South Africa is a surfing mecca, with over 1,600 miles /2,500km of coastline facing both the cold and restless Atlantic and the tropical Indian Ocean. It is one of the world’s most consistent surfing destinations because it is located in the path of the Roaring Forties. There are literally thousands of points and bays to explore, each with its own distinct surf pattern. If you are planning to surf in South Africa, you should know that one visit is not enough—the many world-class breaks keep surfers returning year after year.
Surf in South Africa is both pro and beginner-friendly. There are many surf camps located near the best breaks to provide all the guidance you need to either take your first steps on a surfboard in friendly water or take your skills to the next level on more challenging waves.
When to surf in South Africa
Any surfer worth his or her salt knows that the magnitude of the swell and the direction of the wind dictate the quality of the surf. That being the case, the winter months in South Africa bring the most incredible conditions.
The South African seasons are are follows:
- Summer (December to February),
- Autumn (March to May),
- Winter (June to August),
- Spring (September – November).
Surfing is best done from March to September, when the Roaring Forties provide the best swells. Waves typically range from 6 to 15 feet, but much larger waves can be found in certain locations.
Summer swells are typically smaller, but there are still some fun waves to be had at the many beach breaks. The Durban area is an exception, where the waves generated by hurricane swells from December to February can turn sand bottom point breaks into grinding tubes.
Where to surf in South Africa
The east coast has a subtropical climate. It stretches from the Western Cape up the Garden Route to Gqeberha, (formerly known as Port Elizabeth). This region is typically hot and sunny in the summer and mild and wet in the winter.
You are in for a wild ride! Suit up, get in the water, and discover surf in South Africa.
Jeffrey’s Bay (J-Bay)
J-Bay on the Jeffreys Bay Coast is an exposed beach and reef break with consistent surf, though it is mostly flat in the summer. Winds blow from the west and northwest. Clean groundswells are prevalent, with the best swell angle coming from the south. It can get crowded at times. Keep an eye out for sharks, rocks, and mussel shells.
Jeffrey’s Bay is South Africa’s premier surf spot. It is easily South Africa’s most famous wave, and one of the best righthanders on the planet.
Jeffrey’s Bay is famous for its various surf breaks, including Kitchen Windows, Magna Tubes, Boneyards, Super Tubes, Salad Bowls, Tubes, Points, and Albatross, each with its own unique magic. The town hosts the World Surf League’s annual J-Bay Open.
J-Bay is a favorite of local legends like Jordy Smith, and it’s played host to a slew of top international surfers like Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning.
During the months of July and August, Jeffrey’s Bay is at its best since there are frequently back-to-back swells with a good period to help connect the sections.
Cape St. Francis
Cape St Francis on the Jeffreys Bay Coast is an exposed beach break with waves. The South African winter and spring are the best seasons to visit. The best winds are from the west and northwest. Groundswells are more common than windswells, and the best swell direction is east. The beach’s waves break both left and right.
It can get a little crowded here at times. Keep an eye out for sharks.
It’s almost impossible to beat the wind on the Cape Peninsula. This means that if one of the peninsula’s two coasts has a bad wind, the other should have a good one. Further north, there are also a number of dramatic breaks.
Dungeons, Hout Bay
Dungeons is a sheltered reef break on the Cape Peninsula that only works occasionally. It seems to only works during a winter storm and is considered one of the world’s “big wave” venues. Dungeons’ 15- to 30-foot swell breaks over a shallow reef on the sea side of Hout Bay and is only accessible by watercraft. The adrenaline rush is made even more intense for the brave (and seriously experienced) surfers because this area is one of South Africa’s sharkiest surf spots.
Winter is the best season for surfing in this area. The offshore winds are blowing from the northwest. Groundswells are more common than windswells, and the best swell direction is southwest. It has a right hand reef and it’s best at low tide.
When things are going well here, it can get a little crowded.
Scarborough Beach is an exposed beach break that only works when the conditions are ideal. The best times to visit are in the spring and summer. The best wind direction is east to northeast. Groundswells are more common than windswells, with a westerly swell angle being ideal. The beach breaks provide both lefts and rights. Take care of the rips in this area.
Scarborough Beach is ideal for those seeking tranquillity. The beach is less crowded and is only about 45 minutes outside of the city. This is ideal for surfers and bodyboarders looking for a peaceful session with spectacular views.
Llandudno is unquestionably a lovely beach. It has warm sand, clear waves, and a mountain range in the distance. It should be noted that it is only suitable for advanced surfers.
Llandudno is an exposed beach break that only works occasionally. The winds off the coast are blowing from the east. Groundswells are more common than windswells, with a swell angle of southwest being ideal. Both lefts and rights are available at the beach breaks.
The beach is often crowded. Keep your eyes peeled for sharks.
This is a popular location for people wishing to avoid the crowds—it is located 135 miles/220 kilometers north of Cape Town on South Africa’s West Coast. There are a few guesthouses and self-catering rentals, but it’s mostly wilderness. The wave here is best in the summer, when a southeasterly swell holds up a westerly swell to create a cranking left point break.
Don’t forget to bring your wetsuit and hoodie; the water here is extremely cold.
Long Beach in the tiny town of Kommetjie is an hour’s drive of Cape Town. The beach is located on the Atlantic side of the southern Cape Peninsula.
Long Beach is a sheltered beach break with consistent surf. Winter is the best season for surfing in this area. The offshore winds are blowing from the south. Clean groundswells are the norm, with the best swell direction coming from the southwest. Left-handers can be found at the beach breaks. Crowds are more likely when the surf is high.
Be wary of sharks.
Outer Kom is an exposed reef and point break with good surf. Winter is the best season for surfing in this area. The offshore winds are blowing from the northeast. Outer Kom is prone to receiving distant groundswells, with the best swell angle coming from the west. There are two reefs to choose from: left and right.
Even on good days, there aren’t many surfers here. Be wary of sharks, kelp, rips, and sea urchins.
Muizenberg, located on the outskirts of False Bay, is home to Surfer’s Corner, a popular swimming beach. The best wind direction is west to northwest. Clean groundswells are the norm, with the best swell direction coming from the southeast. The beach breaks provide both lefts and rights. It can get a little crowded. Sharks have been spotted, so be cautious.
Muizenberg can be a long boarder’s paradise. There are a number of surf schools that rent out boards and wetsuits. In the summer, it’s best to arrive early to avoid the crowds and the pounding southeaster.
Stilbaai is one of several excellent surf spots along the Garden Route, which runs east of Cape Town. Stilbaai has a fairly consistent shore break in front of the village, but those in the know wait for a big south to southeast swell to really grind the right-hand point break. If you’re lucky, the bay’s semi-resident dolphins will join you on the backline.
When it’s working well, Victoria Bay, a very narrow, steep-sided bay on the outskirts of George (which is on the Garden Route), is jealously guarded by young locals. Because of the bay’s shape, this spot is open most of the year and is suitable for surfers of all skill levels.
Green Point on the Hibiscous Coast is an exposed point break with consistent surf that can be surfed at any time of year. Offshore winds are blowing from the west and northwest. Windswells and groundswells are present in equal measure, with the ideal swell angle coming from the south. Even if there are waves, it is unlikely to be crowded. It’s a relatively off-the-beaten-path option for those who don’t like to compete for space.
Green Point is one of the province’s most well-known surf spots. It requires a medium, southerly swell to get going, but once it does, it’s a classic right-hand point-break that rivals several of its more famous southern counterparts.
Take care of the rocks and the sharks.
Durban, also known as the Bay of Plenty, is a mecca for South African surfers. There is rarely a day when the wave does not work, and you can choose your location based on the size of the swell. The waves get bigger as you travel north, beginning with beginner-friendly waves in front of uShaka Marine World and progressing to the pro-worthy left and right-hand breaks at New Pier. At New Pier, Dairy, and North Beach, keep an eye out for territorial locals.
For surfing forecasts and reports, check out helpful surfing resources.