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Best Big Waves in South Africa

Surfing is still very much in the development stage in many parts of Africa. Large portions of the continent are a lot more difficult to access than what we’re used to in places like Australia, but with such a vast coastline there are clearly plenty of great waves littered across this part of the world. Hard-to-access breaks invariably means that if something goes wrong, there’s not a whole lot around to help you out, and this likely also contributes to the big wave community being a little more hesitant to explore this part of the world than they may be elsewhere. South Africa, however, is one exception. A country with one of the densest populations of great waves in the world, and plenty of them are pretty damn big.

Dungeons

Where is it?

Dungeons is located in Hout Bay, a suburb of Cape Town in South Africa’s Western Cape. With thousands upon thousands of kilometres of South Atlantic Ocean surrounding it to the west and south, it’s no surprise that this part of the world is capable of producing some pretty hefty waves.  

The wave

Undoubtedly the most recognisable big wave in Africa, Dungeons is split into a range of different sections, each of which provides its own unique challenge. There’s The Slab, The Two-Point-Five, Washburn’s Peak, Outside Photo Bowl and The Left; The Two-Point-Five is the widest part of the wave and can often be the best spot to get a wave, while Washburn’s Peak is a lot more fickle but more capable of producing the best rides. The waves here are capable of getting up to 50 feet or more in size, and it’s not a nice 50 feet – if such a thing exists. It’s heavy and can be unpredictable, and even when it’s substantially smaller, is not a wave that most people would even consider surfing. 

Why is it scary? 

The wave itself is scary enough, with its size, power and fickle nature making it very difficult to navigate. Adding even more to the fear associated with it is the fact that a big seal colony lives just nearby, and as you probably know there are no shortage of great whites swimming around in South African waters. As I always say, the wave is still far more likely to cause damage, but the prospect of these big fish swimming around underneath your toes while you’re waiting for a potentially deadly wave doesn’t sound like the most alluring of propositions.

Sunset Reef

Where is it?

Like Dungeons, Sunset Reef is located in Cape Town, South Africa. You’ll find it off the Cape Peninsula, a rocky outcrop sticking into the South Atlantic Ocean on the south side of Cape Town, a location which makes it particularly exposed to the swells rolling in from the vast expanses of ocean to the south and west.

The wave

Though it’s Dungeons that is widely regarded as the best big wave in Africa today, Sunset Reef was its predecessor and the place in which big wave surfing in the continent was born. It’s a little less unruly than its counterpart in Hout Bay, though that probably depends on your definition of unruly. It’s capable of getting well and truly over 30 feet, and has the capacity to produce hollow barrels even when it gets to those monstrous sizes. There is huge potential for surfers talented enough to ride it to get ‘mind-bending barrels’ there, according to big wave champion Twiggy Baker, making it one of the best big waves spots in Africa.

Why is it scary?

Sunset Reef probably doesn’t have the same level of danger associated with it as many of the other big waves we’ve looked at in these articles, but that doesn’t exactly mean your everyday surfer could paddle out there on their 6’0” and expect to come out unscathed. It’s still capable of getting huge, is very powerful, and once again, has no shortage of big sharks swimming around the area.

Bay View

Where is it?

Hermanus is located not too far from Cape Town; a little over 100 kilometres to the south-east, to be exact. Located in the Western Cape Province, this town is probably best known as a great place to watch a few whales swim by, but it’s also the location of a big, and very heavy wave.

The wave

Though the name makes it sound like a nice place to settle in for a day at the beach with the waves gently lapping at your feet, underestimate this spot at your own peril. The waves at Bay View can fairly comfortably reach 20 feet, and often a fair bit more. This is a far cry from the biggest waves in the world, but it’s more than big enough and the underwater profile, which sees deep water rapidly turn into a shallow reef, makes it every bit as heavy as some of its more sizeable counterparts. 

Why is it scary?

On its day, many regard the wave here as more intimidating than Dungeons at the same size. Any time there’s a shallow reef underneath a big wave, surfing it invariably involves plenty of risk, and that’s certainly the case here. There are also strong currents, plenty of rocks, the potential for extended hold downs, as well as a reputation for great whites, so it’s safe to say that there’s plenty to worry about here.