With barrels like this in close proximity to a metropolis of nearly 4,000,000 people, Cape Town is a great city for the surfer seeking an urban experience. Surfer: Josh Brodie. Photo: Ian Thurtell
With barrels like this in close proximity to a metropolis of nearly 4,000,000 people, Cape Town is a great city for the surfer seeking an urban experience. Surfer: Josh Brodie. Photo: Ian Thurtell

10 Best Surf Cities in the World: Cape Town

In no particular order, these are the 10 best urban options for a surfer

It's a sign of the times that seemingly all surf shops must now come equipped with a Slayer espresso machine operated by a pretentious barista. No longer contented to simply fondle a few handshapes and leave with bar of wax, surfers--particularly urban-based surfers--also need an exotically sourced pour-over from a third-wave coffee purveyor and a selection of artisanal baked goods, while they scope out new surf crafts. It's clear that the needs of surfers have evolved quite a bit since the post-war years of Kivlin, Quigg and company, content to eat canned meats and retire to improvisational thatched-roof shelters after hours of riding waves on the North Shore. Today, it seems that coast-adjacent, dense, urban areas best meet the needs of the contemporary surfer.

In the gig economy, cities--regional and global centers of industry, commerce, and culture--are where the jobs are. Modern cities have become walk-able, gastronomic and booze-centric, tolerant and progressive playgrounds for a Millennial generation primed to live and work in a more communal, stimulating environment. And when you stir in an accessible coastline and roughly a hundred days of ridable waves per year, a city can also provide a surfer a dynamic and balanced existence.

So in case you're considering a relocation opportunity, we pored over job statistics, surf reports, and city guides--taking into consideration surf proximity and quality, employment opportunities, and quality of life--to narrow down the world's best surf cities. The list we've assembled includes ten world centers, economic hubs revered for their cultural institutions where one can find a steady job and consistent-enough surf to satiate the most wave-obsessed among us. These are cities where, even if you're resigned to only surf with the weekend warrior crowd, you'll never be bored--provided you haven't handed over all your disposable income to some pretentious barista.

Next on the list…

Cape Town, Western Cape Province
South Africa


So you're in South Africa and Jeffreys Bay is a two-hour flight away. While those may be untenable circumstances for many regular footers, those with an open-mind and a willingness to put in the time dialing in Cape Town's complex relationship with wind and swell directions, there is an enormous variety of world-class waves not starting with J and ending with bay to be shredded. While the water temp is warmer, on average, than in some major cities like SF or NY, if trunks and a rashy are part of your idyllic surf scenario, then Cape Town may not be for you. But shiver not, when the winter swells pump through June, July, and August, the water is actually at its warmest, climbing as high as 72F.


Cape Town's the oldest urban area in South Africa and the economy has suffered through fits and starts related to political turmoil for decades. But since the end of Apartheid in 1994, Cape Town has earned a reputation for facilitating entrepreneurship, as the Western Cape Province has shifted from a largely agricultural based economy to a service based one. With a lengthy visa process and laws prohibiting foreign workers from entering the country if not employed prior to arrival, the job hunt in South Africa is tough but not impossible. Foreign applications from skilled people in industries with shortages are typically welcomed. The healthcare, telecommunications, tourism and finance industries are suffering from labor shortages, and many other industries seek out high-skilled foreign workers. Income inequality remains a problem, however, and with the unemployment rate in Cape Town hovering around 20 percent (though it's the lowest of any major city in South Africa), many employers look to hire native-born workers. Bottom line:  if you’re passionate about making the move, you do your research and have a flexible skill-set, opportunities are available in South Africa.


With its natural beauty, agreeable and temperate climate, world-renowned architecture, and a ranking of 17 on the Deutche Bank Quality of Life index, the city of Cape Town is one of the most desirable places to live in the world. Rent is relatively cheap, as is food and other services. There are acclaimed museums, restaurants, beaches, and nature trails. But in a city of four million people that boasts a high rate of income inequality, experiences can seem extremely disparate from person to person. Of course, tourists and residents with the proper means can access everything this world-class city has to offer, but Cape Town's high crime rate, economic volatility, and susceptibility to extreme weather events like droughts, threaten to effect people of all walks of life. This, of course, can easily be said about most major cities.

 Median Income: $17,000 (Somewhat misleading due to high poverty and high rates of unemployment)

Top Industries: Real Estate and Construction, Healthcare, Finance, Information Technology

Median Home Price: $123,000

Median Rental Price: $594/month

Population: 3,780,000

Water Temperature Range: 57-72F

Surf Spots:  Muizenberg, Long Beach, Big Bay, Dunes, Off The Wall, Dungeons

[Head back to Surfer.com tomorrow for our next reveal]


10 Best Surf Cities in the World: San Francisco