Surfing Durban, South Africa
Surfing Durban, South Africa
(Text: Alexander Andorff Pictures: Wannasurf.com / Tripadvisor.com)
Population: 3.468.086 (Statistics South Africa, Community Survey, 2007)
Time zone: GMT +2hr
Currency: Rand (ZRA)
High season: April – September
Low season: November – April (Summer)
Water temp: Jan-Feb 25º | Mar-Apr 25º | May-Jun 23º | Jul-Aug 20º | Sep-Oct 22º | Nov-Dec 23º |
- - Consistent swell
- - Quality beachbreaks
- - Great climate / Warm water
- - Urban entertainment
- - Inexpensive
- - Lots of onshore wind days
- - Gets crowded
- - Street violence
- - Sharks at unnetted beaches
Durban is the second largest city in South Africa, only beaten by Johannesburg in terms of population numbers. It is located in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, and is considered by many as the playground of South Africa. Located on the beautiful east coast, this city of 3 million boasts a fabulous climate, miles of beaches, a warm ocean (warmer than the Cape Peninsula and St. Francis Bay areas), Africa's largest port, great surfing, good food and a unique mix of British, Zulu, Hindu and Muslim heritage.
South Africa is on of the world’s best surf destinations, and has an amazing 2.800km (1.900mi) of coastline split between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Even though there are surfspots which are considered better in terms of quality waves along the south-african coast, Durban has established itself as the country’s surf centre. This has been mainly accredited to the city’s high population density of surfers and also a great all-round year climate.
The high season in Durban is between April and September, with regular, consistent high quality swell. At low pressure, which occurs mainly during winter (May – October), Durban experiences regular 3-10ft S-SE swells. The ideal conditions are found during winter with plenty of S swells and offshore SW winds. And when I say winter, please do not think snow and ice popsicles. There will still be a comfortable 20º in July to August, the coldest time of the year. However, these ideal conditions are very delicate and suffer greatly from SE onshore wind. The best tip to avoid a blown-out surf session is to get out there with the dawn surf patrol. Is there any fresher way to start the day? The answer is out there… in the blue stuff.
The most famous surfspots in Durban are (from north to south): African Beach (furthest north), Snake Park, Bay of Plenty, North Beach, Dairy Beach, The Wedge, Addington, Vetch’s Reef, Cave Rock (located next to what is known as the Bluff Peninsula)… and the furthest south in the Wentworth area, we find Anstey’s and Brighton Beach.
The popular city beach Bay of Plenty is one of South Africa’s most intense surf scenes. It breaks best on S and E swells, creating consistent and hollow waves about 100m offshore. DairyBeach is Durban city’s designated surf area, and can be surfed any time of the day. If you want to avoid the crowded waves in Durban city, you only have to drive about 15min north to find almost empty peaks and breaks. The Umhlanga Rocks resort is a good example of this, and these surfspots also have shark nets.
I know what you are thinking when I put the two words SURFING and SOUTH AFRICA together… I do not have to be Derren Brown to know that you are thinking “SHARKS!” However, you should now that there has not been a single shark attack in Durban since shark nets were put in place 47 years ago, in 1962.
Hope that fact stops the Jaws theme from playing in your head every time you think of surfing in Durban, South Africa.
Europe offers plenty of flights to South Africa, and if you fly from London you might be able to pick up some excellent value tickets. However, most airlines fly to Johannesburg or Cape Town. If you land at Johannesburg, you may rent a car and drive five to six hours until you get to Durban. Rental cars are very cheap (approx £80/wk / fuel 40p/L), and also ensure a great way of getting from surfspot to surfspot.
Downtown Durban offers all sorts of accommodation options, and around the inner city beach Bay of Plenty, you find many a surfer friendly guesthouse (approx £8-12/day). Food is generally cheap as well.
All the spots mentioned in this article have shark nets. However, if you are driving around a bit exploring the surfspots in the nearby area, please avoid Amanzimtoti, south of Durban. This area has the highest rate of shark attacks in the world. A much more likely threat than shark attacks is beach violence and/or theft, so avoid flashing any valuables such as mobile phones or cameras.
If you want to invest in surfing gear, you might as well do it in Durban. Due to the devaluation of the Rand, the South African currency, surf equipment is the cheapest in the world. The recession has also brought down living costs, making Durban a very inexpensive area to settle down and live.
Durban is eagerly awaiting your arrival, skoonheid (yes… I know my google translate Afrikaans). Hope to see you down there, on the right side of the shark net that is. Du-du du-du… du-du du-du.. (Haha! No, it is not simple rambling... it is the Jaws theme) Surf’s up!
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