4 – 8 May 2019
The Eastern Cape always appeared, from a coastline perspective, to be a harsh part of South Africa.
Growing up, I used to spend months of the year in “Windy City” of Port Elizabeth (PE). My brother and I used every opportunity to hop onto a flight to visit with family. Strangely enough, in these early years, I never rode any spots that were known for their waves. It has only been more recently that I have made the many trips to the Eastern Cape to ride waves in Plettenberg Bay, Port Alfred and PE itself.
More recently, we set out on a mission to chase a swell up the coast of South Africa to where it slammed the shores of the Eastern Cape in an almighty roar of raw ocean power and force.
This trip was to be something different. I would be working alongside good friend and cinematographer, James Jones of “Render Film Co”. During the course of 2019 we plan to collaborate to produce five cinematic bodyboarding films.
We wanted the Eastern Cape to be one of the focal points of our series due to the Element of WIND that batters the coast line, changing the sand dunes and appearances of these majestic areas. These winds batter the coast from both east and west, sometimes reaching crazy speeds.
James describes his take for this area, “Having grown up in the Eastern Cape and riding waves all around the area, I knew we had a good chance in Winter to score some swell. You can never predict what will happen with such severe wind conditions and it’s just such a strong element that takes the Waves from hero to zero overnight. But, it can also be extremely exciting at the same time, not knowing what to expect.”
The journey started in Cape Town where Rosie and I packed the car, leaving early on a Saturday morning to get to our first destination, Plettenberg Bay. The five-hour drive up the coast took us through the beautiful Garden Route and through Knysna to Plett. On the drive, we were shown the raw power of this coastline. With the view from the road above the Wilderness area, we were able to witness the effect of powerful winds as they whipped the huge waves associated with the marching swell into a smashing, surging frenzy.
On arrival in Plett, we drove down to The Wedge. The swell was just starting to move into the bay. Waves were picking up but the winds didn’t seem to be playing the part. We watched for a few minutes before making the decision to paddle out in some if-ish conditions. The Wedge was lining up and it only took a few moments before I was able to take flight on some epic wedges. The waves appeared to slowly die down before the wind switched, putting a cross-shore breeze on the now tough-to-ride conditions. We decided that it was time to head further up the coast, chasing the swell into the heart of the Eastern Cape, Port Elizabeth.
Sunday morning and the waves were there. We decided to use the day to head out to Sardinia Bay, about 20 minutes’ drive south of PE. Our arrival was greeted with the arrival of some huge sets out at the back of the bay. This wave is often a result of larger swells with strong offshore winds and heavy currents. Here it is always a good idea to keep a watchful eye out for the odd shark as this smaller bay is pretty much open ocean, outside the larger Algoa Bay on which PE is situated. I was able to make the most of the really fun waves in a rip bowl in the bay.
“There’s always a chance that you’ll find offshore conditions either in Algoa bay, or on the Wild side due to the shape of the bay, but sometimes, the wind can just get a little too wild around here,” James explains.
Monday was predicted to be a really tough day when we were scouring the charts during the days before. Winds were predicted to be very strong, with a 35 knot easterly shown to blow all day. We went out in search of offshore winds and fun waves. Unfortunately, the wind had made the swell drop overnight. The waves were smaller and not what we were looking for. With the onshore winds now pummeling the coastline, our hopes were dashed for the day.
As a diversion, James suggested a trip to his local coffee shop, “Urban Espress Coffee Co”, located in the busy Walmer area of PE. The coffee shop is run by husband and wife dream-team, Donovan and Angeline Mclagan. Their extensive knowledge of coffee-making and roasting has allowed them to make a name for themselves, worldwide, and “Urban Espress” oozes with their passion for coffee. The coffee shop is a hive of activity, full with the aroma of coffee being made and freshly roasted beans being freshly roasted in the roastery joined to the shop. After a pit stop here to indulge in a cup of strong black coffee, it was time to head off on a further stage of our mission.
James decided that a trip out to watch the sunset around the Sea View area would be a good close to the day. The waves were still pounding the coastline and the vantage point would allow us to witness the sea’s true dominance on the rough coast. We saw the wind whipping through the sand dunes before heading further down the coast. The wild waves crashing onto the sharp rocks of this coast coast was another beautiful spectacle as the sun dipped below the horizon, revealing the warm sunset colours of the Eastern Cape.
Tuesday morning and the wild wind had died. This allowed us to head to the PE bay and try another left wedge. The waves were further south and we rode one of the better-known spots around PE. With this in mind, I paddled out in the early hours of the morning and lucked into another epic session in the company of a single surfer. It was amazing to see the wind transforming long lines of swell into something out of a dream. The dying swell and outgoing tide reduced the size of the waves, signaling the end of our mission to the Eastern Cape.
Looking back on the trip, it was really difficult to predict what was going to happen. We pushed really hard to get everything out of the time we spent together filming. This is only the start of that which, we hope, will turn out to be the most extensive project on which I have embarked, to date.
From James’ perspective, “This has been a super challenging, yet highly rewarding project that we have only just started. Sometimes it’s just making something out of very little that gives you a sense of gratification and anticipation moving forward with this.”
WIND: one down in the ELEMENTS series. I am looking forward to see what South Africa has to offer in the way of bodyboarding in the next few months.
In closing, I would like to thank everyone who had a part to play in the challenging production of this video. James had been able to showcase so much of that which the Eastern Cape has to offer.
With the series just getting started, I would like to extend a special note of thanks James and Caitlyn Jones for their wonderful hospitality. As always, thanks to Rosie for her support along the trip!
This is the WIND ELEMENT: EASTERN CAPE!