Surf's up in Jeffrey's Bay!

2012-09-25 09:17

In the late 60s and early 70s, Jeffrey's Bay was known as a hippie hangout and in those days only guys with long hair that listened to Bob Marley and smoked marijuana surfed the waves along its coast.

How times have changed?

Now, the once sleepy fishing village has sprawled into one of the fastest growing suburbs in South Africa. Not only has the landscape changed but so has the sport of surfing.

Today Jeffrey's Bay is home to one of the world's biggest international surfing competitions, the Billabong Pro. It recently celebrated its 24th edition with its 5th stop out of 10 in Jeffrey's Bay as part of the 2009 Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour. The event attracts hundreds of tourists from around South Africa and is hugely popular amongst many of the world's top surfing champions who come here to take part.

Being a surfer, I make the annual pilgrimage to Jeffrey's Bay to watch these world class athletes ripping up the waves and to hopefully catch a glimpse of the gorgeous surfing legend, Kelly Slater.

As usual, it never stops to amaze me at the rate at which Jeffrey's Bay is expanding.

Besides the many new housing developments, we were greeted by a new traffic circle and even a Woolworths. The same factory shops selling last season's garments, at ridiculously low prices are thankfully all still there.

During the school holidays, kids are everywhere, skateboarding and sporting the latest beanies with surfboards under their arms. Seems the surf pandemic can be felt even as far away as Cape St Francis, Jeffrey's Bay's neighboring suburb. This small little seaside village is probably very much like J-Bay was three decades ago, with its long deserted beach shouldered with soft caramel sand dunes.

But if sitting on the beach watching super hot surfers do their thing isn't enough for you - you cold attempt the waves yourself or go shopping; even if you don't surf you can still look like a surfer. After a couple of hours of wading through the heaps of hoodies and baggies we left with six shopping bags full and because we also love surfing we then decided to go and get wet.

I should bring to your attention the guerrilla tactics of local surfers who are known to be rather territorial. This phenomenon occurs not only in South Africa but all over the world.

Rather than run the risk of being chased out of the water by one of the long-haired locals only to find the words ‘locals only' spray painted onto the side of your car  - sign up for a surf lesson. In this way, the surf instructors will let you know where to surf without getting in anybody's way.  Being a woman does help make to make things easier but it's best not to get too bossy in the water when you are a visitor.

For these reasons, I prefer surfing Seal Point in Cape St Francis, pictured above, and at Huletts in St Francis Bay. The waves are friendlier and it's the perfect place if you need a break from the hype in Jeffrey's Bay - with the drive only taking 25 minutes.

However if surfing isn't your thing there is plenty to do in this area.

We explored the upper reaches of the Krom River and even decided to camp there for a night. If you have a skipper's license you can also rent a small boat in St Francis Bay and spend the day exploring the river, fishing and even waterskiing or wakeboarding.

Read more on:    travel south africa

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