12 August, 2010 12 August, 2010

Dungeons Reef – Cape Town Spot Check

Much has been written about Dungeons since Peter Button and Pierre De Villiers climbed the mountain and paddled out at Dungeons around 1984. It was host to a series of big wave events sponsored by Red Bull, which ran over a decade, and it is now host to the big wave surfers of Cape Town and the occasional visitor. It is not for the average surfer, it is not for the 6-10 foot surfer either. It is a surf destination reserved for the big wave chargers of the world, an absolute minority, and most of us are ok with that.
Location and getting there:

The wave sits offshore from the Sentinel Mountain, the monolithic natural structure that watches over Hout Bay. It’s a deepwater wave and access to the wave itself is an endeavour. It’s not ideal to park in the township and walk over the mountain. It’s a long walk up and a long walk down, followed by a paddle out through Shark Alley, teeming with tasty seals and seal pups. The best way to get to Dungeons is by boat or jet-ski. Launch from the harbour at Hout Bay, make sure you have all your skipper’s papers, licences and stickers in order, and head on out.
Equipment you will need:

You’re going to need some serious equipment. For some reason the entry level paddling board

at Dungeons has become the 9’6. Why it’s not a foot or so bigger or smaller is beyond us. When the waves start getting that size, it’s all the same. The big thrill is the paddle, the drop

and the bottom turn. Whatever length board you’re going to be on, this is where the thrill lies. If you’re towing then it’s another story. Tow-boards are small and heavy these days. More like snowboards. Just remember that you can’t / should not tow if anyone is paddling.

Getting around the lineup:

The wave itself is a thundering peak with a takeoff zone that shifts over a few hundred metres. It’s quite terrifying knowing that no matter where you sit you could get caught inside at Dungeons. There are five main sections to the wave that have all been ridden to some degree.

1. The Slab. The Slab comes into play when the swell is just a little bit too small to be ridden, and the tide is quite high. The Slab is the deepest sections of the wave, and is a thick shelf that barrels properly.

2. The Two-Point-Five. Two and a half metres deep, this part of the wave is on the inside. It is the widest section, breaks right in front of the cameras and is basically the end of the wave. Big, glorious waves can be caught and ridden here, and most shots of Dungeons are of people on the Two-Point-Five, but the bigger waves are to be found elsewhere.

3. Washburn’s Peak. Outside and deep. Less waves come here, but when they come they are the best. Greg Long and Twiggy catch all their bombs here. When waiting for waves here you can see other surfers getting wave after wave on the Two-Point -Five.

4. Outside Bowl. 
When the swell gets big, straight and solid, the waves crack over the corner of the reef. Directly out from the Bowl, these waves are very rare, and when they come they usually catch every one inside.

5. The Left (off the Bowl). Only surfed in marginal conditions, and usually by surfers who have taken off too deep on the peak and can’t get around. Go left, kick out and watch a set start building on Washburn’s Peak and you’re in a world of trouble.

In a more south swell, The Slab and Washburn’s Peak are better and in a west it’s all about the Outside Bowl and the Two Point Five.
According to Twiggy Baker, “Fifty-foot plus is best for Dungeons because then all the focus is on the Outside Bowl and none of the swell energy is lost on Tafelberg Reef.”


If you’re still game, Dungeons likes a light wind and can be ridden in south west, north west south east and north east winds. It loves a low tide. The guys even surf it onshore. When you’re safely on land there are a variety of great restaurants, bars and accommodation in Hout Bay. It’s quite a crime affected area, so be careful at night.


  1. Mike Low
    2 February, 2013 at 12:00 am · Reply

    about 1972, John Whitmore had moved on from producing surf boards to
    building Hobie Cats and had managed to get some sponsorship funding
    from a liquor company called Seven Seas Cane Spirit to fund Hobie
    racing. In return we had to provide some advertising footage of the
    Hobies sailing. We had been to the Langebaan Hotel for about a week,
    and ended up filming all of the movie stuff on the Sunday. Seven Seas
    were keen for some stills and John figured that the break off the
    Sentinal, then un-named, would be great. I got a call from him one
    morning to say that it was going off, and we met on Hout Bay beach.
    The photographer, Gary Hasler, had an aluminum boat with a big
    outboard, and I think there was another Hobie, although I can’t

    we launched from the beach and sailed around to the break. The wind
    was changing to the south and was starting to get up pretty good,
    and the break was pumping at about 10m. It was pretty perfect, nice
    and smooth and you could reach in from off-shore and drop in through
    the break before gybing and sailing around again. I took off on the
    first wave and just hung on to the tiller cross bar to try to keep
    the cat straight. The guys in the photo boat were yelling with
    excitement. They said afterwards that the Hobie mast, which is 25
    feet long, was disappearing as we were dropping in. This went on for
    a while until I eventually got caught in the break and turned the
    boat over, breaking a few battens and tearing the sail.

    photography was terrific and the movie stuff was shown at the cinemas
    as a two minute advertisement, with the stills being used for bill
    boards. There were always yells of delight when they came on. I
    don’t have any pictures of the sailing but maybe there are some
    around somewhere with John’s stuff. I also lost touch with Gary
    Hasler but he should have copies as well. He was a diver and a great
    wild life and action photographer who lived in Hout Bay.

    although we weren’t on boards we technically ‘surfed’ Dungeons in
    about 1972. Quite a few of the other breaks had also been surfed by
    then. The Pipe had been trashed after the Seafarer ran aground and
    was salvaged along with the remains of the previous wreck. We used to
    watch Sunset going off from Kommetjie and Peter Basford had surfed it
    by then.



  2. Misha Low
    11 February, 2013 at 9:51 pm · Reply

    I miss-spelled the name of the photographer. He is Gary Haselau, the well known 4×4 driving instructor and photographer.

  3. Los 10 mejores spots de surf de Sudáfrica
    7 September, 2019 at 5:23 am · Reply

    […] como uno de los lugares de «grandes olas» del mundo. El oleaje de 15 a 30 pies en  Dungeons  rompe sobre un arrecife poco profundo en el lado del mar de Hout Bay y solo se puede acceder […]

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