised southeasterly winds, you have two otpions. Either you go for a Freestyle session in the lagoon of Langebaan, where the wind has pass to through some kind of channel between two hills and therefore is stronger than elsewhere. You can even get some waves there if you´re lucky, rolling from the Atlantic into the lagoon in the northwestern part of it. We get good sailing with admittedly chaotic waves of 2 meters at “Club Mykonos”, while Capetown itself has no wind at all.

The second option would be the Cape of Good Hope. When the wind comes directly from the Southeast, windsurfers meet at Platboom Beach. Driving there is definetely a thriller of its own since the weather is extremely unsteady around the Cape. We can´t believe our eyes when we get there. No wind except for a 1 km wide stripe where you can sail on 5,0. On the left and right side nothing at all. At Witsands and Scarborough, not too far from where we are and great with some swell,  the wind´s even coming from the opposite direction. Amazing! When we get back from this day´s sailing, with a bright smile on our faces, reporting from wind, waves and sun, we earn views full of envy and suprise.

Capetown and its surroundings

The very few days without waves and wind offer a wide range of activities. A day spent in the typical wine regions, 60 km north of Capetown, can be great fun, tasting all the excellent wines in many of the wineries. Capetown itself has a lot of culture to see or listen to, like Jazz concerts, an IMAX-cinema, theaters, so called Goah-parties and some big fetsivals. What we really like is the Summer Sunset Concert every Sunday in the botanic garden of Kirstenbosch, which is just right for relaxing. Who´s more into House music will definetely find something in the inner city of Capetown. Around Long Street and Lope Street there´s plenty of places to go. If you want to learn how to play the drums, don´t miss “Drum Café”.

False Bay

Greenmarket Square is also in the inner city, and here traders sell their African goods, which you can have for a good price as long as you know how to bargain and beat down the price at least to half o the original! Still no wind and no waves in the morning? Well, we decide to hike on the Table Mountain, which, a 100 meters high, from the top gives you a splendid view of Capetown, Robben Island and Camps Bay. Whoever finds the hiking is still not enough for the day can check out the view from 3000 m during a tandem parachute jump offered by the Cape Parachute Club fo a reasonabel price.

Both the lush nature and the wildlife are unique in teh Cape region. You see whales when paddle surfing, seals who join you in surfing the waves, and even penguins – but these only in Boulder at the Cape of Good Hope. Some of the guys dressed in their “black suits”, however, enjoy fooling around with Henning. In the evening, you have to have a BBQ, in Afikaans, a local language, that´s called “Braai”. Everyone just loves to barbecue, so “braaing” is the main hobby of local people. That doesn´t mean you always have to take care of cooking yourself, dining out is cheap, a third of the German prices. Our choice: The Panama Jacks! After a good day of sailing it´s also cool to meet  your friends for a sundowner. The Blue Peter Hotel in between Table View and Big Bay is very nice for watching the sunset sipping a “Savannah”.

Garden Route

After three awesome weeks with Cape Doc he seems to be gone for a while. So we also plan to move on, packing the surf boards and heading to the Indian Ocean to check out the famous surfspots like Jeffrey´s Bay and Cape St. Francis, that we know from the movie “Endless Summer”. After a while, the landscape turns very lush and beautiful and we are stunned by what southafrican nature has to offer. The first time we get out of the car is in Tsitsikama National Park where, after some walking, we indeed get to the suspension bridge that this place is known for. In the same evening we travel further to Cape St. Francis and get to a friendly youth hostel named Seal Point Backpackers. It´s here where the South African Longboarding Championships take place and we actually get to see some good action.

If you feel like buying a surf board you should definetely do that in Jeffrey´s Bay. You can choose from a big range of local shapers. That is what we do, and with less money but more toys on the roof racks, we get a great surf session in the afternoon. We get a vague idea about what surfing is like in the Indian ocean, not only because of the 15 dolphins playing around us. Our next stop is the Addo Elephant Park, 80 km north of Port Elizabeth. None of us has ever seen one of the Big Five in wildlife, so the 30 elephants promptly appearing out of the bushes to drink and shower quite relaxed at a water hole, only 20 meters away from us and only divided by a fence, cause a good portion of excitement on our side.

With these everlasting impressions we take on the way back, which is 850 km to Capetown – Cape Doc seems to have returned and we are looking forward to two weeks more of windsurfing.

Tips for the traveller

For a lot of people, Capetown is only known as the city with the worldwide highest criminal rate, but it´s also one of the most beautiful places on earth! You should, however, be aware of a few things. The extreme difference between rich and poor is a fact, but when not walking in the townships and acting with some responsibility like you also would back home, there´s little danger, and in the suburbs like Milnerton and Tableview you are as safe as in your own country. At almost all of the gas stations there are ATMs, which at least also work with European EC-cards. Just be aware of pocket thiefs.

You can also buy prepaid cards for your GSM cell phones, which are reasonably priced. Shopping is, from our point of view, very economic. Pick´n´Pay is a unbelievably bing supermarket and there´s also Century City, a recently opened, huge shopping mall.

For those of you who´ve never been to Capetown and don´t know anyone where they could stay, or even, if your trip is only as short as two weeks, we recommend the Surfhostel ( If you have a bad crash, it´s good to know Second Wind on the R 27 in direction of Capetown for all kinds of injuries concerning your equipment (board and sail repairs) and Milnerton Medi Clinic for injuries concerning yourself or a friend.

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   text: Steffi Wahl, photos: S. Wahl & H. Tierstiege, translation: C. Vogt © windgirls 2004