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Surf Breaks: Winter’s here bring your surfboard!

It looks like we are in for a frosty winter. With snow in Soweto?!? and on the peaks in the Drakensberg and Ceres.
The nights in winter here can be chilly to say the least, and subzero temperatures are not uncommon.

The days however can be lovely, today being such an example! Crisp blue skies hardly a breath of wind (rare for CT) and a very respectable 18 Celsius. A perfect day for a surf.

A hallmark of the Cape Town winter is the arrival of the winter swell, which creates rideable waves at our best spots, which lay mostly dormant during the summer.

There are at least 50 surf spots within an hours drive of Cape Town, and many surf schools to show you the ropes if you don’t mind the famously cold water. (which does get a bit warmer in the winter)


Here is a comprehensive list of our best breaks in the Cape Peninsula region taken from Wavescape rated from * to ***** stars.


A rare point break in Cape Town, this wave breaks off the sunken remains of the wreck of a ship called the Thermopylae in Mouille Point. It’s a lefthander that can produce really long walls as the wave travels along a rock shelf not far from the entrance to Cape Town harbour. The takeoff zone can be a bit hairy, depending on the size of the swell and the tide. Because it faces north, and prevailing swell direction is south, an ocean swell of 10’+ is needed before this spot begins to break, unless the swell is westerly or northwesterly, which is fairly rare. There can be long lulls, unless a really big swell is running. An E-coli zone due to nearby sewage outlets. ****

Off The Wall

The take-off zone of this city reef break is about the size of a Mini, yet up to 15 surfers, and more, can pack into it, waiting for a short sharp take-off and long green wall that closes out at the end. Breaking along the promenade of a suburb called Mouille Point, adjacent to Sea Point, Off The Wall has vague similarities with its counterpart in Hawaii. The take-off is next to a retaining wall. It’s just east of Mouille Point lighthouse. Gets awesome. ****


A gnarly left reef down from Off the Wall in Sea Point. It’s best on SE winds, a large southwesterly swell and a pushing high tide. Can be working when the other Sea Pointbreaks are struggling to break. It wraps around the rocks and freight-trains on to a rocky ledge, where it stands up and says, “smack me or you die”. Experienced surfers only. ***


A short reef break, breaking left and right, with an outer reef that works when big, depending on swell direction. Solly’s is best in a clean 4-5′ swell and light to moderate southeasterly winds. The spot is near the Pavilion, where all the Sea Point buzz is centered. A parking lot provides easy access. ***


Somewhat knobbly Sea Point lefthand reef. The take-off can get hairy. The swell concentrates on a ledging patch of rocks, then swings outwards. Can be big and mushy and fun. Needs a clean, solid 5-8′ swell, high tide and SE winds or glassy conditions. While the northern Sea Point spots can handle a SW wind, Queens starts getting wobbly. The ride is not that long and, while quite consistent, does not get really good very often. Take care you don’t ride into the rocks at the end. ***

Glen Beach

Tucked away in the corner of upmarket Camps Bay nearest to Sea Point, Glen Beach is one of the most established surf spots in Cape Town. It has seen several generations of surf rats suit up on the concrete walkway there. A hollow righthander that breaks on sand, just off the rocks. Many of South Africa’s top surfers were, or are, locals here. It’s a shortish ride, but can deliver superlative form when the banks and conditions are right. Works best at 2-5′ and is a bit more sheltered from the SE gales that howl from the Twelve Apostles mountain range above. ****


Another popular spot. Depending on the shifting sand banks, Llandudno can deliver awesome barrels. The Gat is a thick wedge that breaks near the boulders to the right of the bay. The Gat means “Hole” in Afrikaans. It’s also a nickname for a gun. Both fit the description, because it’s a hard-breaking spitting tube. If the Gat isn’t working, there is usually a sand bar closer to the middle of the bay where a hollow righthander breaks. Lefts can be ridden on the left side of the bay. It’s often crowded and the water in summer is often freezing, down to 11 degrees C after a particularly heavy upwelling, caused by galeforce offshore southeasters that blow for days, pulling deep water to the surface. However, it’s great thawing out in the hot sun afterwards! Can be a bit inconsistent. The sandbanks only deliver superlative waves at certain times of the year, mostly between spring and autumn. In winter, it tends to be out of control. ****

Mac’s Spot

A local called Mac lives near his very own little surf spot – a small righthander that peels past a granite boulder and into a small bay. You won’t find it. It’s camouflaged. ***

Sandy Bay

When Llandudno is closing out, Sandy Bay is a good option. This nudist colony is tucked away in the next bay and is a 20-minute walk from the car park. Mostly a short shorebreak wave, Sandy’s can throw up perfect barrels on the shallow sand banks. It handles the southeaster well and can cope with a southerly if it’s not too strong. ***


One of a number of big wave spots ridden by a handful of Cape Town’s hard core crew. It has become part of the international big wave circuit, and is easily on a par with Mavericks or Todos Santos. Some say it’s even better, because on the low tide it walls up like a giant freight train. Found just off the Sentinel mountain in Hout Bay, this righthander only starts breaking at about 8′. Best in light northwesterly or glassy conditions. Needs a low tide, otherwise it’s too thick. ****

Hout Bay

In this fishing village, tucked around from the Sentinel, waves can be found off the harbour wall and down the beach. However, the swell window is small and the spots need a big swell to push into Hout Bay. The waves are generally short, small and of poor quality, although on a huge SW swell and NW winds, the harbour wall has been known to get good. **

The Hoek

The wedging perfection of the Hoek could inspire one to poetry. It’s round. It’s freezing cold. It’s green. The descriptive phrase for a barrel, the Green Room, could have been coined here. Potent wedging A-Frame barrels break on a shallow sandbar in crisp clean water and a majestic setting. A reef offshore seems to concentrate the swell on to sand bar at the Hoek, below spectacular Chapman’s Peak drive. When at it’s best, this wave is a world class tube, short but round and perfect. Often one has to tuck in on take-off, due to a lip that throws fast and hard. Protected, slightly, from the Southeaster (offshore here), The Hoek works on a low tide and copes, just, with swell at 6 – 7 ‘, although you have to be selective. *****

Noordhoek Beach

A beautiful beach that runs from Chapman’s Peak Drive to Kommetjie. It’s punctuated by a series of sand banks that deliver waves of various lengths, shapes and sizes. Some peaks get close to perfect at various peaks along the beach, depending on sand movement and swell quality. Southeast winds are offshore. Occasionally a sand bank will form that delivers perfect waves, otherwise most peaks are fun. ****


The Dunes was even better years ago. The sand that blew off high dunes into the sea does not move as much after alien vegetation took over. However, it must have been a vision from God in those days, because today it still delivers awesome barrels. On a solid 6-8′ day, this spot delivers barrel after spitting barrel. It looks perfect, but be prepared for a overworked pituitary gland. A wipeout can rip your booties off, snap your board and break your bones. For experienced surfers only, and those prepared for a mega-walk along the beach. *****

Just down from Dunes, there is an old wreck embedded in the sand. Only the boiler of the Kakapo sticks out, and occasionally the ribbed remains of the hull. Near it there is a shorebreak that provides crunchy barrels. Fickle and close out a lot. **


Just beyond Dunes, out to sea, lies a bombora. It’s a big wave oasis in the middle of the ocean. The swell must be 8′ or more before it begins to break. The crew who surf Dungeons will go out here on those fun 20′ days. Sunset, similar to its namesake in the Pacific Ocean, is a huge peak that features those jaw-dropping take-offs that seem to go on forever. A giant shoulder follows briefly before this grand daddy is laid to rest in a deep channel. Mostly a take-off. Doesn’t offer the giant walls of Mavericks or Dungeons. Surfers are dropped off by rubber duck. Some are towed in on jetskis. ****

Krons, Krans

A shorebreak wave just to the right of Long Beach. It’s popular among bodyboarders due to the sucking barrel. Very fast and hollow. Often dumps a long closeout section on to a boiling sandbar. ***

Long Beach

Another established Cape Town surf spot peopled by masses of up and coming surf rats. Tucked away behind a point at Kommetjie, it’s one of few places that can handle a southwesterly wind. Because it’s so far around the corner – it actually faces North – the waves have to bend all the way around, almost doing a U-turn. The result, though, are clean lefthand peaks. These peaks break on the outside and run for about 20 – 40 metres before finishing off in a shorebreak closeout. A very rideable wave that’s perfect for testing maneouvers. A lot of contests are held here. ****


Travelling around from Long Beach brings you to a series of outer reefs. Boneyards is an outer reef where long walling waves break over kelp beds. Best when it’s glassy and a Westerly groundswell is running. It entails a long paddle, but can be an insane wave when perfect. ***

Inner Kom

On the inside section at Outer Kom, there is a miniature point. You have to sit virtually in the kelp. Waves that have bent around from the Outer Kom, travelled through the kelp and reformed close to the rocks have all but lost their energy, but provide fun walling little lefts up to about 3′. Lots of youngsters hang out along the rocks here, honing their skills for the day they paddle out at the Kom. **

Outer Kom

Another landmark wave in Cape Town. The Kom is a point / reef where peaks break powerfully on the outside of a small point. Don’t get caught inside. You’ll suffer the ignominy of defeat, and the shifting peaks will ensure you only reappear where you started from. The Kom is at it’s best in a big, clean, Westerly groundswell and glassy offshore conditions. It can handle a mild northwester, and turns on in offshore Berg winds. Can handle a light SE and even a light S. This place gets epic. *****

The Boiler

Just to the left of the Kom, in front of the Lighthouse, is a juicy righthander. It isn’t ridden very much, and only works at about 4-6 ‘, in certain conditions. A fairly short ride, it can be fun, as long as the waves are not closing out. This is because the break is sandwiched between a series of reefs. When it’s too big, the waves break further out and it’s not viable. ***


There are two theories to how it got its name – because the wedging barrel is so round it’s 360 degrees plus another five, and because there is a wave here 365 days of the year. Further down from the Kom, 365s is a classic but fickle outside reef that can produce epic waves. You usually can’t surf it on the low tide for two reasons: the kelp on the way out is a nightmare to negotiate, and the rocky ledge on which it breaks gets too shallow, making for heart-stopping double-up ledges. However, when a very clean West swell is running, it can be surfed in any tide, and can cook on the low tide, when the inside reef becomes a top-to-bottom tube. This wave gets world class, and has been likened to backdoor pipeline when at its best. Needs glassy, or light northwesterly, conditions and a clean 5′-8′ groundswell. Gets perfect in a West swell. *****


TSome bright sparks say the left on the other side of 365 is called 364. Rarely breaks, but can get super hollow. Popular with bodyboarders. ***


There are a number of rideable spots to the left of 365. A couple are reformed waves that break on inside reefs, and a righthander further down that allegedly gets pretty good. These waves are rarely surfed because few people have bothered exploring the area. A couple of locals swear by the quality of the righthander, and the reform looks like fun. ***

Crayfish Factory

The most commonly ridden big wave spot in Cape Town. Named because it breaks just off a reef at a crayfish factory, this is probably Cape Town’s scariest wave. This regal righthander only breaks when it deems fit to grace us with its power. Often when the swell is going off all over the peninsula, and The Kom is cranking at 6 ‘ +, the Factory has no waves at all. But when the groundswell begins hitting the 10 ‘ + category and is coming from the southwest, the awesome Factory turns on. The swell hits a ledge and does things that make your skin crawl. A walling, sucking, spitting monster made of glass heaves its innards all over the kelp. Don’t get caught inside. Several near-death experiences have occurred here. In fact, just about everyone who has surfed here will recount a tale of terror. The most common is being pitted on takeoff and mercilessly pounded into the kelp and held down for dark swirling eons with no sign of letup as 12 footer after 12 footer smash intto the ledge churning you underwater giving you a close-up inspection of the rocks and submerged tour of the reef and when it’s had its way with you and you’re about to explode, you get spat out into the channel way down the point and *gasp* you come up *gasp* sucking gulpfuls of kelpy air. *****


This spot is everything the Factory isn’t, even though it’s only a few hundred metres away. Featuring boring and shifty sand-bottomed peaks, with rips and channels all over the place, Witsands is the last resort if your surf mission has failed to deliver. However, even when it’s cooking you might land up at Witsands, albeit via a different medium. It’s your likely destination if you have fall victim to the Factory’s habit of sending you packing in a rip that tears across the bay during a huge swell. **

Misty Cliffs

Further down, is a misty beach aptly named. Believe it or not, it has also been the destination for poor souls spat out of the back end of the Factory. It’s a fickle sandbar – mostly rights – that only works when the swell is clean, usually when other spots are too small. ***

Scarborough beach

There are three possible breaks here. A small righthander that peels along a rip channel in the left corner, a peak in the middle of the beach and a righthander off rocks in front of the car park. These spots depend on conditions. A clean West swell and light offshores turn on the car park. The beach is more consistent. Reforming righthanders (having wrapped around an outside point) swing back into the beach and break on a sandbar alongside a deeper channel running along the rocks of the inside point section. The rip keeps the sand out and on the sandbar. Gets perfect here, but a little inconsistent. For its size, its pretty juicy. Best at 2-4′. ***

Scarborough point

This fickle left hand point needs the right conditions to work. A westerly swell is the first requirement. A light easterly is the second. A pushing tide is the third. These three don’t occur simultaneously all that often, but when they do, it’s the closest wave on the Atlantic side to an actual pointbreak, apart from Thermos. ***

Olifants Bos

There are a number of waves in the Cape Point Nature Reserve that have some good surf. The surf spots here used to be secret until fairly recently. However, they all get pretty crowded these days, despite the harsh fees you have to pay at the gate. This is one of the waves here. It’s a rocky right pointbreak. Works on southeast winds and moderate to large west to southwest swell. Best on the incoming tide. ****


It breaks a bit in the kelp, but produces some excellent waves. It screams down a rocky ledge, going left. At its best in a light Berg wind or moderate NW winds and a large, clean 6-8′ Westerly groundswell. Works when the Factory does, but the swell shouldn’t be too huge. ****


Extensions gets hollow and fast. A rocketing righthander that’s a bit mushy in every-day conditions, the wave flies down a rock shelf and sandbank combined, then refracts around a corner into a channel. When good, you can take off further over towards the middle of the beach, extracting more juice out of a barrelling take-off zone. Best in easterly winds, or a light to moderate northwesterly. ****

Underwater Point

This righthander works off another rocky reef. Offers an insane barrel at times. Watch out for the full-stop rocks about halfway down. The rocks shorten the ride. If it wasn’t for this closeout section, the wave would carry on for another 30 metres or so. ***

Dias Beach

Bodyboarders still speak in awe of the day Mike Stewart was taken here and blew the place apart. It was never regarded as a surf spot until recently. Just around the corner from the sheer cliffs of Cape Point, it’s an imposing venue. It also entails a stiff walk down and a steep half-hour climb back up. There is no beach to speak of, just rock, cliffs and a crunchy righthander that breaks close to the rocks. Better suited for bodyboarders, it has been ridden by standups too. ***


Buffels Bay

A classic righthand pointbreak tucked away in the Reserve, on the False Bay side. Befriend a local if you want to surf it. It is fiercely protected. Needs an enormous swell – a 15-20′ South swell – to push into the swell window that protects False Bay from the brunt of the ocean. When it’s working, the veterans venture from the woodwork, or should that be a woodie panel van? It’s a difficult wave to master because it holds off in deep water, then suddenly jacks up on the outside of this point and races down the rocks into a small bay. Buffels only starts working at about 6′, and can be inconsistent unless the swell is coming from a mega cyclonic system out to sea. But once you’ve caught a wave, you get a classic walling wave that runs for a good 200 metres. ****

Black Rocks

This spot near Buffels is more consistent, but also needs a huge ocean swell to push into the swell window between Cape Point and Hangklip. Remains jealously guarded, even though it gets radically overcrowded, with a bunfight in the small take-off zone. If you don’t know the spot, or the guys in the water, don’t expect waves. A peak breaks on a rock shelf and runs both ways. The right is the more powerful wave. It’s a classic wedge setup and handles up to close on 10′ in ideal conditions (westerly winds and clean groundswell). For it to be this big though, you need a massive SE swell in the 15-20′ category. Although False Bay has a fairly big swell window, it faces more east than south. Most swell comes from the S or SW. It is inconsistent and usually has long lulls between sets. ****

Fish Hoek

This is basically a largish retirement home. It’s a sleepy town on the False Bay coast. The waves that break along its pretty beach are generally this way too. In the left hand corner – Clovelly Corner – some small waves are ridden by clans of grommets. **


Two little breaks at this small suburb between Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek: a short hollow left reef and a weakly little beach break on a par with Fish Hoek. The reef likes glassy conditions, and a clean 3-4′ groundswell pushing into False Bay. It’s a low tide wave. Bodyboard-friendly.

Kalk Bay Reef

Another world class reef wave, but intensely localised. Not that the locals are to blame. It’s probably the takeoff zone, which is the size of a manhole cover. When it’s good, this insanely hollow left resembles pipeline. Many a hottie has cut his barrel-riding teeth on this wave. There is a curious quirk here. When the southeaster blows, it’s onshore everywhere else, but due to a contour effect from the mountains behind and above it, the wind is channeled offshore at the Reef. *****

Danger reef

Super sucky rock shelf, with a right, a left and a shorebreak. Best on the incoming tide, it’s mostly surfed by a hardcore crew of bodyboarders who fling themselves off an ocean step trying to skip straight into a heaving barrel. Short and ledgey. Not always makeable. Best on a southeast swell and a light NW wind. ***

St James

Sometimes called Off The Wall in False Bay, a fun reef wave for the local crew. Not usually very good. Short and often wobbly. **

Bailey’s Reef

This is usually a short righthand reef break in front of Bailey’s Cottage, a historical monument. It’s best on a northwesterly wind, a clean 4-5′ groundswell and a Spring high tide. Can get pretty hollow. ***

Muizenberg (Corner)

Another old-school surf spot on the False Bay side. A slow, fading beachbreak. It’s the place where woodies used to fill the car park and the 10-12′ elephant guns were unsheathed. It’s not a powerful wave by the unrelenting standards of the Atlantic reefs, but it’s fun. A great hotdogging wave. There are lots of peaks, if you can call them that, particularly near the rocks on the right and in front of the car park. It’s offshore in northwesterly or westerly winds. On a small swell, the waves break close to shore. When it’s bigger, the outside breaks first and the wave reforms again on the inside. Malibu boards are just right here, because they give you enough momentum to make it all the way through. Alternatively, you can pump your 6′ 2” up and down like a jack-in-the-box on acid to impress your girlfriend. **


Similar setup to Muizenberg, but with more juice. Also westerly winds, and a few peaks to choose from, lefts and rights. Expect the swell to be at least one to two foot bigger, and slightly hollower. ***

Nine Mile Reef

Further down False Bay towards Gordon’s Bay is Nine Mile Reef. It’s only a reef in as much as the sand has collected around rocks. The wave breaks on a sand bank. Lefts and rights can be enjoyed here. ***


Even further down the beach, which has lots of peaks along the way, are some cliffs and a beach entertainment complex. Occasionally the sand banks deliver some good waves. ***


Several peaks in the area breaking on sand and reef. Best in northwest winds or glassy conditions. This place is extremely underrated, and according to a those who have taken the trouble to get there, it gets epic when there is swell in False Bay. ****

Gordon’s Bay Harbour (Bikini Beach)

When a massive storm swell is breaking, a big lefthander just off the harbour wall here begins to break. The ride ends at Bikini Beach. It gets perfect, and used to be ridden by a handful of stoked locals. However, the mistique is gone and almost everyone who owns a board knows about this place. Some days there are 30 guys out. Lately, according to locals, the spot has been getting wrong swell directions, and the waves have been closing out right across the harbour. However, with the right southeasterly push and a light northerly wind, or a southeaster in the wake of a 4-6 metre swell from a big cold front, it goes off. Loses a star for inconsistency. ****