The wait for the extreme waves required to satisfy the stringent criteria for the running of the Red Bull Big Wave Africa international surfing event enters the second week of the three week holding period today.
The 12 competitors and three alternates invited to the 2003 version of the event have yet to sample the pleasures of Dungeons, the open ocean reef break at the mouth of Hout Bay on the Cape Peninsula, that only starts breaking in swells of three metres (9 foot) or more and produces the biggest surfable waves on the African coastline.
The South Atlantic high pressure system that brings South East winds and cloudless skies to the Cape all summer, but usually dissipates as winter sets in, is uncharacteristically still situated off the West coast of Africa. This is diverting the swell generating low pressure fronts further South than the aptly titled ‘Roaring Forties’ with a resultant drop in wave size reaching Dungeons. Besides a spate of five days of huge surf in February, there have only been two days of waves that would have satisfied the criteria for the event which are consistent swells of five metres (15 foot) or more with moderate weather conditions. By this stage of the 2002 event there had been more than a dozen such swells and more than 20 surfable days at the internationally renowned big wave break.
Nevertheless, it would take a plastic surgeon to remove the grin from the faces of the surfers who have been enjoying waves ranging between 1.3 and four metres (4 €" 12 foot) at an array of beach breaks, reefs and points on the Peninsula and up the West coast, along with visits to tourist attractions such as the Cape Point Nature Reserve, the aquarium in V&A Waterfront and sampling the produce from the Stellenbosch winelands.
However, all the athletes are ‘amped’ to challenge the ocean at its most extreme and with two weeks remaining before the holding period closes on 22 June and the prognosis for staging the contest at Dungeons is still excellent with considerable storm activity taking place in the lower half of the Southern Hemisphere.
While the two to three metre waves currently breaking in Cape Town are expected to drop over the next couple of days, a major swell is expected at the end of this week and another on the weekend.
The water-safety team, under the guidance of California based expert Shawn Alladio, is also honed and ready for action after an intensive three day training regimen prior to the start of the holding period and a refresher course yesterday.
Full details on the competitors, who include 1999 world big wave champion Paul Paterson (Aus) and 2002 XXL winner and runner-up, Carlos Burle (Brazil) and Cheyne Horan (Aus) respectively, as well as the venue, contest criteria and daily updates, images and video clips are available on the website www.redbullbwa.com where all aspects of the event are covered.