2.1 kilometres. That’s the total distance from the top of the point at Skeleton Bay until the final, warping double-up section that implodes onto the sand at the end of the spit. It’s physically impossible to ride any further and if you’ve somehow managed to connect the sections through the tube of your life, you’re in for a long walk back.
Cue the Skeleton Bay 4×4 pick-up service. It’s become common practice for a designated driver to ferry his friends back up the point and deposit them swiftly at the jump-off, often just in time for the next set. This works out great if you’re the surfer being chauffeured back into pole position. It sucks if you’re the guy who has been fighting the torrential rip to stay in place for the next wave.
“The main cause of congestion in the water lately has been surfers catching multiple lifts up the point. The local crew is getting angry with the crowds and this (practice),” says Skeleton local and member of the Namibia Surfing Association, Shaun Loubser. “We’re looking for an alternative before the shit hits the fan.”
Loubser and fellow locals have been riding the wave long before it was ‘discovered’ by the world at large back in 2009. The media exposure that followed since has led to inevitable crowds, culminating in the landmark swell last season that saw entire surf teams jet in from around the world to sample the goods and document the occasion.
“The local crew know and understand that there’s not much we can do (about the growing crowds) but we want to try and put some basic rules in place,” says Loubser.
They believe the first vital step is a “no driving surfers back up the point” policy, which they have already started to implement this season and are leading the way by example.
“This will stretch the crowds out along the two kilometre beach and should give everybody a more fair chance of surfing the wave and catching that wave of a lifetime,” explains Loubser. “So far all the local boys have agreed to this rule. Now its up to us to implement it with the foreign surfers. If everybody will take to this rule then I see no problems in having 50 odd surfers riding the wave.”
It sounds like an amicable solution and one that is well justified, especially when you consider the 4×4 ride is really just a terrestrial jetski assist back up the point. Or worse.
“Imagine one of the best days of the year at Supertubes, but with five rubber-ducks constantly ferrying groups of surfers up the point, picking them up as they kick out way down the point and dropping them off at Boneyards two minutes later,” says Loubser. “That unthinkable situation is essentially what’s happening at Skeleton Bay with several 4x4s driving up and down the beach, picking up bakkie-loads of surfers from the bottom of the bay and depositing them at the top about two minutes later. I think everyone can do the maths – you have approximately 90% of the surfers in the water hassling for position at any one time, instead of the crowd being naturally spread out by the long walk – or even longer paddle – back up the point.”
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