We made it. Yup, we’re half-way through the summer Festive Season, and somehow, we’ve survived those ice-cold beers, the extra-chunky slice of Christmas cake, and those lazy afternoons chilling on the beach. Problem is, the battle of the bulge has become real, so it’s about time to try something new to counter all the calories as we head into 2024. Enter the surf ski!
OCEAN MOTION AND BIG BLUE CRUISING.
Shew, what a country we have! Four provinces bordering on two vast oceans, and stretching a total of more than 2 850km, all the way from Namibia to Mozambique. Plus, the weather is world-class, with breathtaking bays, jaw-dropping wildlife encounters, and dramatic views from beyond the backline. And what better way to explore the exquisite marine wilderness than in a surfski?
Surfskis are sit-on craft with a deep seat well, and you are positioned with your legs extended straight in front of you. A narrow beam – combined with a substantial length of around 6m – means balance is not easy as a beginner. You steer with foot pedals and the craft is manufactured to suit your specific body geometry, with leg fit crucial to your stroke, steering and rhythm. Contemporary craft are made from space-age carbon- or fibre-glass compounds.
False Bay, Cape Peninsula
Welcome to Mocke Central! Yup, when you blade onto False Bay, your chances of bumping into world champions are way above average. Fish Hoek is the home of Nikki, Dawid and Jasper Mocke, and they all rate as legends on the international surfski circuit. They head up one of the globe’s best paddling academies, with athletes from around the world joining them on their regular training camps.
Route Options: Paddlers have a choice of routes on False Bay, with easy put-ins from Simonstown, Fish Hoek and Muizenberg. The downwind crew will always opt for a ‘Miller’s Run’, though, especially on those gale-force southeaster days. This one-way run starts from Miller’s Point beyond Simonstown, and you’ll be chasing swell all the way past Boulders Beach and Glencairn to Fish Hoek. Experienced paddlers who feel like a hardcore workout can trip the route around Cape Point – from Soetwater or Hout Bay to Fish Hoek, or vice versa – for a adrenaline day out on the Big Blue.
Why paddle it: The spectacular Cape of Storms unfolds southwards from Cape Town, culminating in a dramatic and storm-tossed Cape Point. Blade along the ocean in the shadows of the Table Mountain ranges, while sharing the sea with African penguins, pods of dolphins and southern-right whales.
Level of Expertise: This is very much dependent on weather conditions, route choice and time of the year. Beginners should stick to calm days, preferably with an onshore breeze and remain close to the shore for their own safety. And always use the SAFETRX APP – get it free from www.nsri.org.za
Contact: Mocke Paddling offers everything from their popular Surfski School and Downwind Camps, to adventure paddles such as the ‘5 Capes’ and ‘Millers Run’. They’re also expert retailers of world-class craft, safety equipment and surfski essentials – check out www.mockepaddling.com
Knysna Heads, Garden Route
Where: Knysna and Plett rate as two of South Africa’s top adventure towns, with rivers, estuaries and a scenic coastline brimming with breathtaking paddling opportunities.
Why paddle it: Dramatic scenery, superb swell-chasing and innumerable route options are just a few of the reasons to launch from Knysna or Plett. There have been several great white sightings over the past few years, but this has done little to dampen the paddling stoke in the area.
Route Options: Chloe Bunnet is another of SA’s world champion paddlers, and she favours a handful of route options here along the Garden Route coast. “The estuary makes for an easy beginner’s outing in any kind of weather, while blading ‘The Heads’ is sure to get the adrenaline pumping”, she says. “Then you also have Goukamma River and Buffels Bay, two amazing sunrise surfski spots for you”!
Level of Expertise: Recreational paddlers should always take care on the Indian Ocean, because the weather can change in an instant. Paddle with a group of locals if you can, as they will have a great working knowledge of how the tide and wind will affect conditions.
Access: Many of the surfski launch sites around Knysna might be located within the jurisdiction of the Garden Route National Park, so make sure you abide by their regulations.
Contact: The Knysna Yacht Club is the best place to meet local paddlers, and they gather on Tuesday afternoons for a late dice, before enjoying sundowners – www.knysnayachtclub.com