A Day at Vindoux Guest Farm

 

Vindoux welcomes you. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Vindoux welcomes you. Photo: Gero Lilleike

 

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

A warm and welcome winter sun breaks the peaks of the Witzenberg mountains and the Tulbagh Valley comes to life. This is wine country, home to countless wine farms and the birthplace of the good-old hangover. In search of charm and wine, we followed the road to Vindoux with the surrounding vineyards lying bear in the morning glow.

Charming country cottages are on offer at Vindoux. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Charming country cottages are on offer at Vindoux. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Only a 90-minute drive from Cape Town and with the splendid Saronsberg mountains as a backdrop, Vindoux Guest Farm & Spa greeted us with a smile. Accommodation varies according to your taste and although Vindoux is very much geared for couples looking for a romantic getaway, there’s something here for everyone. Vindoux Guest Farm is well-known for its romantic luxury tree house units which offer perfect views of the farm and mountains. A large and well-sorted tree lodge is ideal for family and friends and there are also country cottages to choose from. If you’re like me and you enjoy having your pet around, then it’s pleasing to know that Vindoux is pet-friendly, but only on request. That said, pets are only allowed if you reside in a cottage. The self-catering country cottages have a certain simplistic charm about them, which I liked very much, and the cottages are fitted with everything you could possibly need for your stay, including a cozy fireplace.

Mark Walton takes aim at a wildebeest. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Mark Walton takes aim at a wildebeest. Photo: Gero Lilleike

A lovely viewing deck revealed zebra, wildebeest and springbok grazing quietly in the sun. We were told that a female wildebeest was to be darted and relocated to a nearby farm. A few moments later and with dart gun in hand, Mark Walton, the local veterinarian arrived and invited us in on the action. Mark waited patiently for the perfect shot and finally his moment came and he took careful aim. He pulled the trigger and the wildebeest bucked high into the air before bolting off, it was a good shot. Minutes later, legs buckled and the beast dropped, sleeping soundly in the soft grass. Mark and his team got to work quickly and moved the animal to its new home.

The wildebeest sleeps. Photo: Gero Lilleike

The wildebeest sleeps. Photo: Gero Lilleike

 

Wine Tasting by Bike

With the action over, we decided to get stuck into some wine action. Vindoux offers ‘Wine by Bike’ which is a very fun way to experience the countryside and taste some wine while you at it. With a map in hand and the scent of wine on the wind, we set off to a nearby wine farm. Our first stop was Montpellier and we didn’t hesitate on sampling some wine. Our taste buds were working hard. As a beer drinker, the wine-tasting experience was surprisingly pleasant, and I wanted more. I don’t regard myself as a sophisticated wine drinker, but I can certainly appreciate the way wine makes me feel.

Wine by Bike at Vindoux Guest Farm. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Wine by Bike at Vindoux Guest Farm. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Eager to get a second wine farm under the belt, we mounted our bikes and headed towards Saronsberg wine farm for round two. The wine was flowing at Saronsberg and we spent the afternoon soaking up the sun and scenery, eventually returning to Vindoux for a much needed and well deserved braai. A day of drinking wine and peddling the sunny countryside takes its toll on the body and there is nothing more welcoming than a comfy bed after a long day on the bottle.

Wine Tasting at Saronsberg Wine Farm. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Wine Tasting at Saronsberg Wine Farm. Photo: Gero Lilleike

We awoke at sunrise to go fishing at a nearby dam in the hope of hooking into some bass. The bass were leaping from the water in the early morning light but we didn’t catch any and were left to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings instead. On our return to Vindoux, we paid a visit to Vindoux Day Spa for a relaxing treatment which successfully expelled the lingering aftermath of our wine tasting forays the day before. Unfortunately our stay had come to an abrupt end and the friendly staff at Vindoux Guest Farm bid us farewell.

Early morning fishing near Vindoux. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Early morning fishing near Vindoux. Photo: Gero Lilleike

 

Exploring Tulbagh

The nearby town of Tulbagh is interesting and we parked in famous Church Street for a bite to eat. Tulbagh was rocked by a 6.5 earthquake in 1969 which left the town mostly in ruins. The buildings in Church Street, with their distinct Cape-Dutch architecture, were restored and today Church Street has the largest concentration of National Monuments in a single street in South Africa.

We checked our map and decided to visit the local waterfall on our way out. A 15-minute walk takes you to the top of the waterfall where you get a different perspective of the mountains and the Tulbagh Valley, a must-see for anyone visiting the area. With a boot full of wine, we put the Tulbagh Valley behind us and headed back to Cape Town, well-rested and ready to conquer the world.

For more information visit www.vindoux.com or call +27 (0) 23 2300 635 to make a reservation.

The waterfall at Tulbagh. Photo: Gero Lilleike

The waterfall at Tulbagh. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Advertisements

Namibia in Pictures

Namib desert namibia

The Namib Desert of Namibia. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

Namibia holds a special place in my heart, not only because my late father was born there, but also because there is no other place like it on this planet. It’s a truly amazing place. I vaguely remember visiting Namibia as a child but I was just too young to comprehend where I actually was and to be honest, I still struggle to wrap my mind around the beauty that resides there.

I returned to Namibia recently, along with my family, to pay tribute to my dad’s life, to bring him home and to say goodbye. This was a remarkably special trip for me and I have chosen several photographs of my journey that showcases some of the beauty of Namibia, but they also have particular relevance and represent something more to me that simply can’t be expressed. I hope you enjoy them.

Exploring Swakopmund

Swakopmund Namibia

Sand meets the sea at Swakopmund in Namibia. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Swakopmund is situated 360 km west of Windhoek and is a popular coastal holiday destination for local Namibians. This German colonial town is also a tourist hot-spot and  khaki-clad Germans are as common as the sand on which the town is built and they can be found marching in the streets and drinking beer in every restaurant and pub in town. Swakopmund is the gateway to the vast Namib Desert and it also happens to be where my Dad grew up, which makes it significant, to me at least. Compared to similar towns in South Africa, Swakopmund is remarkably clean and the people here are really friendly. The architecture of the buildings in Swakopmund point to its German heritage and many of its residents are actually German.

namib desert namibia

Exploring the Namib Desert on a Quad Bike. Photo: Gero Lilleike

The Namib Desert is the oldest desert on earth with an estimated age of 55-80 million years and is largely uninhabited. Just beyond the town of Swakopmund, sand dunes unfold into the distance and the landscape here is nothing short of spectacular. We had some time on our hands and decided to take a two-hour quad bike tour of this sandy abyss. Our guide, Gideon, was a friendly Namibian chap who knew his way around the dunes and ensured that we didn’t get lost in the bowels of this vast landscape. Exploring the Namib Desert on the back of a quad bike is a great way to have some fun and experience the desert up close and personal. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

The Search for Welwitschia Mirabilis

Our main reason for coming to Namibia was to search for Welwitschia Mirabilis, an extraordinary plant that is perfectly adapted to life in the desert.  A few kilometers out of Swakopmund, we entered the  Namib-Naukluft Park which is home to the famous Welwitschia plains. Along the way, we stumbled onto what is known as the ‘Moon Landscape’, a barren and eerie looking Damara Granite landscape that formed some 460-million years ago. As barren and devoid of life as it is, the ‘Moon Landscape’ is strangely appealing to the eye and serves as a reminder of how harsh and unforgiving this place can be.

Moon Landscape Namibia

The ‘Moon Landscape’ in Namibia is an eerily lonely place. Photo: Gero Lilleike

 

We pushed on towards the Welwitschia plains some 80km from Swakopmund and eventually crossed the dry Swakop River bed. With our petrol running low, we decided to pull over and take a closer look at the strange but intriguing Welwitschia Mirabilis. The plant is endemic to Namibia and southern Angola and is only found in what is known as the ‘fog belt’ stretching roughly 1000km along the west coast from the Kuiseb River south of Walvis Bay to the Nicolau River in Angola.

Most Welwitschia Mirabilis specimens are found within 80-100km of the coast and consist of a large tap root and a short hardy stem which produces only two strap-like leaves that grow continuously to lengths that can exceed three meters or more. Apart from groundwater, the plant survives largely on fog condensation which is captured by the leaves and channeled into the ground which is then absorbed by the tap root.

The Welwitschia Mirabilis is commonly referred to as a ‘living fossil’ because this ancient plant can live for hundreds if not thousands of years. The Welwitschia Mirabilis is undoubtedly the ultimate survivor of the desert and is plentiful in this region, but treat them with respect, they are considered to be endangered and are reasonably well protected in Namibia.

Welwitschia Mirabilis Namibia

The Welwitschia Mirabilis is the ultimate survivor of the Namib Desert. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Game Viewing in Erindi Private Game Reserve

With our mission accomplished and only one day left in Namibia we headed to Erindi Private Game Reserve some 175 km’s from Windhoek. Erindi is massive and is home to just about all the animals you would expect to see in Southern Africa. The accommodation was stunning, with a big waterhole on our doorstep and crocodiles basking on its banks, it couldn’t get any better than this. Lucky for us, we arrived just in time for the evening game drive, the perfect opportunity experience the bush and photograph some animals.

Lioness at Erindi Private Game Reserve

A lioness giving me the eye. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Ully, our Herero guide, guaranteed some good sightings and he certainly lived up to his promise. It was only five minutes into the game drive when Ully’s radio came to life. There were lions nearby. We made our way to the sighting and sat for a couple of minutes watching  the lions lounging in the grass. A particular lioness, shown above, unsettled me. Her wild stare pierced right through me and I couldn’t help but think that she wanted to eat me. As more vehicles arrived on the scene, we decided to head off in search of tamer game.

African Wild Dogs Namibia

A pack of African Wild Dogs scout the bush in Erindi. Photo: Gero Lilleike

About 30 minutes later, the radio informed us of African Wild Dog in the area and Ully put his foot down in hot pursuit. We found the pack along a boundary fence and I was happy to lay eyes on them, for I had never seen them in the wild before. The game drive was turning out to be a treat it seemed. It was great to see them purely because the African Wild Dog is the most endangered carnivore on the continent  and are rarely seen in the wild. I never imagined them to be so slender, almost to the point of looking under-fed, but Ully explained that they will run their prey ‘dead’ and are fierce and highly intelligent hunters.

african wild dog namibia

The matriarch of the pack poses for a photograph. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Erindi only has one family of African Wild Dog with 14 individuals. The picture above shows the alpha female of the pack posing beautifully for the camera. Shortly after this photo was taken, the radio alerted us to elephant in our vicinity and we left the African Wild Dogs to their business. A while later, Ully stopped the vehicle and showed us fresh elephant tracks on the road accompanied by liquid spatter in the sand. “An elephant in musth” said Ully, apparently not something you want to encounter face-to-face. We drove on for a while and spotted two White Rhino grazing peacefully in the bush. Ully switched the vehicle off and we watched them intently. Then, the unexpected happened. About 100m ahead of us, a herd of elephants crossed the road and out of the bush, Stompie appeared.

Stompie prepares to show us his dark side. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Stompie prepares to show us his dark side. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Stompie is a large bull elephant and the dark temporin secretion on the side of his head confirmed that he was in musth. Elephants become highly aggressive when in musth and Ully told us that Stompie was notorious for causing trouble in the reserve. Unbeknownst to us, Stompie was about to show us his dark side. Upon spotting the rhino’s, Stompie charged at them and drove them away into the bush. Ully started the vehicle and moved slowly forward to get a better view. Then, Stompie turned his attention on us and chaos ensued.

Elephant charging namibia

Stompie charging and showing us who’s boss. Photo: Gero Lilleike

 

I’ve never been charged by an elephant, but let it be known, there are few things scarier than a bull elephant in musth bearing down on you. This was a pure, adrenalin infused moment. Ully put his foot on the gas and my family were in a flat panic screaming ‘GO!! GO!! GO!!’ while Stompie charged us at full speed. In the chaos, I managed to maintain some composure to capture this amazing image of Stompie doing what he does best, being the boss of the bush. This was by far the most intense experience I’ve ever had in the bush so far and I will remember it for the rest of my life.

elephants Erindi

Young elephants having a sundowner in Erindi. Photo: Gero Lilleike

 

We kept a safe distance from Stompie and set off to find the breeding herd nearby. Ully told us that the reason why these elephants have such short tusks, unlike the elephants from the Kruger National Park in South Africa, is because they lack the necessary calcium in their diet, an interesting fact I wasn’t fully aware of.

We watched the elephants for a while, keeping a keen eye-out for Stompie feeding nearby, before moving on for sundowners in the bush. With gin and tonic in hand, we watched the sun set over Erindi, the perfect way to end a perfect trip. Somehow I knew I would return again, someday.

Sunset erindi

Sunset at Erindi. Photo: Gero Lilleike

 

2014 VW Golf 7 R – Passenger Impression

2014 VW Golf 7 R

The 2014 VW Golf 7 R ready to feed. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

Just the other day, out of the blue, a friend hooted outside my house. I opened my front door and a sexy blue 2014 VW Golf 7 R, the most powerful production Golf yet, stood before me for the first time. ‘Can I drive?’ I asked. The answer from the driver’s seat was a powerful ‘No, just get in’. I smiled and happily headed for the passenger seat. I had to ask.

The new 2014 VW Golf 7 R was literally launched in South Africa a few weeks ago, so this was expected to be a very special experience, even though I wouldn’t get my hands on that flat-bottomed steering wheel. You can’t have everything, you know.

First Impressions Count – The 2014 VW Golf 7 R shows its teeth

I stepped in and was instantly overwhelmed by a smart, comfy interior bathed in blue ambient lighting. Unlike anything I had ever seen before, this was the highly-anticipated 2014 VW Golf 7 R, in all its glory before my eyes. The leather sport seats felt remarkably genuine and the clean surfaces around me refreshed my senses. The lights and gadgetry however, hinted at something a little more sinister lurking beneath its skin. Then, I heard a distinct rumble.

The uprated 2-litre TSI four-cylinder turbo petrol engine came to life, growling under its breath. Bred with 206kW of pure muscle available from 5500rpm and 380Nm of vicious torque dripping from its fangs at 1800rpm, the 2014 VW Golf 7 R is a hungry wolf wrapped in wool.

2014 VW Golf 7 R

The VW Golf 7 R, a gorgeous wolf in disguise. Photo: Gero Lilleike


The hunt begins with a bang

In Normal Mode, the 2014 VW Golf 7 R seemed to tolerate urban roads with utter confidence, but I could sense a certain frustration within this beast, possibly a longing to stretch its legs and hunt on the open road. At standstill and with an empty highway stretched out before us, my good friend switched into Sport Mode and suddenly the atmosphere dropped a gear. In full-blown hunt mode, the wolf piped up quickly and with eyes locked on the clock, my heart rate felt like it doubled instantly as I took a deep breath. About six intense seconds later we were clocking 120km/h and I finally had a chance to grab my breath, my body tingling all over.

2014 VW Golf 7 R

The VW Golf 7 R ready to pounce. Photo: Gero Lilleike

VW claims 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds which is pretty fast for a layman like me, but as hungry as it is for speed, the new VW Golf 7 R isn’t as thirsty as you’d think. It’s said to average at about 7-litres/100km which is excellent considering what it thumps out on command and only expels 159g of CO2 every kilometer. Not bad, hey.

The hunt ends tragically

The new 2014 VW Golf 7 R delivered me home safely but I was reluctant to get out. I just didn’t want to. ‘Can I drive?’, I asked again, pushing my luck once more. My friend gave me a devilish laugh and replied, ‘No, get out’. I laughed and about six seconds later, the sexy blue 2014 VW Golf 7 R was gone, and I was left to ponder on my dreams, in silence.

2014 VW Golf 7 R

The 2014 VW Golf 7 R prepares to abandon me forever. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Winter Surfing in Cape Town

wave at Long Beach Cape Town

An empty wave slips past unridden at Long Beach, Cape Town. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

Winter surfing in Cape Town is by far the best time for surfers to suit-up and ride waves. The water is ice cold and it’s usually raining, but on the up side, the dreaded South Easter is mostly dead and perfect offshore winds prevail most of the time, depending on the break. The best waves are known to grace the Mother City during the Winter months thanks to regular low pressure systems sweeping across South Africa.

So, when the first proper, large, winter swell of the year hit the weather charts around Cape Town last week, surfers everywhere went mentally haywire. On the one end of the surfing scale, there were a few big wave surfers piling into boats with tow-in crews revving their jetski’s in Hout Bay Harbour, ready to surf mountains in privacy at Dungeons. And on the other end of the scale, you had everybody else, myself included, piling into the sea to surf mountains at Muizenberg and Long Beach. With my GoPro in hand, I set my sights on the sea and paddled out into the chaos.

Surfing in Muizenberg

Surfing in Muizenberg is almost always a crowded experience, even more so when there is fresh Winter goodness pulsing into Surfer’s Corner. Unsurprisingly, I arrived to find at least 300 surfers waiting to scratch onto the next wave that appeared on the horizon. It was low tide and by the looks of it the swell was still filling in and a clean 2-3ft Muizies freight train was on the cards.

Surfing Muizenberg

Riding giants in Muizenberg, Cape Town. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Although Muizenberg is super crowded most of the time, it’s often exaggerated by the fact that it’s such a big lineup and everyone just spreads out, making it bearable on most days and thankfully I managed to catch a few chilled waves of my own. Later that day, the swell whipped up into a frenzy of meaty walls and the incoming tide extended the paddle-out by what felt like a couple hundred metres. The wind was offshore with clouds brewing on the mountain and the waves just kept rolling in for everyone’s enjoyment. Surfing in Muizenberg is like that. On its bad days it makes you feel like going back to work and on the good days it makes you feel like you surfing in heaven.

Surfing at Long Beach

Two days later, Muizenberg went flat and I had a sneaky suspicion that Long Beach in Kommetjie might still be picking up some nice leftover swell. I was right, but an army was surfing there too. Long Beach differs from Muizenberg in the sense that the lineup, or zone for catching waves is much smaller, so like always, when it’s crowded, it’s really crowded and you have to fight for your waves. Consider yourself a winner if you get a Long Beach wave all to yourself.

Surfing Long Beach Cape Town

Surfing a fun wave at Long Beach, Kommetjie, Cape Town. Photo: Gero Lilleike

The wave at Long Beach is a bit more punchy compared to Muizenberg, especially on the inside section and it can be a really fast and fun ride when the swell is a bit bigger. I joined the army of surfers in the water with clean 3-5ft waves washing our sins away. It took a while to get a wave but perseverance paid off and when that wave came along, it was good. I decided to beat the crowds and do a bit of bodysurfing in the shorebreak to end my session, which actually turned out be loads of fun.

Across the ocean, Dungeons was alive with moving mountains of water pounding the Sentinel senseless. The sound of Jetski’s revving filled my ears, somewhere there, a wave was being ridden.

Long Beach Cape Town

The scene at Long Beach in Cape Town. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Surfing in Elands Bay

Sunset at Elands Bay. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Sunset at Elands Bay. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

An eerie mist hangs over a glassy sea, its secrets held close. In the distance, birds float freely while a seal cavorts nearby. The renowned Elands Bay surf break, some 200 km North of Cape Town, lies dormant. I have seen the reef at Elands Bay working to its full potential only once before, and besides the pleasure of surfing this wave, just standing on the beach and watching it crank is a special sight. Nature has indeed done splendid work to create such a remarkably mechanical wave. However, on a recent surfing trip to Elands Bay, that perfect wave of our dreams was nowhere to be seen.

Surfing Elands Bay

Patience pays off when surfing Elands Bay. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Surfing in Elands Bay, for me at least, is a deeply cleansing experience, whether there’s a wave or not, there’s always fun to be had. The scenery, cold water, mountains, dust and sand that dominate the West Coast landscape creates a perfect playground for the soul. The best thing about surfing Elands Bay when there’s no swell is that there are no crowds, you have the reef all to yourself and even better, there won’t be anyone watching. Frolicking in the stinky kelp in hope that the odd wave might come along is certainly fun and it can pay off if you’re patient enough.

Surfing at Elands Bay

The gang about to paddle out into the mist near Elands Bay. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Most surfers wouldn’t even bother when the sea is flat, but surfing in Elands Bay no matter what, forces you to realise that it’s not always about the quality of the waves, but rather about appreciating the experience. Throw some good friends and camping into the mix and you have a recipe for making unforgettable memories that will keep your stoke meter topped up until the swell eventually arrives.

Surfing near Elands Bay

There’s a wave somewhere near Elands Bay. Photo: Gero Lilleike

As it turned out, there was no swell coming our way so we decided to explore the coast towards Lamberts Bay for a wave, however small. Luck was on our side, and we found a tiny gem. It wasn’t long before our wetsuits were on and we paddled into the mist, but we weren’t alone. A pod of West Coast Dolphins welcomed us while we had the time of our lives on this desolate piece of coast. The experience was surreal and full of joy. It was all worth it in the end.

Beach walking at Elands bay

Beach Walking is a good option when the swell dies. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Big Wave World Tour coming to Dungeons, South Africa

Grant 'Twiggy' Baker about to tame the beast, Dungeons, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Kimi Stewar Billabong XXL

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker about to tame the beast, Dungeons, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Kimi Stewar Billabong XXL

Words by Gero Lilleike

It’s on!!! The time to whip out the ‘Big Guns’ is looming on the horizon as the monster that is Dungeons is set to come alive for the 2014/15 Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) following the announcement of the official tour schedule by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP).

The BWWT will see the world’s finest big wave surfers tackle surf no smaller than 25ft and South Africans will witness the full power of Dungeons bearing down on their heads, so yes, there is definitely reason to be excited.

The BWWT is split into a two-part schedule, with generous window periods for both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, with the gnarliest big wave spots in the mix. The 2014/15 BWWT schedule is as follows:

Southern Hemisphere (April 15, 2014 through August 31, 2014):
• Punta de Lobos, Chile
• Pico Alto, Peru
• Dungeons, South Africa

Northern Hemisphere (October 15, 2014 to February 28, 2015):
• Todos Santos, Mexico
• Punta Galea, Basque Country Spain
• Pe’ahi (Jaws), Maui HI

Dungeons and Pe’ahi (Jaws) are new events to the tour and will hopefully add some big wave flavor to what looks to be a tasty treat for the contestants and big wave spectators around the world. Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, the current BWWT leader,  will no doubt be chuffed to surf in his home waters and put on a show of a lifetime in front of a home crowd. All we need now is for ‘The Kraken’ to emerge from the depths of the Atlantic and kick up some serious swell when the times comes. For now, all we can do is wait…BRING IT ON!!!

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker cooks a big win at 2014 Mavericks Invitational

 

Grant 'Twiggy' Baker rides a big one. Photo: Grant Ellis

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker rides a big one. Photo: Grant Ellis

Words by Gero Lilleike

If there is any reason at all to feel like a proud South African then today is surely the day and Twiggy is the reason. To most South Africans, the name Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker is like any other but within the loins of the surf community, that name means business, serious business, and with good reason, the man is as tough as nails and has the heart of a lion beating in his chest. On Friday, Twiggy cleaned the pipes of 23 of the world’s top big wave surfers at the Body Glove Mavericks Invitational held in perfect 40ft surf at Pillar Point, Half Moon Bay, California.

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker tops Big Wave World Tour standings

That’s a huge achievement for South Africa and South African surfing right there. Twiggy scored two amazing 10-point rides during the event to score an overall 29.33 out of 30, which is a phenomenal performance considering that Shane Dorian, who placed second, came in with a score of 25.53 out of 30. Twiggy clearly dominated the lineup and put his best foot forward to claim his second Mavericks crown and his second consecutive win on the Big Wave World Tour after conquering the Arnette Punta Galea Challenge in Spain this past December. The result puts Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker right on top of the Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) standings.

Twiggy had the following to say shortly after the event, “I’m feeling pretty good – amazing in fact! Two of my favourite surfers in the world, Shane Dorian and Greg Long, were in the final so to win Mavericks is the greatest feeling in the world!”.

Twiggy wasn’t the only South African representing on the day. Fellow big wave chargers Chris Bertish (2010 Mavericks Champ) and Frank Solomon (Alternate Competitor) were also there to celebrate the big win.

 

Chris Bertish, Grant Twiggy Baker and Frank Solomon celebrate in the channel. Photo: ZigZag

Chris Bertish, Grant Twiggy Baker and Frank Solomon celebrate in the channel. Photo: ZigZag

A massive 40ft congrats goes out to Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker for bringing this big win home. Damn it feels good to be South African today. A few parting words from Twiggy sums up the feeling perfectly, “I’d like to thank everyone in South Africa for their support. This is it, we are the best.”

If you wish to follow the Big Wave World Tour then visit bigwaveworldtour.com

Biggest wave ever ridden or media hype?

Carlos Burle on what is supposedly the biggest wave ever ridden at Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Getty Images

Carlos Burle on what is supposedly the biggest wave ever ridden at Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Getty Images

Words by Gero Lilleike

There is a debate raging on in the surfing world about whether Carlos Burle managed to ride the biggest wave in history on Monday 28 October 2013 at Nazaré in Portugal. Various media sources imply that the wave was in the 100ft range or in excess thereof, which would certainly be a monumental feat for surfing, if it’s true that is…

A few months back I wrote about Garret McNamara’s record wave which he also rode at Nazaré and I questioned whether that wave was indeed the biggest wave ever ridden, and so forgive me, I have to question Burle’s wave, too. That said, I have tons of respect for big wave surfers and the waves they ride and I take nothing away from them, in fact, I applaud them. But take a closer look at these two pictures, which is bigger? It’s really difficult to tell.

Garrett McNamara rides the big one in Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Tó Mané

Garrett McNamara rides the big one in Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Tó Mané

However, like millions of people across the globe, I watched the footage, I read the articles, but somehow I remain skeptical. Maybe the footage is poor or the pictures are misleading, or both, but in my mind that wave was not in the 100ft range, but it was big for sure. But therein lies the problem. My perception could be horribly wrong and will probably differ from everyone else’s, but consider this though, someone who has never set foot in the ocean and with very little knowledge and experience of waves will probably look at that footage and be in complete awe at what they are seeing and quickly be convinced that that is indeed a 100ft monster bearing down on Carlos Burle. It therefore becomes easy to sensationalise the size of the wave, don’t you think?

What is interesting though is that throughout the coverage of this event, all kinds of figures have been thrown around,  ranging between 70 and 100ft+ and the truth of the matter is that nobody knows for sure, and how will it be verified anyway? For all we know it was a 50ft wave. Look, there is no denying the fact that the big-wave surfers who were out there were indeed surfing big waves, there’s no questioning that, but for the media to insinuate that a 100ft wave was surfed is shooting the piss a bit far, I think.

Big wave surfing extraordinaire, Laird Hamilton, has his doubts, too. For Laird, claiming the credit for riding the biggest wave means that the surfer needs to complete the ride, which in his eyes Burle failed to do after getting eaten by whitewater. In an interview with CNN, Laird gives his opinion on Carlos Burle’s ride, “In the school I grew up in, unless you complete the ride, it’s really, you know, a non-factor, and as every big wave rider knows, it’s all about finishing the ride, and I think that even Carlos would tell you that unless you finish the ride, you didn’t really make the ride but otherwise it was a great attempt”. Following Laird’s interview with CNN, Burle responded by saying that Hamilton was “spoiled” and that he “never had any support from him”. Concerning the ride though, Burle commented that “I had already ridden through the bottom of the wave. He [Laird Hamilton] is right to a certain point. It would be better if I’d kicked out through the channel, but there have been approved waves with the surfer falling in the whitewater”.

Laird Hamilton riding the 'Wave of the Millenium' in 2000. Photo by Tim McKenna

Laird Hamilton riding the ‘Wave of the Millenium’ in 2000. Photo by Tim McKenna

To add another spin to the tale,  before Carlos Burle rode this so-called record breaking wave, he came to the rescue of female big wave surfer Maya Gabeira who wiped out while surfing a big wave and narrowly escaped drowning. Burle managed to get Gabeira to the safety of the beach where she lay unconscious with a broken ankle until she was resuscitated and taken to hospital for treatment. From the outside or from a readers perspective it seems that the media is latching onto this wonderful story of courage and bravery and riding it all the way in to the beach, creating dramatic sensational hype in its wake. That’s just my opinion though.

Whether all of this is just trivial media hype or whether Carlos Burle rode the biggest wave in the history of surfing is all a matter of opinion, but the fact remains, the size of that wave is a mystery, for now at least. Opinions aside, Burle deserves credit for saving Gabeira and still getting out there and catching the wave of the day, well done Burle.

How big do you think that wave is? Share your comments below.

Things to do in Cape Town

Cape Town glistens in the morning light.  Photo: Gero Lilleike

Cape Town glistens in the morning light. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

There’s no excuse for being bored in Cape Town and if you are, you’re either lazy, or poor. Great things lie beyond your doorstep, but don’t forget your wallet on your way out. Everyone is different and there’s lots to do if you are open to the experience, Cape Town has something for everyone. I decided to step-out and discover what Cape Town has to offer and this is what I found. Here are six things to consider doing when visiting the Mother City.

Go Surf

Cape Town offers countless surf spots to satisfy your surfing needs, whether you’re an advanced surfer or a beginner, it doesn’t matter, there’s a wave for every kind of surfer. Surfing in Muizenberg is probably your best bet if you are new to surfing and there are numerous surf shops and places to rent surfboards. The wave at Muizenberg is also very forgiving but you will have to contend with crowds, especially on weekends. If you are an intermediate or advanced surfer you may want to take a drive to Kommetjie or Noordhoek for a more exciting ride or explore less crowded spots along the coast, the choice is yours. Surfing is a great option if you are keen for a bit of adventure and the best part of it is that it’s a relatively cheap activity that won’t leave a dent in your wallet.

Gero Lilleike surfing in Muizenberg. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Gero Lilleike surfing in Muizenberg. Photo: Gero Lilleike


Climb Table Mountain

You can’t say that you’ve experienced Cape Town until you have scaled Table Mountain, so why not do it? If hiking is up your alley then this is a great way to conquer Table Mountain but be sure to do your research beforehand and pay attention to the weather as conditions can change in the blink of an eye. If you are looking for the easy way up, then the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is at your service. Once at the top, Table Mountain will provide breathtaking views of the whole city and will probably leave a lump in your throat. Either way, Table Mountain is there to be conquered and you should seriously consider it.

 

Table Mountain in all its glory. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Table Mountain in all its glory. Photo: Gero Lilleike


Visit the V&A Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront in Cape Town is a popular hangout for locals and tourists alike and offers a plethora of activities for the whole family, from food, shopping, boat trips and daily entertainment, there’s always something to do here. The V&A Waterfront is also home to the Two Oceans Aquarium which allows you to get up close and personal with the wonders of the ocean and should be high on your priority list when you make your visit. There are various boat rides available to you and they provide a unique perspective on Cape Town. My personal suggestion is to book a ride on the Jolly Roger Pirate Ship which makes for a fun boat trip out to sea, especially if you have children.

The Jolly Roger Pirate Ship at the V&A Waterfront. Photo: Gero Lilleike

The Jolly Roger Pirate Ship at the V&A Waterfront. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Drive Chapman’s Peak

If you are keen for some spectacular Cape scenery, then all you have to do is get in your car and take a drive along Chapman’s Peak Drive, you won’t be disappointed. There are many spots along the way where you can stop and soak in the scenery, just be sure to have your camera ready to snap all the special moments. Chapman’s Peak offers awesome views of Hout Bay and Noordhoek Beach, but remember this is a toll road so there is a fee to use this section of road. If you don’t want to drive then feel free to use your legs and walk or you can tackle the hills with your bicycle. Chapman’s Peak is definitely a must-do activity if you are in Cape Town so be sure to check it out.

Chapman's Peak Drive, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Chapman’s Peak Drive, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Walk Cape Point

If you are in Cape Town, do yourself a favor and visit Cape Point. Cape Point forms part of the Table Mountain National Park and offers great walks with stunning scenery to keep you company. Cape Point is the most south-western point of the African continent and was named the ‘Cape of Storms’ by Bartolomeu Dias who navigated it in 1488. Be sure to make your way up to the lighthouse which was erected in 1859 and stands some 249m above sea-level. A second, more effective lighthouse was erected in 1914 and stands only 87m above sea level and is the most powerful lighthouse on the South African coastline. There are many viewpoints which offer stomach-churning views of the cliffs and ocean below, so tread carefully here.

Cape Point, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Cape Point, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Have a beer in Kalk Bay

Apart from offering an arty shopping experience, Kalk Bay also offers superb dining options overlooking Kalk Bay Harbour and False Bay, the perfect place to kick back and relax. As an avid beer drinker and lover of seafood, I recommend you pay a visit to the Brass Bell which serves delicious seafood meals and has enough beer to quench the biggest beer thirst. To make the deal that much better, you have the ocean by your side and if you’re lucky enough you may even spot a whale or two breaching offshore. Kalk Bay also offers a pretty good wave when conditions are right so you might want to keep your surfboard handy in case the ocean plays it’s part, but remember, don’t surf if you have beer in your belly.

The Brass Bell, Kalk Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike

The Brass Bell, Kalk Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike

The Matt Bromley Interview: For the Love of Big Wave Surfing

Matt Bromley in Hawaii. Photo: Sacha Specker

Matt Bromley in Hawaii. Photo: Sacha Specker

Words by Gero Lilleike

For those of you who’ve been living under a rock for too long and don’t know who Matt Bromley is, wake the hell up! Matt is a man who takes no prisoners and he is one of South Africa’s hardest charging big wave surfers alongside the likes of Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker and Frank Solomon to name a few and you may even have seen him striking a pose on the cover of ZigZag Magazine, numerous times.

Last week saw the re-awakening of the beast that is Dungeons in Cape Town, possibly for the last time this year, and Matt Bromley was out there doing what he does best, surfing big-ass waves to his heart’s content.  When the swell gets large and dangerous, most people run for the hills, but not Matt, he comes out to play, he drops-in, stands tall and gets the biggest barrels you can imagine, all with a nice big smile on his face and that’s what he’s about.

Matt Bromley surfing Dungeons, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Steve Benjamin

Matt Bromley surfing Dungeons, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Steve Benjamin

I met Matt for the first time a few months ago just before he was about to embark on a ‘slab hunting’ mission in Western Australia and I can honestly say that he’s one of the friendliest, most grounded and genuine surfers I have ever come across. That’s not surprising though because surely getting barreled on the world’s biggest, most terrifying waves must have a positive effect on you and Matt is a great example of positive energy personified. I threw a couple of questions his way to learn more about him and being the nice guy that he his, he answered them. Check out the interview below.

Matt Bromely gets pitted somewhere in Western Australia. Photo: Pete Frieden

Matt Bromley gets pitted somewhere in Western Australia. Photo: Pete Frieden

[GL) What is your full name and do you have any weird nicknames?

[MB] Matt Bromley “Bromdog”

[GL] When were you born into this world?

[MB] 12 September 1991

[GL] Where do you live?

[MB] Kommetjie, Cape Town

[GL] How do you pass your time?

[MB] I study part-time and I travel the world as a professional free-surfer.

[GL] What do you love most and why?

[MB] Waves, because they come from God. I’m constantly in awe of creation.

Matt Bromley getting shacked in Tahiti. Photo: Brian Bielman

Matt Bromley getting shacked in Tahiti. Photo: Brian Bielman

[GL] What are your professional achievements?

[MB] 3 x SA Junior Surfing Champion, 2 x SA Captain and 3 x Covers of ZigZag Magazine

[GL] Do you have any sponsors? If so, who are they?

[MB] Billabong, Monster Energy, Nixon, VZ, Kustom, Dakine, Futurelife and Virgin Active

[GL] What has been your most memorable sporting achievement so far?

[MB] Beating Jordy Smith at my home break when he was ranked world number 1. That was in the Coldwater Classic.

[GL] Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

[MB] Spear fishing. I love it! It compliments big wave surfing because it teaches you to be comfortable under the water and increases your lung capacity.

[GL] When and how did you start surfing?

[MB] My Dad got me into surfing at the tender age of 6. With the passion he had for surfing, I couldn’t not be a surfer.

[GL] In all the world, where is your favorite wave and why?

[MB] Teahupoo, Tahiti. It’s the most terrifying wave in the world as well as the most rewarding, if you survive it.

Matt Bromley sussing out a perfect wave in Tahiti. Photo: Unknown

Matt Bromley sussing out a perfect wave in Tahiti. Photo: Unknown

[GL] If you could change anything, what would it be?

[MB] I would have given more time in my life to previously disadvantaged people and helping those in need. But the good thing is that I’m still young and have lots of time in the future for this.

[GL] In what ways do you think surfing or sport in general can empower the youth in South Africa?

[MB] It brings a smile to EVERYONE!! When you enter the water, you leave your worries on the beach. This rejuvenation of joy and appreciation for the water saves kids from a life of crime because it keeps them off the streets and in the water.

[GL] If you had the chance to speak to the President of South Africa, what would you say?

[MB] Get everyone in the water and inject the stoke into every community.

[GL] What is your message to the youth of South Africa?

[MB] Put your trust in God and take every opportunity to enjoy his creation.

If you wish to read more about Matt Bromley and his big wave surfing escapades, I strongly suggest you follow his blog at http://bromdogsblog.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @bromdog783

Matt Bromley taming a beast. Photo: Ant Fox

Matt Bromley taming a beast. Photo: Ant Fox