21 August, 2013 21 August, 2013

Shipwreck Bay Reveals Its Secrets

Yesterday, Zag posted a report about the crazy Monday Richards Bay experienced – when it got hammered by the biggest swell in years.

Local surf photographer Rudi Stadler was at ground zero as the port was getting bombed by sets, and wrote this account of proceedings as Shipwreck Bay revealed its secrets, before claiming its sacrifice.


by: Rudi Stadler / DarkWhite Surf Alliance


Large swell warnings had awoken the Richards Bay surf community slightly earlier on this cold winter morning, as we all first gathered, then trotted along at a faster-than-normal pace to go catch a glimpse.

We’d been waiting on this for a while, because we know the Bay offers a bank for any kind of swell, but clearly Mother Nature had figured it’s time to blow our minds.

Only once every few years do we get the correct combination of swell and wind that makes a special location work off its tits, and surf-addicts alike have been on the prowl waiting patiently, cyclone season after cyclone season for “Secrets” to be fed with buckets of water and start wedging along our southern pier – which protects the harbour entrance from BIG freak swells and allows safe passage for ships to manoeuvre in and out.


It felt like Pearl Harbour, only there were no bombs. Well, there were bombs, but without explosions. Actually, they were exploding, but there was no war – or at least we thought so.

Pelican Island is one of the protected islands inside the harbour mouth, and I was walking down its rocky pier in the hopes of snapping some photos of locals Malcolm Mersham, Rheinhard Du Toit, Ruben Olivier and Warren van der Merwe – who were surfing ‘Secrets’ after hitching a boat ride to the other side of the channel.

Unfortunately my attempts to break through security had failed and I was forced to shoot from a distance – which was a bummer, but I assure you that we have a plan for the next opportunity, which we’re hoping will be this week.


Malcolm drops into a runner at 'Secrets'.

Malcolm drops into a runner at ‘Secrets’.

To the left of the bay, Pelican Island was also collecting some four foot swell, and Freddie Le Roux and a friend were out surfing on their SUP’s. Later in the day Freddie unfortunately suffered a leg-breaking wipeout when his board smashed him in the leg after an attempted floater went wrong.

Eventually I had to move away from Pelican, as it had become too dangerous for me to stand there and film. The gusting wind almost pulled me off the rocky walkway and I had spotted another angle – which I was now rushing to get to knowing that the authorities would be closing down the beach sooner or later.

Just as it was time for me to evacuate back to the office, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a ship preparing to sail Bay – which is a normal sight for us – but as I settled behind my computer I noticed the tugs leaving the harbour, so I ran to the lookout point. It had begun!


I don’t think our main beach had ever seen so many people stomping on its sands, but there was a massive crowd that were trying to catch a glimpse of the chaos unfolding at sea. The large coal tanker I’d spotted getting ready to sail earlier had run into trouble after leaving the harbour. It had been smashed off course by the huge waves, before running aground on a shallow sandbank just north of the harbour entrance – where it was getting absolutely caned by waves.

Here we were raving about a mystical wave that had awoken from death and then Mother Nature decides to break a ship.

We’re all praying that there’s no lasting damage caused by the wreck to our beautiful coastline, and some are even having dreams about the potential of the new L-shaped ‘reef’ that our main beach has inherited. For how long, we’re not sure, but all I know is that my Canon is armed and ready to fire.

I’ll keep you posted.




Sean Roberts grabs an early morning wave the next day, after the tanker had broken in two.





  1. ragged
    21 August, 2013 at 11:55 am · Reply

    more shots of surfing please

  2. David Van Rensburg
    21 August, 2013 at 1:06 pm · Reply

    Table view part 2

  3. JJ
    22 August, 2013 at 1:58 pm · Reply

    Never seen the south wall break, only the north. But caught a coupla thick snoek down that side! Nice photos darkwhite.

  4. Darkwhite
    27 August, 2013 at 2:09 pm · Reply

    Thanks Guys, more shots to come

  5. B-Man
    28 August, 2013 at 11:49 am · Reply

    More swell on the way!!

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