From Skeleton Bay To Supertubes

Scoring Namibia and J-Bay in the same week during June's South African superstorm

It’s every surfer’s dream to score one of the world’s best lefts and one of the world’s best rights, back to back, in the same week. And there isn’t any better run of luck than flying halfway around the world to Africa, only to discover that two solid winter swells are heading your way — one splitting up west; and another, right behind, splitting up east. On a perfect day, you have time to get ridiculously tubed in the desert for two days, jump onto a plane the next, and before you know it, you’re standing amongst the golden aloes watching flawless rights reel down one of the most famous points on Mother Earth. This is the luck and good fortune that Southern Africa holds.

Brendon Gibbens. Photo: van Gysen

Last week, Namibia certainly wasn’t in the best-ever discussion. But despite the lack of west in the swell, and the growing mound of sand halfway down the point, guys like Brendon Gibbens were still claiming some the best tubes of their lives. With just over a mile of point perfection on offer, there is still an incredible distance to travel inside the tube, both up at the top of the point and down at the bottom “grower” section of the point.

Unfortunately, no matter how big or small Skeleton Bay gets, it’s still a powerful wave, and not to be considered trivially. Case in point: Stefan Dreyer’s broken neck. While lying low in the tube, Stefan was driven down hard onto his face into compact sand, while the entire Atlantic ocean seemingly folded his body over his head. Had it not been for Eli Olsen and friends, he would have drowned. Had it not been for Eli’s knowledge of neck injuries, Stefan could have been permanently paralyzed. It was a scary moment out on the strip.

Two days later, a few tight crews from Hawaii, South Africa, and Australia made the arduous journey of connected flights and long drives to make the second swell at Jeffrey’s Bay. The evening before the “monster” swell hit, the waves were easily the best of the week. Watching Jordy Smith and company streak down the point, threading themselves through perfect 6-foot, offshore tubes in that classic golden afternoon light was the pinnacle to a stellar week. Jordy had to depart J-Bay in favor of his very own ‘QS in Cape Town, but in the meantime, he can rest peacefully knowing he got some of the best J-Bay had to offer, even apart from the J-Bay Open next month.

Waking up the next morning, the Atlantic had surely delivered, but alas, too much so. Giant 10-foot walls unloaded onto Boneyards at the top off the point, sending huge explosions of whitewater into the air. All but a few hardy big-wave chargers managed the paddle-out and gave it a go — guys like Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker on his signature J-Bay-built blue boards, Simon Lowe, Mickey Duffus, James Lowe, Dave Smith and Jake Kolnik, to name a few who caught some bombs. A few rushed to St.Francis to see if Bruce’s Beauties was doing her Endless Summer thing, but despite the massive swell, it just wasn’t southeast enough to get into the protected bay. In the late afternoon, the swell didn’t seem much smaller, but the waves had ordered themselves into better form to offer the brave surfers who managed the treacherous paddle-out some quality walls and crunching tubes. The three standouts for notable barrel rides were wildcard-killer Sean Holmes, Twiggy, and Mikey Wright, all who expertly negotiated lengthy tubes toward the top of the point. As dusk fell, everyone in J-Bay got excited about the next morning, for surely, with a little less swell, it would be world-class 6-foot Supertubes.

Unfortunately, as things go up, so they must come down, and J-Bay surfers disappointedly woke up to 2- to 3-foot lines spinning down the rocks. Once the younger surfers got over their woes, they took to the lineup en masse and ripped the smaller waves apart, perfect practice for the Ballito Prime event coming up next week. Perhaps we’ll watch another run of luck just yet.

[Featured Image: Michael February, Photo by van Gysen]

Photo: van Gysen