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

Stencilworx debuts at Emerald Fox Tattoo Studio opening in Muizenberg

Steve Erwin strikes a pose. Photo: Gero Lilleike
Steve Erwin strikes a pose. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Words and Photo’s by Gero Lilleike

I have been following the work of Steve Erwin (Stencilworx) for some time now and for good reason, he’s a talented artist with creativity and passion that’s expressed through his art time and again and it’s no surprise, this man is going places. As it turns out, there’s a new ink parlour in town and for the first time ever, Stencilworx was in the public eye at the official opening of the Emerald Fox Tattoo Studio in Muizenberg, Cape Town.

Tattoo enthusiasts, artists and the general public turned up to soak up the art and music which set the scene for an enjoyable evening. Steve was one of many artists who had their art on display as part of the art exhibition which also featured a live spray painting session and an entertaining burlesque show.

Despite the hustle and bustle of the event, I managed to have a few words with Steve who was visibly chuffed to have his work on display for the first time and here’s what he had to say, “I am stoked to have my first art piece up on display at an exhibition, I hope people like it. It’s a stencil and spray paint piece on a skateboard deck that I have loosely dubbed ‘Heaven, Hell and everything in between”.

Steve's Art (Left) on display at the opening of the Emerald Fox Tattoo Studio in Muizenberg. Photo: Gero Lilleike
Steve’ Erwin’s art (Left) on display at the opening of the Emerald Fox Tattoo Studio in Muizenberg, Cape Town. Photo: Gero Lilleike

“I was a bit nervous to put my work on display at first but now I am relaxed about it and am just enjoying the evening. I also want to thank Emerald Fox Tattoo Studio for allowing me to display my work, I think it’s a great opportunity”. Steve’s piece effectively displayed how stencils and spray paint can be used to create unique artwork that is impossible to replicate.

If you wish to familiarise yourself with Steve and his work, I suggest you read The Steve Erwin Interview – The Wave Hunter and Something’s in the Water

An artist sprays in a live spray paint session at the opening of the Emerald Fox Tattoo Studio in Muizenberg. Photo: Gero Lilleike
An artist sprays in a live spray paint session at the opening of the Emerald Fox Tattoo Studio in Muizenberg, Cape Town. Photo: Gero Lilleike

 

What are we doing to our planet?

A barrel not to be proud of. Photo: Zak Noyle
A barrel not to be proud of. Photo: Zak Noyle

Words by Gero Lilleike

Screwing it up, definitely. There are few things that eek me out as much as seeing images like this coming to the fore. To be honest, I have visualised this image before in my mind and it was only a matter of time before it surfaced for real and guess what, I’m disappointed. This particular image was taken in Indonesia by photographer Zak Noyle on a trip to Java, the full article can be found here.

The sad reality is that this is not only an issue in Indonesia, but in oceans all across the world. Pollution is wreaking havoc to our oceans and its wildlife , yet the majority of the world’s population is oblivious to the fact. For many, this is either old news, or it’s not news at all and life goes on as usual with very little change happening. Who’s to blame? Everyone is to blame. Unfortunately we live in a world ruled by financial gain and greed and the effects thereof are left for nature to deal with, while us humans, the cause of the problem, turn a blind eye even though we lose as a result. It runs much deeper than that though for people know not what they do. Educational and cultural barriers stand tall against the plight of our oceans. Pollution is only one problem facing our oceans but the biggest problem is people. As long as people rape and pillage our seas, the worse off people will be. This affects everyone living on this planet today, no exclusions. Our oceans are screaming at us but its calls go unheard while the fires of industry burn. The power of change lies with us and with us only. There is no way out, this earth will have the last word.

Have something you want to share? Be my guest.

Choosing the right surfboard with Dutchie Surf Designs

A perfect wave offloads somewhere in the Southern Cape, South Africa. What surfboard would you choose to ride on this gem? Photo: Gero Lilleike
A perfect wave offloads somewhere in the Southern Cape, South Africa. What surfboard would you choose to ride on this gem? Photo: Gero Lilleike

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

So, it’s the end of the month and you’re standing in your local surf shop drooling over the slick new surfboards before your eyes and the time has finally come to put your hard earned cash on the counter for a new surfboard, but what do you do? Finding the right surfboard is like finding the right women, it’s flat-out darn difficult but thankfully not impossible. It’s out there, somewhere. There are so many options to consider but what type of surfboard will be best suited to you and your surfing ability? Ultimately, the decision lies with you and you’ll have to consider many factors before making your final decision. To get the ball rolling, you should take the time to think about what type of surfer you want to be, what waves you will be riding and how you want to ride them. That way, you will most likely choose the right surfboard that will satisfy your surfing needs. It’s also useful to remember that there are no hard and fast rules when choosing a surfboard and this is because everyone approaches surfing in their own unique way and everyone will have their own personal preferences. The key however, is to choose a surfboard that will help you achieve your surfing goals while also providing the most enjoyment and satisfaction while you frolic in the surf .

For the sake of finding some answers, I managed to pick the brain of master Cape Town surfboard shaper, Dutchie, of Dutchie Surf Designs to find out more about choosing the right surfboard. Dutchie has been shaping surfboards for over 14 years with an excess of 15 000 surfboards behind his name. With a background in graphic design and an enthusiastic passion for surfing, Dutchie has become highly respected in the surfing industry for his quality workmanship and professional approach to surfboard shaping and his surfboards are being ridden in just about every ocean across the world. Dutchie is a man with a wealth of surfing knowledge and I was eager to step into his office and learn more about these things us humans ride so “gently on the surface of the sea”.

Dutchie hard at work in his den. Photo: Gero Lilleike
Dutchie hard at work in his den. Photo: Gero Lilleike

“Surfing these days is all about volume and your height, weight and surfing level is super important. Surfing also requires timing, balance and rhythm, and like golf, surfing is very organic in that it’s impossible to duplicate a golf shot and no waves are ever the same. The first thing a customer needs to understand is that there are different kinds of surfboards for different kinds of surf and they must decide how much volume they are comfortable with and then look at what type of surfboard is suitable for the waves they will be surfing” explains Dutchie.

Some things to think about before you break the bank

Experience – Are you new to surfing or are you an intermediate or advanced surfer looking for a more challenging ride? Your level of experience will influence your choice in surfboards.

Fitness – The board you choose to ride should be suited to your level of fitness. After all, there’s no point trying to surf a high performance shortboard if you can’t paddle it into waves let alone stand on it.

Body Weight – The dimensions of your surfboard must be suitable for your height and weight.

Waves – The type of board you choose to ride must be suitable for the waves you intend to surf.

Surfboard Dimensions – Optimum surfboard dimensions will give you maximum enjoyment in the surf.

Budget – How much are you willing to spend on a surfboard?


Surfboards for Beginner Surfers

Never surfed before? Well, you’re in for a big surprise as Dutchie puts surfing fitness in perspective perfectly, “The ocean, this unknown element, covers most of the earth’s surface and somehow we feel connected to it. Whenever you see people connect with the ocean, like fisherman and surfers, they don’t let go” explains Dutchie. “There’s a very strong bond to a very powerful energy source that we don’t really know anything about. The first thing you must know about surfing in general is that you are dealing with the ocean. Surfing is quite possibly the most physically demanding sport in the world because it requires so many different elements like flexibility, muscle strength, power and resilience and when you paddling out, you actually paddling against the force of the ocean, so it’s a really physically demanding sport. ”

If you are a complete newbie to surfing, you might want to keep your money warm in your pocket before buying a new surfboard that you may only ride once in a blue moon. Many beginners buy a brand new surfboard only to realise that surfing is not as easy as they initially thought and as a result that surfboard eventually finds its way to the bottom of the junk pile in the garage. If you have surfed a couple of times, you may want to weigh up your commitment to surfing before splashing out on a new surfboard. It might be in your best interest to ‘test ride’ different kinds of surfboards to get a feel for what you enjoy riding, so you may want to visit your local surfboard rental shop to do this before buying your very own surfboard.

What type of surfboard do you want you want to ride? Photo: Dutchie Surf Designs
What type of surfboard do you want you want to ride? Photo: Dutchie Surf Designs

For beginner surfers however, the best surfboards to learn on are longboards and funboards, preferably made of foam, which helps prevent injury while trying to perfect the basics of surfing. As a general rule of thumb, if you are learning to surf, start with a surfboard that has lots of volume for flotation and stability and as your confidence increases you can choose to ride something with less volume and then eventually as your skill level and confidence soars, you can shave more volume off and attempt riding shortboards which typically have less volume, but require more skill and ability to ride them properly .

Surfboards, such as your longboards and funboards, are best suited for learning because of their forgiving length, width and thickness which makes standing and surfing on a wave that much easier for just about any type of surfer. The theory is simple. The longer, thicker and wider the board, the easier it will be to paddle into waves and the easier it will be to actually stand. Longboards however can be unforgiving in terms of handling the board in the surf and are less performance orientated than a shortboard.

“Hybrid Funboards and your Mini Malibu and bigger Fish designs are very much beginner orientated and these boards are designed specifically for flotation, stability and finding your feet and are popular choices for first-time surfboard buyers” explains Dutchie.

If you simply have to buy a surfboard but are unsure about whether surfing is for you, then you may want to consider buying a cheaper second-hand surfboard until you decide whether surfing is something you want to actively pursue. A good second-hand surfboard can go a long way in teaching you the basics of surfing and it won’t be the end of the world if you ding it a couple of times while you learn to surf. However, if you are buying a second-hand surfboard, make sure that it’s in reasonable condition, meaning that it shouldn’t be severely damaged and shouldn’t be full of dings that will take on water and destroy the board over time. If second-hand is not your thing, then by all means, go big and arm yourself with a new surfboard. In the wise words of Dutchie, “There is no such thing as a cheap, good surfboard and no good surfboards are cheap”.

Gero Lilleike digs his rail into a Cape beachie. Photo: Gero Lilleike
Gero Lilleike digs his rail into a Cape beachie. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Surfboards for Intermediate Surfers

Once you have spent sufficient time in the water coming to grips with the basics of surfing and your confidence and ability has improved, you may want to explore new surfboard territory to replace your trusty piece of drift wood that made you love surfing in the first place. As an intermediate surfer, you have probably started learning the basics of wave riding by linking maneuvers together on a wave and you will in all probability be ready to try shorter boards with less volume, but with the advantage of more maneuverability and speed.

Apart from high performance shortboards, the intermediate surfer has various surfboard shapes to experiment with, whether it be the longboard, shortboard, funboard, hybrid, fish or retro, the world is your oyster. However, your final decision should ultimately be based on your surfing ability and the type of waves you are surfing.

Not surprisingly, Dutchie offers sound advice on how to harness your ability and fine tune your wave riding skills, “You need to learn the ocean. The number one problem for people who struggle to progress in surfing is positioning. Every wave has a point A and a point B, where it peaks and where it fades or closes out, and once you position yourself in the right place and catch the wave, the line you ride between those points, and how you approach that wave, that is surfing. Your surfing ability is therefore really important and as you get better, you squeeze that volume out and refine your surfing.”


Surfboards for Advanced Surfers

I’ll go all in and say that an advanced surfer can ride a wave on just about anything, even a plank. Advanced surfers are another breed entirely and if you are lucky enough to be one, you will most likely be throwing yourself into the biggest, most powerful waves on the planet at the drop of a hat, with a fat smile on your face. Dutchie elaborates, “The beginning of advanced surfing is when you starting to control your environment in the ocean. In other words, you start surfing much bigger and more powerful waves. You are handling that, not just surviving, but actually playing in those waves. It’s like when you paddle out and there’s a 8-foot Speedies G-Land freight train coming at you and there’s a guy standing so far back, in the most dangerous position you have ever seen, and you don’t understand why the guy has a big smile on his face while everyone else is running for hills. That’s when you start to master the ocean.”

The high-performance surfboards that advanced surfers ride on a regular basis are designed with a specific purpose and wave in mind and the high level of surfing these guys engage in on any given day is something us amateurs will never comprehend. But one thing remains consistent throughout, no matter what type of surfer you are, it all comes down to what you enjoy, the wave you are surfing and how you going to surf that wave.

An unknown surfer rains buckets at the  long-gone Lookout Superbank in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike
An unknown surfer rains buckets at the long-gone Lookout Superbank in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Surfboards for Big Wave Surfers

Talk about pulling out the big guns! Always remember, if you want to run with the big dogs, don’t piss like a puppy! In big surf, your choice of equipment becomes critical and apart from your surfing ability, it’s the only thing that stands between you and the towering beast that’s about to break on your head. For this very reason, big-wave surfers need to be meticulous about what surfboard they choose to take into big surf.

Every big wave spot in the world will require a specific type of surfboard suited to the wave. Big wave surfboards are commonly known as ‘Big Wave Guns’ or ‘Paddle-in Guns’ and generally range from anywhere between 7 and 11-feet in length, depending on the wave you are surfing. Big Wave Guns are typically long and narrow with healthy volume and exhibit a pointed nose and tail. These typical ‘Big Wave Gun’ characteristics are attributed to the fact that big waves move considerably faster than smaller waves and the time a surfer has to make the drop onto the face of a big wave is significantly reduced and Big Wave Guns therefore allow the surfer to negotiate the critical drop-in section of the wave while generating enough speed to outrun a large breaking wave. Big Wave Guns are not necessarily designed for maneuverability but are more suitable for holding your line and hanging on for dear life. Although, the smaller Guns can be used for doing turns on the face of a big wave, but only if the wave will allow it.

In the words of Laird Hamilton, if you are “surfing in waves too big to paddle into”, then you may want to consider riding a tow-in board which are generally in the six to seven-foot range and are a bit heavier than your average shortboard which helps with stability while flying down the face of a hefty wave. Tow-in boards are usually fitted with foot straps which help the surfer maintain control of speed and chop on the face of the wave. If you plan on tackling big waves, make sure that you are using the right equipment for the wave and conditions and be sure to speak to local surfers and surfboard shapers to get the inside scoop on the best equipment to use, your life may depend on it.

The process of buying a new surfboard may seem daunting considering the vast array of options available on the market, but don’t let that deter you from your mission to find your perfect board. With a guy like Dutchie around you can be sure that you’ll get the best results. Strive to find the surfboard that is best suited to your ability, height, weight and the waves you will be riding. If in doubt, make contact with a reputable surfboard shaper, like Dutchie, and discuss the various options available to you. True to form, here is some parting advice from the legend that is Dutchie on how to choose the right surfboard, “Go to credible people and do your research because the guy who is selling that surfboard to you in the surf shop, he doesn’t have a fucking clue about a surfboard, the shaper does, he’s the doctor, the other guy is the pharmacist and you can get misdiagnosed with the pharmacist.” Most importantly, whatever you do , keep paddling and persevere with your surfing, the ocean has many gifts to give, you just need to make sure that you are there to receive them.

It was was all barrels and fun at the old trusty Lookout Superbank in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
It was all barrels and fun at the old trusty Lookout Superbank in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

A fishy affair at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town

This Longhorn Cowfish struck the perfect pose. Photo: Gero Lilleike
This Longhorn Cowfish struck the perfect pose. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Words and Photos by: Gero Lilleike

The last time I visited the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town was when I was just a little boy, with eyes wide open in awe of all the creatures that make the ocean so special. Many years on and nothing has changed, except for the camera in my hand. I still look on with the same fascination and bewilderment as I did all those years ago.

The background lighting set the scene for an interesting shot. Photo: Gero Lilleike
The background lighting set the scene for an interesting shot. Photo: Gero Lilleike

There is lots to see and learn at the Two Oceans Aquarium and the various exhibits are both educational and fascinating to observe. The Two Oceans Aquarium is also the perfect place to photograph some of the species that call it home. Here are some of my best shots from my visit and be sure to let me know what you think.

The light was hitting this large White Steenbras perfectly. Photo: Gero Lilleike
The light was hitting this large White Steenbras perfectly. Photo: Gero Lilleike

The Two Oceans Aquarium is situated at the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town which is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Cape Town. Whether you want to shop, eat or stare at boats, you can do it all here, just make sure you bring lots of money and a big smile. For more information about the Two Oceans Aquarium visit www.aquarium.co.za

This Ragged-tooth shark was looking rather hungry. Photo: Gero Lilleike
This Ragged-tooth shark was looking rather hungry. Photo: Gero Lilleike

A day on the Garden Route

Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike
Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

I forced my eyes open at 1:30 AM. An hour later my better half and I were driving on the N2 from Cape Town on-route to Plettenberg Bay on South Africa’s world famous Garden Route. The drive to Plettenberg Bay was surprisingly short in the dark and as daylight broke, the scenic Kaaimans Pass in Wilderness lay before us. The morning air was fresh and the scenery full of life, ever-present in the glory of the breaking day. We pushed on through Knysna and then the ‘Bay of Beauty’ welcomed us home. It felt good to be back, even though only for the day.

Unknown surfer scores at Lookout. Photo: Gero Lilleike
Unknown surfer scores at Lookout. Photo: Gero Lilleike

With the warm winter sun on my back, I proceeded into town and made my way to Lookout, which only two years ago was a firing right-hand surf break that I surfed on a regular basis during my 11-month stint working in the region. The Keurbooms River Mouth perfectly sculpted the sandbank at Lookout to create what many surfers in the area believed to be one of the best waves on the Garden Route. Lookout worked best in bigger swell and broke hard, barreling all the way across the river mouth. Paddle fitness proved to be a big factor in the lineup, especially considering the long thrilling rides Lookout offered. The picture above gives you an idea of what Lookout was capable of delivering on a regular basis and it certainly got better than this. Lookout really was an amazing wave and anyone who surfed its gems will toast to that, but sadly Lookout is no more.

The old Keurbooms River Mouth at Lookout. Photo: Gero Lilleike
The old Keurbooms River Mouth at Lookout. Photo: Gero Lilleike

In mid-July 2012 heavy rains in the area forced the Keurbooms River to form a new mouth a few hundred meters up the beach which ultimately brought the world-class right hander to its knees and at a blink of an eye the perfect Lookout wave surrendered itself to the forces of nature. The pictures above and below show Lookout at present and as you can see, the river mouth has now filled out with sand and the wave that brought smiles to so many surfers faces, including my own, is nowhere in sight. I stood there reminiscing and looked out to sea and watched as a whale breached with Mt Formosa standing tall in the background. I smiled for every great memory Plettenberg Bay held for me.

Present day Lookout. Photo: Gero Lilleike
Present day Lookout. Photo: Gero Lilleike

The sun was high and I had to move on to visit some life-long friends I had made during my time in Plettenberg Bay. My first visit was with Brenda Berge, the owner of one of the most beautiful properties in The Crags called Brackenburn Private Nature Reserve. Brackenburn is tucked away in the heart of The Crags and offers superb self-catering country-style accommodation that can’t be matched anywhere in Plettenberg Bay. The surrounding Tsitsikamma forest is well suited for people who want to go ‘Into the Wild’ and experience life in the forest on the banks of the Buffels River, but remember to hike within your means, the terrain here takes no prisoners, I know.

The sun was setting and I waved my goodbyes to Brenda and Brackenburn only to shake hands with Rocky Reeder once more. In 2011, I wrote a travel review entitled Rocky Road to Heaven which showcased Rocky Road Backpackers as a must-visit destination in The Crags and on the Garden Route in general. Almost two years later and fact hasn’t changed. Rocky and Marietjie are still fine hosts as always and if you are looking for the very best backpacker accommodation in The Crags then simply follow the rocky road, there’s no turning back. Oh yes, there’s also an outdoor jacuzzi and a new putting green to rock your world this winter, so enjoy.

Wreck is always beautiful. Photo: Gero Lilleike
Wreck is always beautiful. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Inevitably, my decision to drive through the night caught up with me and I hit my pillow hard as a result. I awoke to a sunny day and decided to go for a quick walk at ‘Wreck’, which is an excellent surf spot in the armpit of Robberg Peninsula. The historical significance of ‘Wreck’ is outlined in my piece entitled The Splendour of Plettenberg Bay and I suggest you read it if you are vaguely interested at all.

Before I could say hello Plett, I was saying goodbye instead and found myself behind the wheel again, slowly making my way down the N2 with Cape Town in my sights. We drove through Wilderness and made a quick stop at Dolphin Point to take some photographs of the surf breaking in perfectly calm conditions. The sheer beauty of this place should make the Garden Route a blatantly obvious destination for anyone planning a trip to South Africa. Your flight is leaving now, get on that plane.

Perfect surf on the Garden Route. Photo: Gero Lilleike
Perfect surf on the Garden Route. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Related Articles

The Otter Trail
Bloukrans Bungy Madness
The Sunday Monkey Bird Walk
In the Jump Zone

Something’s in the Water

Steve Erwin, the artist himself
Steve Erwin, the artist himself

Word and Photo by Gero Lilleike

If you have read The Steve Erwin Interview – The Wave Hunter, then you know that Steve is a talented artist, whether he’s sketching in a notepad, spray-painting on a canvass or making funky T-shirts, his art stands out as being bold and unique. I had the pleasure of witnessing Steve (Stencilworx) in action recently and here’s what he was up to.

What might that be?
What might that be?

When I first saw the canvass, I was confused as to where Steve was going with this piece but he assured me that the stencil was going to ‘pull the whole thing together’. Steve did his work while I watched the canvass come to life and the end result was impressive. “I am going to call it Something’s In The Water” he tells me. “Because it’s the first of many to come,” he adds.

There's Something in the Water by Steve Erwin
There’s Something in the Water by Steve Erwin

Inspiration for the work came from his brother, Gavin Erwin, an excellent all-round fisherman and fishing artist who resides in Johannesburg and also quite possibly from Steve’s recent fly fishing trip to Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway. Steve’s work demonstrates the artistic value of using stencils within the art creation process and in this particular case, adding a whole new level of depth and clarity to this piece while also revealing endless creative possibilities. That creativity often spills off the canvass and onto the chair which is not surprising because art runs deep in the Erwin family. Welcome to the new home of Fish Art…

Steve's Art Throne
Steve’s Art Throne

On the fly at Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway

Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway
Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway

Words by: Gero Lilleike

Photographs by: Gero Lilleike and Steve Erwin

I look at Steve and he smiles, his face is brimming with excitement, I know that look, we’re on the fly. The dirt road leading to Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway is narrow and high with the Holsloot River sparkling in the bright morning sun below. We smile some more, for this very river bears our joy, the elusive Rainbow Trout that lured us here.

A little over an hour and a half passed since leaving Cape Town and after a brief supply visit in the small wining town of Rawsonville, we found ourselves here, in what would make every fly fisherman drool with envy, the Stettynskloof Valley, the perfect setting to test your fly fishing mettle.

Leatherfoot on the fly in the Holsloot River
Leatherfoot on the fly in the Holsloot River

Not only is Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway a superb and well recommended dry-fly fishing venue in South Africa, it’s also an equally superb wedding venue, a place where knots are tied, with the river, mountains and sky bearing witness to the deed. Steve and I however had Improved Clinch knots to tie, and after a friendly welcome we descended on Campsite 6, our trout haven on the banks of the Holsloot River.

We soon discovered that we weren’t alone. On the opposite bank, a male baboon was rustling in the bush and vanished upon sighting us. His bark of disapproval at disturbing his morning tea party followed shortly after. Peace then returned to the Stettynskloof Valley with only the gentle sound of water trickling over rocks to be heard.

Steve strikes the first catch of the day
Steve strikes the first catch of the day

We agreed to fish first and set up camp later considering that the trout would in all likelihood be off the bite in the heat of the day. I came armed with numerous fly patterns suitable for various conditions but opted to start with the Rough And Buoyant (RAB) fly, which is also funnily known as the Red Arsed Bastard. The RAB fly was specifically developed by Tony Biggs, a well-known South African angler, for use in the clear streams that are common in the region and is a must-have fly to carry in your fly-box if you plan on fly fishing in the Western Cape.

Steve's first catch of the day
Steve’s first catch of the day

Unsurprisingly, after only five minutes on the water, with my first cast barely out, I heard Steve shout with enthusiasm as his first trout rose to the occasion and gobbled his fly. Steve’s take set the precedent and he went on to catch three more trout during the day. The hunt was on and we decided to explore and fish the pools further downstream. The trout were breaking water and I neatly presented my RAB on the surface. Two seconds later my first rainbow of the day came to greet me, perfect timing indeed.

The earthy and vibrantly colored Holsloot River was clear and refreshingly cold, offering pleasant respite from the mid-afternoon heat and with the river beside us we had lunch and relaxed under the cool shade of the trees with a semi-cold beer in-hand, discussing our assault tactics for the upcoming ‘evening rise’. The evening shift soon came and we were on the water once more, but this time we weren’t so lucky. The trout weren’t on the bite and activity was scarce, making the situation increasingly difficult to read and somewhat frustrating.

By sunset, we hadn’t caught anything, even after trying various tactics such as changing flies and adapting and refining our casts, our attempts were futile, the trout had the upper hand, for now. A warm fire and well-deserved meal was our reward for the day and with the full Moon overhead and bellies full, we retired to the comfort of our tent for some sleep.

Life is good on the banks of the Holsloot River
Life is good on the banks of the Holsloot River

The trout in the region were introduced in the 1890’s and are wild with no stocking taking place here. The specimens are small, averaging between 10 and 16 inches and light tackle is therefore preferable which will give you the impression of a much larger fish at the end of your line, but only when you manage to hook one. The Holsloot River is somewhat unique in that it’s born from a dam at the head of the valley and the water temperature is a couple of degrees cooler than other streams in the area, making it more fishing-friendly in the hot summer months when other streams are too warm.

Fly fishing paradise
Fly fishing paradise

The sound of the river guided me out of my slumber and I was soon sipping on hot cup coffee and eagerly watching the river for any sign of activity, all was calm, the trout were nowhere to be seen but Steve’s snoring could be heard for miles. It wasn’t long before the sun kissed the mountain peaks and I decided to get my line in the water. After my third cast, I felt a light tug and a nibble, I had landed my second and last trout of the day.

Steve on the morning shift
Steve on the morning shift

We fished for the rest of the morning with no success and pulled all sorts of tricks out the bag, but nothing worked. The trout had enough of us and weren’t going to be gulled again. Our time at Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway had come to an end but at least we would return to Cape Town pleased and satisfied that we experienced the Holsloot River and managed to land some of the Rainbow Trout that call it home.

Happy about that one
Happy about that one

The scenery at Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway is nothing short of phenomenal, with mountains, farmlands and the river creating appealing scenery for anyone and everyone who appreciates nature. The moment you arrive, Dwarsberg grabs you and absorbs you, it truly is a special place that is well worth a visit if you are exploring the Cape Winelands and surrounds. Do yourself a favor and get there, you may very well find that you never want to leave.

For more information about Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway and it’s accommodation options visit http://www.trouthaven.co.za or email info@trouthaven.co.za.

The scenery speaks for itself
The scenery speaks for itself