Every year, around this time, the temperature starts plummeting in South Africa, and the cold fronts begin bashing the Cape Of Storms.
With them comes giant and ferocious westerly swells that smash the Cape before drifting around the corner at Cape Point and heading up the east coast.
As they travel, they get further groomed by the fierce winds pushing them up the coast. Starting off northwest, these winds shift slightly to the southwest and reach JBay and St Francis Bay, where the swell lines start bending into the points and feeling the offshores.
Sometimes the winds are too strong, and the bulk of the swell heads on past, marching towards Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth). Still, other times, when there is enough angle in the swell, it turns onto the points, and the whole area lights up, with JBay being the jewel in the crown. The area gets crowded, but there is quite a lot of space to move apart from Supertubes. There are other waves in the area. The actual point has Impossibles, Coins Tubes, Point Albatross, and Boneyards. Magnatubes, Kitchen Windows and a few lesser surfed corners and sections are just around the corner.
JBay has been relatively quiet for a while now. This is because very few visitors are getting in due to our COVID status
A few weeks ago, there were all the signs of a cracker swell heading for Supers. Unbelievably, it was paired with a magnificent swell hitting Indo and some huge surf destined to make landfall in Western Australia. There was no real connection to the swells, just a great indication that winter was here and that the cycle had started again. (See here!)
JBay has been relatively quiet for a while now. This is because very few visitors are getting in due to our COVID status. Many people do not want to take chances in South Africa. The result wasn't necessarily fewer people in the water, but maybe a better vibe, with everyone seeming a little more chilled this season, just stoked to be getting into the water.
A few surfers made the pilgrimage from Cape Town and even less from Durban. It wasn't great, but everyone managed a few sessions and got a few waves under the belt. Then most people headed on out of town, but the waves didn't.
It wasn't epic Supers or great JBay, but there sure were some waves to be ridden for the mere mortals, and there were fewer people around than usual. This went on for a few days. The surf vacillated between 3 to 4-foot, with the odd five-foot sets on specific pushes of the swell train.
And swell train it was because it didn't get huge, it doesn't need to, but there were waves every day for a ridiculously long run. Sessions turned into days, and days turned into weeks. Fun waves stacked up at the top of the 300m section known as Supers before winding down the point to all the other stoked surfers waiting on their favourite little pieces of the reef.
Everyone was living in the moment, paddling out for a quick session in average to above-average waves, getting wet, and keeping their respective dreams alive, every day.
It was only in retrospect that a few people started noticing that they had been surfing every day for weeks, that there had been something to ride every day for as long as they could remember.
JBay has unusual seasons. In the 80's it responded to the El Nino cycle by hardly firing for the good part of three years. This even saw some ex-pat residents selling up their houses and looking elsewhere for their Endless Summer.
Some years, when the storms are too big and too close, it seems that every swell is too big and washing through the bay, causing an impossible current to battle against. Then you get years like this, touch wood, that consistently churns out waves of 3 to 4 foot for those lucky enough to be in the hood and to have enough time on their hands.
Last week saw some bigger waves fly down the point. A few visitors took advantage of the surf and the locals joining in, but definitely not as hungry as earlier on in the season. Nevertheless, waves were given away, there was mutual cheering, and good vibes existed. Koa Smith, who has been hanging in Cape Town, popped up for the quick swell and scored a few and went out for a surf in boardshorts in what was definitely not boardshorts weather. Other surfers spotted out there included Shaun Joubert, Adin Masencamp and a host of others.
It changes quickly in the area, though. The wind swung into the devil wind northerlies, it went flat, and it looks like it's settling in for a few weeks. Unfortunately, the area is struggling under a massive drought. It is hard to tell if we're going to get the big cold fronts coming through or if we're going to continue with the middling weather and swell conditions.
Either way, those that have been on it have been surfing long and hard, and for them, the pressure of winter is already off.