The beast of the North West has awakened: The Donkey. Like it’s namesake, it’s slow to action, almost stubborn, and takes it’s time to hit the sweet spot. But, when it hits, it’s a runaway freight train.
The knowing whispers begin days, even weeks before the first major west swell thunders its way up South Africa and Namibia’s Atlantic coastline. The phones start pinging, ringing, and either the standby flight is arranged or the van is quietly prepared to haul some ass up the N7.
Of course, there are no guarantees, even with advanced forecasting services at our disposal, and especially when you’re dealing with nature. But, damn it, it’s as much a part of the mission as is letting your tires down, rolling down the sandy track and witnessing the almost mechanical, and terrifying, perfection of the Donkey in full swing.
With a few clips and stills popping up on the gram, we hit up two manne that we knew just happened to make the trek, Michael Veltman and Douw Steyn. They also supplied us this sweet edit!
(Zag) Was this a quickly put together trip or had you been waiting to pull the trigger?
(The Boys) We’re always keeping an eye on the place but the initial report looked very touch and go. Previously we have had some big south swells coming through in March, so our eyeballs have been on the lookout since then. There were a few swells that teased us but caused more disappointment than stoke. When the swell charts were looking promising, there were a few guys ready to go and we filled up the car last minute. Usually, these missions are decided like 3 days before you go, so it’s always a bit of a rush.
What you were expecting, was it what you got?
Mixed expectations actually. We expected very little of the first day of the swell and had higher expectations of the second day. We expected bigger but it was still so worth it. Then on the first day we thought it was going to be flat and the swell would only start pushing during the afternoon. However, on first light we were greeted by 2-3ft GLASSY runners but, the point was cut in half. What used to be a 2km long dredging wave, was reduced to a shorter 1km wave. The other half of the point was dubbed Elands Bay, for its long fat running walls.
After scoring super fun waves on Day 1, we all rested in anticipation for Day 2 thinking it was going to be 4 maybe 6ft. A big storm hit Cape Town that night so it was expected that the energy will march through to us in the form of crazy mind-bending barrels. Arriving at the beach, even earlier than the previous day, we were greeted to some confused and worrying faces. The swell looked smaller than the first day. We waited for like 20min before we saw the first little set pushing through, which made all the boys amped again. The swell started building and we scored super fun 3fters with the odd maybe 4ft mutant.
In summary, it wasn’t as big as we thought it was going to be and with the point being chopped down in half it was a rather strange but very fun and worthwhile mission. I mean, to get a wave that barrels for 1km with only 15 people out would make me jump in my car and drive for 21 hours all over again.
Besides boards and camera gear, what are the essentials?
Lots of food and water, warm clothes and a good crew. Oh, and vaseline for sure and cucumber for the eyeballs after a day in the desert. Red eye Jedi!
Frothing on the next swell?
Definitely! Can’t wait to get back. It’s a special place for sure and we take it for granted, seeing how close it is to home. I mean, the car is already packed. This first swell was just a tease to remind us how amazing that place really is. Very interested to see what the banks are going to do, especially the “Elands Bay” section.
More people making the mission, I mean last year that wave got some SERIOUS exposure
There weren’t actually a lot of people there, maybe 7 cars. Which isn’t a lot in terms of how many cars are usually there. The sand is very strange at the moment with a huge sand build up at the bottom of the point so I’m sure that kept a lot of people from pulling the trigger.
The wave has been under the limelight for quite some time now, and once you have been there you quickly realise why. Luckily the wave is so long that you seldom have to give way to another surfer getting pitted off his nuts. The long walk back also serves as a filter to separate the weak from those who are fit. Being super fit will result in so many more of those “best waves of your life”.
We’ve seen the footage, but being there must be a whole nother box of frogs?
The footage doesn’t do the wave justice. It’s heavy, dredging and plain scary. It’s honestly not possible to express that feeling in any photo or video. The photos/videos don’t show those moments when all the boys are shouting, cars hooting, friends being high fived and tackled to celebrate the best wave of your life. You have to go there to overload your senses with all these little moments that make the whole experience magical.
Best thing VS the worst thing up in Namibia?
The mind-blowing heaviness and length of the barrel is a huge plus. And then here’s also the freezing wind and smell of rotting seal corpses. So yeah, the wave, of course is the best thing. Can’t really say what’s bad. The long drive, walk back up and the rashes are all connected to crazy waves. So maybe the worst thing is the swell disappearing but then you kind of just get amped for the next one.