This feature is taken from issue #53 - SUBSCRIBE TO KITEWORLD MAG HERE
WORDS & PHOTOS - Jim Gaunt (unless otherwise stated)
INTRO: As a kitesurfer, our main priority is focussed on finding the best winds and conditions when choosing a holiday. Unless of course we have children or family in tow, in which case we'll have to factor in some extra activity requirements. Whatever your situation, Cape Town will work. In fact I could write any number of stories about days spent adventuring around the town or outer Cape country; hell, even the drives will keep you wide-eyed and breathless all day. But the truth is that the best feature I could come up with focusses entirely around the huge number of spots and the electric lifestyle that Cape Town offers. Editing all the rider quotes you'll find over in this article by those who've chosen to live there, or pro riders who've ridden the world over but choose to head here every summer season, has left my heart beating with longing for my next trip.
I'm clearly not the only person who thinks that the variety of riding, off-the-water activities and cultural opportunities make it the best place in the world for a kite trip.
QUOTE: FRED KLOREN, DIRECTOR & SHAPER AT XELERATOR KITEBOARDS
'I graduated from university in 1998 and decided I deserved a little holiday break, so came down to Cape Town for three months to windsurf before joining the rat race, but already knew that sometime soon it would be my new home. That trip to Cape Town was mind blowing. If you've seen the movie, 'The Hangover 2' movie, well that was us, but with a lot of windsurfing added in.
'I returned for six months each year for several years, working for the other six months as an Industrial Automation Engineer, designing control software for paper machines and ended up travelling extensively. I actually had no life for those six month periods, living out of a suitcase far away from any beach. In 2004 my employer decided that it was no longer a 'good idea' to let me go for six months as it was difficult to schedule the work in. I resigned the next day and three days later I was on the plane to Cape Town, my house in Holland was up for rent and the rest is history!
CAPTION - Abel Lago, Haakgaat
'Cape Town is arguably the best place for gear development. Every year we see more and more brands here working on prototypes. A major reason for this must be the diversity when it comes to testing conditions; we have everything from perfect flat water freestyle set-ups to fantastic wave spots and everything in between. What Cape Town is probably more famous for though is it's strong Cape Doctor Southeaster wind, and often tough conditions. The harder the conditions, the better the testing, though. If a board works well in harsh difficult conditions it will work even better elsewhere. Durability is very important when it comes to riding here, and we find out what works.
'The Cape Town lifestyle is like nothing I've experienced before. Capetonians are very sociable and need no excuse to get together, just to spend time, watch the rugby or host a braai. Eating out here is still very affordable and at the end of my perfect day I'll go for dinner with my wife at one of our many great restaurants for excellent food and a few drinks.'
CAPE POINT TO TOWN
CONDITIONS AND SET-UP
Head north from the very tip of the south peninsula's Cape wildlife reserve, hang a left and you'll head down to the infamous Cape Point. Huge, roaring waves crash in at the spot of choice for many a big wave man. Perfectly cross-shore and very smooth for their size, the conditions here can be at a level you won't find anywhere else. Rig up amongst the wildlife and head out to battle. Drive north back along the stunning road towards Chapman's Peak, through Witsands, Scarborough and Misty Cliffs; a string of world-class and occasionally extreme, but very atmospheric and beautiful wave riding spots. Requiring a bit more of a drive around town to get to if you're staying in Table View - as most kiters tend to - you don't get so many riders here; just the hardcore. You're also less likely to get a rescue if you need one, so be careful. But if you're up for it you'll experience some life affirming wave rides here. Top tip: head to Elands Bay on the SW'ers when there is decent swell forecast.
QUOTE: PETER STIEWE, BEST KITE DESIGNER
'We first visited South Africa for gear testing three years ago. Travelling from Brazil it was quite a change, especially in terms of the cold Atlantic water temperature. South Africa really reminded me of Western Australia, but with so many different spots with brilliant conditions packed much closer together, it also had the undeniably special feel of Africa.
'Now, along with other members of the Best test team, I spend the whole season in South Africa as the conditions allow us to regularly test kites from 3.5 to 17 metres. Whichever spots you choose to stay near, you're never a long drive from Cape Town, which is great, especially when spending such a long time here. The variety of fantastic restaurants, events, concerts and more are real treats to have so close to so many brilliant kite spots. I can't think of anywhere else so well equipped for when the wind stops or night falls.
'Depending on the wind conditions, we usually try to kite at Scarborough or Witsands. The scenery is spectacular and these spots seem to catch more swell, but they are not a particularly safe spot to kite. The deep ocean with big fish meets a rocky coastline. The wind can be quite offshore at the windward side of the bay and often over 30 knots. If you're good enough and score it when it's firing though, you'll never forget it. I don't really have a favourite spot though, my favourite thing about South African riding is simply the variety. Follow a session with some biltong and a Windhook beer and I'm in heaven.'
SUNSET BEACH DOLPHIN BEACH (AKA: KITE BEACH) AND BIG BAY
- THE NORTHERN PENINSULA SPOTS)
CONDITIONS AND SET-UP
Milnerton is technically the first beach you hit heading north from Cape Town on the R27 towards the main kiting strip, but the first popular kiting beach you'll hit is Sunset Beach. Backed by beautiful property developments, Sunset is the first of these northern beaches to get the wind. As soon as the Table Cloth (and often before) starts to lay across Table Mountain and the Sou'Easter Cape Doctor kicks in, it will be windy at Sunset. Really popular with windsurfing wave riders the conditions are more cross-off here than any of the other spots and so a bit gusty on the inside, but the waves kick up nicely for a good few hits. There are a few car parks to choose from - windsurfers tend to fill out the upwind car parks, where the wind's a bit gustier anyway, so smile as you head to join the other kiters at the more downwind car parks.
If you want to ride as much as possible, this should be your first port of call, but more often than not, it's only a matter of time before the wind fills in at Dolphin beach and Big Bay, which are more popular and properly cross-shore. Kamers lies just downwind of the rocks at Big Bay and can be a perfect place to hone your wave riding skills as the waves are generally more friendly than most other spots. They've still got some size mind you, and can get busy. Respect the order and people trying to ride waves and, as the beach is long, remember you can spread right the way along it!
QUOTE: AARON HADLOW, FIVE TIME WORLD CHAMPION AND HADLOW PRO BY FLEXIFOIL GEAR DEVELOPER
'I first went out to Cape Town in 2001 with my parents. We ended out going out there for six months as my dad had always wanted to check it out and we were looking for a warm, windy place to ride over the winters. I hadn't travelled much so didn't really know what to expect. I remember finishing my school work though and then just loving spending the rest of the day kiting or on the beach. It was windy almost everyday and I spent every minute I could on the water.
'Cape Town might not always have the perfect kiting conditions, but to have the amount of wind it has and the challenging conditions surrounding that city is amazing. It is actually similar to England in many ways; there are lots of different conditions to find, you can wakeboard, the food is amazing and there's good places to go out in the evening. My parents live out there now, so it's kind of like home, too. I also enjoy being based out of one place for a while and tend to stay in Cape Town for over three months at a time, which is a luxury for me. The quality of life out there is brilliant and I never get bored.
'Big Bay isn't always the best option for a session for what I want, but maybe five times in the season I'll get it golden. I've had some of my best ever sessions there in the evenings with smooth nine metre winds and the most ridiculous kickers that curve in through the bay allowing you to pick the angle you want to hit them at. At some point on most days it works well for freestyle as, although there's often waves, there are generally lovely flat sections on the inside and some sort of kickers.'
QUOTE: RUBEN LENTEN, BEST PRO RIDER
'I made it out to Cape Town for the first time in 2005 and have been back for training every year since, staying with Aaron or my good friend and Cape Town local, Greg Thijjse. The conditions and the lifestyle just keep me coming back for more.
'Three months just flies by; there is so much to do, on and off the water - you're just enjoying yourself non-stop. The wind can crank in Cape Town in summer, that's for sure. Dolphin Beach gets perfect cross-shore wind and the kickers roll in pretty good too. Doing a downwinder from Sunset and finishing at Doodles bar on the front and then heading in, still in your wetsuit for happy hour sun down beers is just the ticket. I could do this everyday. There's no wonder a lot of people do - and you can just thumb a lift back down the road. My favourite spot is Big Bay though, just because of the memories on and off the water. I've thrown some of my biggest mega loops there and will never forget them.
'The veggies and meats are insane in SA. I'll usually have a big salad and a huge steak after a nice session before heading into town for the evening. The pretty ladies in Cape Town don't go unnoticed; there are tons of models from all over the world during 'modelling season' in the summer, and what's not to like about that?
'Of course the main pull for me are the epic, full-on winds. If you want to go huge it's the only place to be. A lovely place for natural highs!'
QUOTE: RUI MEIRA, BEST DEVELOPMENT RIDER
'My perfect day in Cape Town starts with a breakfast at Carlucci's which is right opposite Dolphin beach, allowing me to check out what the day is offering. In fact, if you sat there most of the day, you'll probably bump into most pro riders at some point! Maybe I'll go for a surf session in the morning or a kite at Sunset before the wind fills in elsewhere. The space between the waves is amazing so there are kickers on the way out and flat water coming in. It's great for wave riding or freestyle.
'You just never know what you're in for though, and that's why I love it so much; everyday is different. I always take a break for lunch at Big Bay to see how the rest of the day will play out. Maybe we'll kite at Big Bay or head back to Sunset if the wind still hasn't picked up at Big Bay. Alternatively, if the wind is now too strong we might head inland to the 'vlei' (lake) for some flat water freestyle or up to Langebaan. There's always an option for every level of kiter.'
'I just can't say enough about how much I love Cape Town and the opportunities you get to meet old friends and new people as well as experiencing all that a city like that has to offer. It's the most European city I've ever been outside of europe.'
THE NORTHERN BEACHES
CONDITIONS AND SET-UP
Haakgat, Melkbos and more. Haakgat is just a ten minute drive north of Big Bay up the R27 coast road. All that marks its existence from the road is a small, dusty car park on the left. If it's windy and going off you'll see cars parked up, spilling out of the park onto the road. I had my biggest wave session of last winter here and was where we tested the surfboards for issue #50. Word spreads quickly when it's 'on' here and you'll find some of the world's best and most hungry wave riders shredding when the waves start rolling in. There are rips, currents and big waves, so avoid if you're not really confident, unless you want to just sit and watch some breathtaking waves precisely hacked to bits by seasoned pros, of course. Melkbos, another 20 minutes up the road is a huge, wide open beach that is the best option when the bay spots have gone proper 'nuclear' as they can often do. The other good thing about Melkbos is that it always picks up swell, even when it's small everywhere else. Always keep an eye on the forecast, and sometimes you might have to be out early in the morning to get the most suitable conditions for you. The beauty of Cape Town is that you almost hope for no wind some days so you can rest your body and do some other activities. Often on a two week holiday, you won't get chance of no wind days though, so take advantage of exploring the Cape when it's too windy instead! Cape Lesson: Know your limits and there's always tomorrow!
CAPTION - Peter Petersen, Haakgat / PHOTO - Al Nicol - www.alnicoll.com
QUOTE: RALF BACHSCHUTER, EX-PRO WINDSURFER, KITESURF BOARD SHAPER, CAPE TOWN
'Volkswagen South Africa invited me to take part in a windsurfing competition called Gunston and the GTI in Cape Town in 1985. The conditions were so good my friends and I went back almost every year since. Besides the kiting, Cape Town offers a fantastic lifestyle. I was lucky enough to buy a house in 1995 (after apartheid) when it was still cheap, but it's still not too expensive to live here. There is a good music scene, cool bars and restaurants, great mountain biking, surfing and good people.
'I try to wake up early and start my day with a good, healthy breakfast, including lots of fruit before checking Windguru to see what the wind and waves are doing. According to the strength of the wind forecast and the size of the waves, I'll choose my spot for the day. Haakgat is a really good running wave when it's over two metres, especially from low tide towards high. A peak on the left hand side breaks right in front of the rocks and can connect to the right, giving you really long rides. The wind is steady and a little offshore too, shaping the waves beautifully.
'I also like kiting towards town at the Milnerton lighthouse when the swell is really big and Kamers always works well when not too big elsewhere (but it gets very busy and a lot of kiters don't seem to understand anyway rights of way - let the guys ride their waves and stay out the way!) Scarborough and Misty Cliffs are great when the wind comes in right and when it's not too gusty and the waves are under three metres. We have onshore winds (Muizenberg), side-shore, big waves, small waves, light winds as well as gale force winds consistently blowing at so many different kite spots. You can't get bored kiting here.'
'As well as designing boards, I love the beautiful light for photos, easy access to the breathtaking African landscape, perfect temperature day and night and being surrounded by good friends. Cape Town gives me all I could want.'
CONDITIONS AND SET-UP
Langebaan is a small fishing town 90 minutes drive up the R27 out of Cape Town. It has some of the best flat water conditions in the area and warm waters too, so has obviously now grown as a busy kite village in the summer months. Two main spots are Main Beach and Shark Bay. Main Beach is a quality cross-shore beach at the end of the main street, so nice and easy for food and drinks in between sessions. Shark Bay is a five minute drive over the hill, bringing you round the corner of the same stunning flat water lagoon set amongst one of the most beautiful kite scenes you'll ever ride in. The wind blows more onshore at Shark Bay, so you have to walk off the beach a bit to get going, but it's just stunning. Winds are consistent in Langebaan and perfect for learning or improving. If you're put off by the sometimes ferocious conditions in Cape Town, find riding sanctuary and a lot of fun up here.
QUOTE: JO WILSON, NAISH PRO RIDER
'South Africa was the first kitesurf trip I went on. I saved some money and booked a couple of months out there to train. I ended up staying in Langebaan the whole time, which was just perfect; a nice, quiet place but with enough going on where you can kitesurf your heart out. I really like the vibe here; a little more relaxed than some of the city spots with a few bars and restaurants and a lot of kitesufers to hang out with. Plus, town is just 90 minutes back down the road if you fancy some more excitement. Langebaan is my favourite place in South Africa to kite. The winds blow consistently over a huge lagoon and the conditions are safe and regular with flat water and less aggressive wind than down in the city. I've spent many months over there with very few no wind days. It's so reliable and safe that I now run coaching holidays there in February to help others improve their level too. (www.jowilsoncoaching.com)
'Now when I step off the plane at Cape Town International I get a sense of calm; as if I've arrived home. The climate is phenomenal; hot enough to not think of the temperature and cool enough at night to wrap up in just a thin duvet. I love the consistency of the wind and the fact that you can exhaust yourself day in and day out. I love the regular people who go there every winter and the people that kite there year round. It has a really happy and welcoming atmosphere and plenty of opportunities to do other activities if kitesurfing gets too much. South Africa is epic and draws me back year after year.'
MUIZENBERG TO KNYSNA
CONDITIONS AND SET-UP
Muizenberg lies southeast of town, on the Indian Ocean side of the Cape and its warmer waters mark the start of your Garden Route journey. Muizenberg is just 20 minutes drive from the City and 45 minutes from the northern beaches, but is already way quieter for kiting than the northern peninsula. Cross-onshore, these will be more like the conditions you're probably used to coming from Europe. Very shabby-chic, Muizenberg is becoming more and more fashionable for city holidaymakers because of its rustic nature and elegantly rough charm around the edges. There's still a rawness and edge to the vibe here, but it's lovely and you can head from here, through Simon's Town and then through the hills to the other side of the Cape for one of the most stunning drives you'll ever have, stopping for food, drinks, markets and even to swim with penguins (at Simon's Town). Head east instead and you're onto the much fabled Garden Route and all kinds of wonderful driving adventures as you make your way into the vast South African countryside. Pull in at Witsands (there are a few spots with the same name!) along the way for some sublime, uncrowded flat water action (where Hadlow filmed this amazing video with William Milne: www.kiteworld.tv/prime-cuts/hadlowproject27-15/). There's loads of good value accommodation here in South Africa's biggest whale nursery and sleepy village if you get a good forecast and fancy a couple of days in flat water heaven. Continue another four hours east until you get to Sedgefield/Knysna and hook up with the guys from PilliPilli for more unbelievable kiting experiences, downwinders and general outdoor adventure.
QUOTE: BAS KOOLE, AIRUSH TEAM RIDER
'Airush are based in Muizenberg, it's a little bit quieter in terms of kiting on that side of the cape, so they get some space to work in peace and the conditions are more 'real world'. The office has a perfect sea view, so we can always see as soon as the conditions get good. Muizenberg was the first home of surfing in Cape Town, but for freestyle it also provides good conditions with a lot of flat water between the waves and loads of space.
'It's hard to say which my favorite spot in Cape Town is because everyday is different and different spots work at different times. I like Big Bay a lot because of the nice kickers and flat water between, but sometimes it can be gusty and pretty crowded. To be sure of the perfect freestyle session I'll get in the car and drive the hour or so to 'Brandvlei', an inland lake with a mysterious feel and lush, warm water.
'One thing you can be sure of finding if you want it in South Africa are some mega over-powered sessions on your seven metre, resulting in huge jumps off the natural ramps. It's worth taking your five metre too if you have one and are staying for a while. You'll get to use it!'
QUOTE: SEBASTIAN CATTELAN, GENETRIX AND XELERATOR PRO RIDER, FIRST RIDER OVER 50 AND 55 KNOTS AND ORGANISER OF LUDERITZ SPEED EVENT
'Back in 2001 Wipika was the only kite shop on the sea front in Table View in front of 'Kite Beach' (where the Best shop is now). There were very few people riding there, so we'd head to Big Bay where the surfers always wanted to fight us, but we took all the waves and then all the chicks, and now we don t hear from them anymore!
'Cape Town offers me the best compromise for how I want to live and you never know what's going to happen: you might get a baboon stealing food from your car or meet a Springbok in the road in the middle of the night. Alternatively, you could do as I did and rent a 24 tonne excavator, head to Namibia and dig a canal to sail faster with your kite than a €20 million French boat. I like the spirit of the people here; they are survivors but are relaxed because there's always hope.
'You can ride anything here, and it gets even better when you can choose the right gear for the right discipline in the right conditions. My favourite spot is Luderitz in the south of Namibia. I drive through the night to get there when the wind is more than 40 knots and ride my speed track the next day. Otherwise I train for speed at Sunset Beach when the sou'easter is blowing like hell, riding fast over the flat sections in-between the waves. I actually broke 50 knots there down-the-line?
'Everything started in Africa and you can feel that everywhere. I love to take my bike and discover incredible landscapes or visit the largest elephant farms in Knysna where the land gets even more green and beautiful. For testing, there is no better place in the world from October to March. Most pro-riders or industry figures come to Cape Town at least once in the season, or every other season. The diversity of all the spots provide an unbelievable amount of opportunities for any rider and any wind sport business. Get all your testing done in a day. It's the Silicone Valley of kiteboarding!
CAPTION - Brandvlei / PHOTO - Ydwer.com
Cape Town is much safer now than it was when I first visited in 2000, but there's still a raw edge, which a lot of people have learnt to embrace. I used to feel naked coming from such a mollycoddled society in Europe, but now can't help but feel alive and excited about every day. Cape Town is a fantastic place to adventure, but if it's your first time, don't be alarmed, but do speak to some locals and pick up as much advice as you can from them before heading off on your own. Even better, join a group. Most kites shops offer surfari services etc.