South Africa offers some serious, world-class surfing with two oceans (Indian and Atlantic) delivering grinding swells to a vast expanse of coastline extending all the way from the Namibian border on the arid west coast to the Mozambique border at the far northern corner of the sub-tropical east coast. Surfers should pack 4mm wetsuits for the west coast, 3mm wetsuits for the south and southeast coastlines and a shorty for the winter months along the Kwazulu-Natal coastline.
The West Coast, extending from Cape Town up to the Namibian border, receives reasonably consistent Atlantic swells. The cold Benguela current predominates in this area and it is common for surfers to wear a hoody and booties, particularly in the summer months when upwelling can bring surface water temperatures down to 53ºF (12ºC). Surfing spots abound in the vicinity of Cape Town and crowding is usually not a big factor. Key breaks include Llandudno, Noordhoek, Long Beach, Outer Kom, Kalk Bay and Muizenberg (a tame wave, perfect for beginners). There are a number of surf schools located in Muizenberg and many amateurs and intermediate surfers frequent them. About three-hour's drive up the west coast is Elands Bay with its classic left hand point break as well as some other good beach breaks in the vicinity.
The Garden Route is a region of South Africa blessed with great right hand point breaks and warmer water than the west coast, due to the temperate Agulhus current flowing through the Indian Ocean. Surfing highlights dotted along this stretch of coast include Stilbaai, Mossel Bay, Victoria Bay, Cape St Francis and the famous Jeffrey's Bay (J-Bay), providing the perfect excuse for a road trip. They all have right-hand point break setups and are best visited in the winter months when swells are more consistent and winds more often offshore. Jeffrey's Bay is often regarded as the best right-hand breaking wave in the world, although one may well encounter crowding and fierce locals, of both the human and fish variety.
The Wild Coast (known as the Transkei during the Apartheid era) extends from East London to the southern border of Kwazulu-Natal. As the name implies, the area is largely undeveloped and road access to the coast is generally poor. There are some epic and well-known right hand point setups such as Coffee Bay and Mdumbe, but generally many of the spots are kept under wraps as 'secret reef and beach breaks' for those willing to explore the region.
The epicentre of the South African surfing industry is located in Durban, on the sub-tropical east coast, an area bathed by the warm waters of the Mozambican current. Ditch your wetsuit, but expect crowds. Good beach breaks in the Durban area include New Pier and North Beach, while heavy reef breaks such as Cave Rock will test even the most experienced surfers in an area known as the Bluff. Further north, Umhlanga Rocks, Ballito and Richards Bay are all blessed with consistent waves in the winter months.