The Billabong Guide to South Africa
Charles Étienne, a famous French writer, first said, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Such can be said for surf travel, because if you’re waiting for your friends to get their act together you might never get to the airport. Ditch the sandbaggers and spend that nut you’ve been saving to travel to a place that appreciates go-it-alone adventurers: South Africa. There are more waves than surfers; food and lodging are cheap; and, you know, J-Bay. So skip the summer flat spells, buy a plane ticket and ride the “Baz Bus” all over the Rainbow Nation. You’ll get it done, all right.
Best airline to get you there:
Lufthansa and South African Airways aren’t bad on board fees and even some African carriers (like Ethiopian Airlines) won’t charge you for your bag.
Best swell direction:
S-SW or S-SE
Best months for surf:
The boards you'll need:
A standard shortboard and a step-up. Maybe a big board if you feel like charging around Cape Town.
It’s a big country, where's the surf?
Durban, Cape Town and Jeffreys Bay are the tripod on which South African surfing rests. If you’ve got a week, pick one (Durban). If you’ve got two weeks, head to Durban and J-Bay. And if you’re there for three weeks or more, experience the trifecta.
Where do I surf once I'm there?
A good place to start is Ansteys Beach, a fun beachbreak a short walk from Cave Rock, a slabby right reefbreak in Durban. Then there are the bowly peaks of nearby New Pier and North Beach. Ballito is great, too, just 30 minutes north, and Durban’s South Coast has pointbreaks about an hour away. At J-Bay, take your pick from Magnatubes to Albatross, and if it’s small go to nearby Seal Point. In Cape Town, your most consistent surf is concentrated around Kommetjie.
How am I supposed to get to all these places?
Cabs and even rental cars are very reasonable, but if you wanna see the whole country, the Baz Bus (a hop-on-and-off backpacker shuttle service) is the best way to go.
I’ve heard it’s cheap there.
You’ve got great hearing. Food in restaurants is half the price as it is in the U.S., as are groceries, beer, buses, bungee jumps, hotels and shark-cage dives. Hostel beds are around $8-$12 USD.
Wait, what’s a hostel?
They’re where you’ll be staying and the country is full of them. You’ll definitely meet people on your same program and you might even meet your future best friend, husband or wife. They’re basically cheap mini-hotels/guesthouses for young people traveling around the country. Included in the rate are a communal kitchen, pingpong, parties and more connections than Tinder could ever give you. Bring some earplugs for the guy snoring in the bunk above you, or just pay the extra 10 bucks for your own room.
Where do I meet girls?
Cape Town. Because South Africa is so cheap, European fashion companies do a lot of shooting there, using local or imported talent (models) for their shoots. So, yeah, babes galore — especially during the South African summer.
Sounds good, but how far is J-Bay?
About 12 hours south of Durban and eight hours east of Cape Town by car. Or, take a quick flight. Land in Port Elizabeth, bus it to Jeffreys and stay at least a week for a swell. It’s worth it.
I heard it’s sharky…
So is Australia, Northern California, Kauai and Florida. Time to get over it. Durban has shark nets offshore, but maybe be extra careful during the annual Mullet Run (happens between May-July each year).
Speaking of animals, where are the lions?
Go to Kruger National Park if you’ve got the cash. Go to Addo Elephant National Park (near J-Bay) for nearly the same experience for a lot less coin.
One last thing:
The water gets cold there so if you're heading to South Africa, you're going to need a wetsuit. Check out our full line of fullsuits here.