A taste of Africa - Cape Town.
Cape Town is a gleaming cosmopolitan city, perched on the southern most point of the continent. Encapsulated by the iconic Table Mountain and rolling African landscape on one side, the deep blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean complete the other. A hot spot to whet all appetites, the city boasts a buzzing vibe beaming with cultural persona. But, we're were not there just for the city life, although the booming party and music scene lead us, at times, to loose ourselves in the vibrant 'after dark' scene. We were there to immerse ourselves in the world of action sports and more so, Stand Up Paddle boarding.
The SUP scene in Cape Town is, for lack of a better word, impressive. Surfing has always been part of the culture here but, with SUP being far more accessible to all ages and newbies alike, it means that the coastal waters are being enjoyed my many. Local surfers are protective of the breaks they have been surfing for years before the SUP craze but, on the flip side are surprisingly accommodating to those with a paddle as long as you abide by the rules and return the same respect.
Within the coastline of the Cape, you can find idyllic locations as long as you're willing drive, and I can't recommend you do this enough. Staying in the same location doesn't exactly scream 'adventure!' and that's what travelling is all about; discovery and new experiences. This trip was my fifth time in Cape Town which, you may think a little unimaginative, but with so much on offer i've always left with plenty of things remaining on my hit list. I returned this year with Tom Court. Pro Kiteboarder, film maker and International Team Rider for Fanatic. With an insatiable desire for exploration, meant that I had a travel companion who shared the same passions and adoration for non stop action.
Taking to Cape Town like ducks to water, we resided in Bloubergstrand, often known as the water sports mecca of the Cape. Our beach front apartment proved to be the ultimate 'watch tower' as the conditions for the day unravelled. At daybreak, lines of swell revealed themselves through the crisp haze of sunrise and as no one likes to arrive late to a party, Dawn Patrol became a habit. The endless breaks that graced the Strand offered up the perfect playground and small groups of SUPers and surfers could be seen dotted along the coastline. To give you an idea, Kite beach, Big Bay, Horse Trails and all the way down to Durdesteen, are four magnificent breaks within 5km of each other. This kind of set up is often overwhelming as decision making so early on in the day can often be as confusing. Well, let me help you. After a few hectic and rather stressful mornings trying to decide, it soon became clear that if there was swell in the area, they all worked!
Morning and evening sessions in Blouberg were broken up by the arrival of the Cape Doctor. The infamous wind that embellishes the area in the afternoons, alluring wind addicts to decorate the waterline with their colourful kites. If this kind of action is not up your street then I suggest choosing another activity that does. There are plenty of appetising things on the menu but quite often going for a drive and 'winging it' will leave you pleasantly surprised.
However, if you fancy sticking with your SUP, it might be worth mentioning the awesome Downwind Dash SUP series that happen every Wednesday at sunset from November – March. Embracing the Cape Doctor and using it to their advantage, avid paddlers embark on the 10km downwind run from Milnerton Lighthouse to Big Bay in Blouberg. Meeting up with Local Fanatic Rider Brad Adams who came 3rd Overall last year, he familiarised us with the top spots and all the possibilities for paddle boarding in and around Cape Town. Having been sucked into the relentless action right on our doorstep, we decided to make an effort and do a road trip around the Cape to explore the beaches and bay's and see what action could be rustled up elsewhere.
Not venturing too far on our first outing, we headed 100km north to Langebaan Lagoon. Aptly referred to as the 'Jewel of the West Coast,' situated on the Western Cape, the Lagoon stretches for 17km with crystal clear, shallow and warms waters; a welcomed change to the frosty waters of the Atlantic. Approaching Langebaan through the National Park, we decided to stay on the east side and head to Kraalbai, with its crescent shaped, white sandy beach. Eerily quiet and scorching hot, the conditions were nothing short of perfect for an adventure on the Fanatic Fly Air. Inflatable, user friendly and the ultimate explorer for all levels I glided across the lagoon effortlessly, exploring every nook and cranny the divine bay had to offer. Having satiated my appetite for a days SUP under the African sunshine, we headed to the other side of the Lagoon to Langebaan town, where the main beach is buzzing with beachside restaurants and bars. Settling into a particular favourite of mine, Pearly's and with a cold beer in hand we watched the sun disappear behind the horizon before heading back to Blouberg.
Tom and I are two very different riders. I'm often rusty to begin with, and my slight nervousness can make me clumsy. My skill set is more suited to smaller forgiving waves and flat water cruising garnishes my ideal session beautifully. Tom on the other hand is a board sports genius, with zero fear and an unhinged approach to surfing. The bigger and more gnarly the waves, the happier and more amped he is. So, we took on what we thought was a challenge, to find spots that suited us both.
Heading south at the crack of dawn, we passed through the city and up towards Table Mountain and Lions Head on Kloof Nek road. Rather like the yellow brick road ; follow it and you'll get to where you're going. The easiest route out of the city, it will take you to the chic area of Camps Bay and the divine Clifton. For those of you who enjoy a hike, it is also where the Pipe Track starts.
Continuing down into Camps Bay, passing through the delightful street buzz of breakfast time, we stuck to the winding coastal road for a further 9km arriving at our first destination, Llandudno. A magnificent beach surrounded by large granite boulders and peered upon by mountains, superb architectural pieces cling to the backdrop. The white sand and turquoise waters play host to a popular surf spot and one for the experienced and committed paddler. A hollow beach break provides fast, powerful waves that wedge. One of the most reliable spots in Cape Town we hit the beach. Opting out of the session, I parked my bikini clad derriere on the warm sands as Tom suited up. It might be worth mentioning that the Atlantic waters of Cape Town are chilly, so you can forget basking in the shallows as the waters of Llandudno are colder than anywhere else. The paddle out proved to be a tough one but, Tom made it out back. Choosing to surf the left hand side of the bay, the swell rolled in thick and fast and he certainly got some epic rides and hammering’s. If there is one thing I learnt from watching his session it was this; paddle like you mean it and you'll score. And score he did! Stoked on the unpredicted outcome, we had to reminded ourselves that we were on a mission and hit the road again. Direction Kommetjie.
Rejoining Victoria Drive, arguably the most scenic road in the world, we headed towards Hout Bay; the bay, the beach and the valley. Set in a fold of sea lapped mountains and a long sandy beach, Hout Bay is a lively fishing harbour with a kicking market scene to boot; FYI, the Bay Harbour Market comprises of over 100 stalls. Temptations to inflate my SUP and casually paddle across the bay were suppressed by the mission in hand and the chase for bigger, gnarlier things however, in hindsight I wish I had and it remains a spot on the hit list. Maybe you could be the one to beat me to it.
Leaving Hout Bay behind us we hit Chapman's Peak Drive, a must for anyone passionate about the majestic Cape Town scenery. The hair pin turns, sheer drops to the sea below and imposing mountains rising above you are breathtaking. Leading us down to Noordhoek, best known for its magnificent shoreline made up of a long, white sandy beach, we continued on to the neighbouring village of Kommetjie, a unique seaside town with a fresh blend of the surf lifestyle. Long Beach is the spot and with the bay resembling a basin, the grinding swell from the Atlantic Ocean rolls over the rocky reefs, peaking at the sandbar in the middle breaking both left and right. When firing, the spot can get get crowded especially at weekends, so if you can be sure to hit it when everyone else is working.
Back on the road again, we headed towards our final destination of our day road trip, Scarborough. A mere 9km from Kommetjie it's a epic spot where you'll be guaranteed a good session away from the crowds of Cape Town. Three breaks work at Scarborough, the point break at the south of the bay, the reef in the middle and another reef to the north. Suited and booted, Tom grabbed his ProWave 9”8 and headed out shred the point break which, when the swell is big, has another left hander behind it breaking across the kelp. Passing out through the channel, he reached the line up in no time. Dropping into the first wave in a new spot can always be testing, but the hollow yet fun size of the wave gave a lengthy first ride and didn't seem to be a particularly hardcore or technical wave.
Scarborough proved to be a gem of a spot with Tom taking wave after wave, and with no need to hustle as one would in busier breaks. Leaving the water as the sun dipped behind the imposing mountains that encapsulate the bay, it dawned on me quite how much there is to discover. In an effortless day and without an exciting forecast, we had scored three fantastic sessions. With more time and desire to head off the beaten track, it left me wondering how much more Cape Town and surrounding areas had to offer.