Not that long ago, someone dismissed the idea of running a wave camp in Cape Town on the basis that it would be logistically impossible. Now in my world, nothing is impossible so we rose to the challenge and set to work to create the first ever full format 7-day wave camp. Our first challenge was to establish a base and it so happens that I recently had the privilege of meeting SA kite legend Brad ‘Caveman’ Symington and his family who run The Kitesnest – an impressive 6-bedroom pad based right by the beach within the attractive suburbs of Sunset Beach.
Base established, all we needed was a coach. Enter PWA pro John Skye who we’ve been running camps with in Moulay, Morocco for the last couple of years. John happens to be in Cape Town every winter for his training, testing and photo-shoots so naturally seemed the obvious choice for this camp. John normally runs his camps alongside PWA pro and now fiance Nayra Alonso but as Nayra was unable to attend, I decided to invest in a large wig and take her place as driver, cameraman and tea boy.
Now, we all know that windsurfing experiences are very much governed by the forces above and with 15 windy days in the run up to this clinic, surely we were in for a treat. Sadly, the Cape Doctor had other ideas and decided to take an early break leaving us with a truly abysmal forecast…gutted. However, having received a text message from big John the night before our departure saying something along the lines of “12-knot forecast and we still ended up with 4.2 weather” managed to revive some strength and spirit within the camp.
Twelve hours and at least 5 packets of pretzels later we were on our way to Sunset Beach for the start of our big adventure. Only one person in the group had been here before so the atmosphere within the camp was very much a cocktail of curiosity and apprehension. Although pro windsurfers have been coming here for years, I guess one could argue that Cape Town hasn’t been fully established as a recreational windsurfing destination. After all, you need to have a proper understanding of how the wind works and where to find the best conditions of the day. Also, the conditions can get quite extreme so you need to be a fairly confident sailor with a good level of awareness. I think that for these exact reasons, it seemed logical to develop an adventure experience of this nature.
During the first couple of days we had relatively light 5.3-5.7 winds on starboard tack. John took us to the best beaches of the day whilst mixing it up with a general tour of Cape Town’s top windsurfing spots. With the majority of the group being more comfortable on starboard tack, the unusual conditions turned out to be a blessing as it provided us with the perfect opportunity to drag us out of hibernation and rediscover our fitness.
By the end of day 2 we had seen all the major windsurfing areas (as well as befriending the local Baboon population, more about that another time) and sailed Witsand and Platboom which are both located on the Cape in spectacular surroundings. Each day was topped off with a sumptuous meal either courtesy of The Kitesnest’s in-house braai or the local sushi or pizza parlor. One thing you will note about South Africa is that evening entertainment is fairly inexpensive which proves useful when trying to off-set your flight costs!
As the week progressed, the forecast suddenly turned in our favour and a couple of full-on windsurfing days beckoned. One of these days started right outside our door at Sunset Beach beach on 4.7 and as the wind picked up to 3.7 strength, it was time to pack our bags and head off to the more sheltered Melkbos. Here we were treated to a stunning sunset session and an impromptu forward looping crash course, unforgettable!
With spirits now riding high, the scene was set for a show-down at Platboom on the final day. All readings indicated a near perfect side-shore 30-knot beauty to leave us with the ultimate souvenir. Well, we weren’t disappointed as what we were presented with, was a breathtaking arena of ivory white sand, vibrant turquoise water and waves begging for a ride. Following the usual briefing from John, each group member took to the stage like a gladiator as they prepared to throw all what was left within them at the might of the oncoming tides. Two hours of glorious windsurfing passed before the intermission and thus freeing up John to ‘unleash the beast’ and demonstrate the true grit of a pro windsurfer.
This was the final day of the camp and by now we all had a fairly comprehensive flavour of what the attraction of Cape Town has been to so many windsurfers over the years. Suffice to say that personally, I’ve been fairly reluctant to travel to these shores, I guess partially due to my Dutch roots, but with Apartheid now becoming a fading memory and South Africa very much on the road to reform and equality, I felt it was my moral obligation to not only appreciate South Africa for its windsurfing prowess, but also for its natural beauty portrayed through its unique geography and people.
We’ll be back in 2012!
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