It's hard to fathom what's happened in Durban. An unprecedented amount of rainfall bombarded one of the world's old-school surf towns, causing mass flooding, destruction and a loss of life unlike anything South Africa has seen in years from a natural disaster.
A storm so powerful, it went on to send swell to Australia, New Zeland, Tahiti – and then it's looking as if it'll send swell on to Fiji, California and Alaska over the next few days. Right now, there are multiple clean up efforts and rescue missions taking place in Durban, how we can all help, here.
Unaware of the scale of destruction at that point, South African charger Matt Bromley was on the beach in Africa's surf city, where he had been busy assessing the conditions for five hours. During that time, messages began filtering through about what was happening along the coast.
“I pulled up to the beach, you know, I'm not from Durban, and wasn't totally sure of the severity of what was happening,” he told MSW. “People were getting messages from friends – the whole highway was completely gone. Cars washed off the highways, homes washed away from mudslides. It was intense knowing that and still thinking about surfing... it was crazy."
Bromley was focussing on the mammoth task ahead of him, waiting for an opening. "I was very aware of how much stuff was in the water. It made it super scary. We didn't know what was out there, there were trees and oil tankers on the beach. If you took a set on the head, you didn't know whether a log was going to hit you.
“It was just myself and Luke Thompson, we walked to the edge of the pier, everything was coming in so hot. We both jumped and got so smoked, Luke got 8-10ft slabs blasting on his head. We managed to get around it and copped about 15 waves on the head. There was crazy big chunks of water out there. But they were blowing their guts out. Had a few rogue pits, wipeouts. Every time we pulled into a barrel it was so dark because of the colour of the water.
“I was riding a 6'6” normally I'd ride a 6'4” out there. Waves are usually super steep in Durban. The bottom drops away and you have to get in there almost vertically so you need that shorter board to make the drop, otherwise you're going to nose-dive. At the same time it was the wildest, by far, I've ever surfed it. It was shifty, really unpredictable – needed that extra couple inches to get to the waves. Had a four fin set up. I did not want to lose my board out there. The water was surging back out to sea. I'll never forget this session.
“I think, we felt lucky to be able to surf. No one got hurt and got some good waves, but we only realised how big the devastation was after the big day. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone who has suffered loss.”
Help support the clean up effort in Durban by going HERE.