16 October, 2019 16 October, 2019

The Illusion of Crowds in SA

It’s just so easy to get to the beach, have a look out there at the twenty or so surfers, and just say, ‘Nope, I’m over it, too crowded,’ and head on for a beer or a couch trip watching TV and grazing leftover pizza.  That’s ok, we’re all allowed choices, but we should probably have a look at the real situation. 

South Africa, I hate to break it to ya, we don’t really get crowds compared to other places in the world. Australia is crazy crowded, with 90% of the population living near to the beach. Their good waves are pretty much dysfunctional on good days, with Superbanks and Kirras and Burleighs getting the brunt of it. 

Every wave that seems to exist inside the American suburban sprawl also seem totally dysfunctional on good days, with SUPers and longboarders adding to the confusion, as well as litigation over altercations a regular occurrence. 


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The beaches of France have become unplayable, and many beaches in Portugal are going the same way, with surf school after surf school every 20 meters, on beaches stretching for kilometers. Newbies and VALS pouring into the water, paying for lessons and the hiring of equipment, heading into the ocean after a few such lessons and with zero knowledge of etiquette, culture or history of our sport. 

Our good waves, our Supertubes and New Piers and Nahoon Reefs, Elands Bay, Long beach and Scottburgh never get anything close to these sorts of crowds. They might have gotten close during the late 80’s when everyone surfed, but not really close. A 500-person crowd at the Superbank does not even an eyelid bat. A totally impenetrable lineup at Malibu is normal, a zero wave count at Rincon is common, and a 100% dropped-in on ratio at Kirra happens often. 

Yet at New Pier we can paddle to the middle and wait for some wide swingers, and maybe get lucky once or twice a session, or paddle down to Balmoral and get a few lesser waves, but up the wave count. 

J-Bay you can (maybe) paddle up to Boneyards or down to Point and Tubes and get a few. At Long Beach you can move around a bit, get a few bomb-outs on the shorey, or go surf Sunset, if that works for you. The thing is, you can find some space. 

Maybe we employ Chuck to bring in martial law… Just a thought.

Most beaches and surf spots have a back break, another little spot where there are waves breaking, and very few people around, while the lemmings all arrive at the same carpark, start taking photos and talking on their phones as they get their wetsuits on, and go out and complain about the crowds.

When Slater stays in JBay after the contests, he surfs all day, but does most of his surfing further down from Supers.   

Two years ago the JBay contest had four days of small conditions and northwest devil winds. Most of the top surfers moped around the contest site, bounced around at small Boneyards, and sat around looking unhappy. Julian Wilson and Andy King however, sussed out the lay of the land, found a little corner of a beach just a little bit down the coast, and lucked onto a perfect right-hand tube, peeling straight into the wind, and got barreled for the full four days under our noses before the next swell killed the bank. 

There are waves everywhere. We’re just not in-tune enough to know what is out there, and where it might be happening. You just need to be stoked on surfing, hungry for a surf, and intent on not getting sucked into a crowd. If you keep those three options clear in your search function in your brain, you’ll find waves at every corner, and you wont drive away from waves. 



  1. Wade
    16 October, 2019 at 8:43 pm · Reply

    I just returned from Oz and one of the spots that I had to visit was Snapper. It was small and onshore but you could still see some waves running down the bank. I jumped in anyway and shared the session, at Snapper, with my twin brother and nobody else. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t all time it was all about the pure stoke of surfing this incredible place. I will never forget that session. Who else can say that they have surfed Snapper with only one other person out? And who says it gets crowded? I never saw crowds.

  2. Craig
    16 October, 2019 at 9:51 pm · Reply

    Long beach crowd is the worst I have experienced in SA. Great thing is that its not a wave worth fighting over.

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