Will the monster waves arrive in Hout Bay for the Red Bull Big Wave Africa Surfing Competition (July-August) at Dungeons reef, or not? And will this competition even take place anyway? The website says it’s “In Hibernation”. Do you know what they are waiting for?
Could it be the huge breakers with the power of an entire ocean behind them, created during huge storms in the Roaring Forties of the icy South Atlantic? When Dungeons waves are ‘cooking’, they are said to be the best in the world and are certainly the biggest ride able waves in Africa. It takes a highly skilled surfer or a complete lunatic (preferably a mixture of both) to brave these waters when the big rollers come in.
During this event’s first six years, the waves were only radical enough to hold the competition on two occasions. If the wait is too long, surfers will compete in what they consider ‘baby waves’ at about five metres high, but are hoping for really big breaks, which can reach the height of a five story building. Competitor Mickey Duffus noted in 2008, “I looked around and saw this wall of white water, the biggest I’ve ever had to deal with.”
It all started in 1999 when South African surfers started winning big wave competitions. Where were they practicing? Red Bull found out and initiated the first big wave surfing event in Africa, staged at the largely unknown Dungeons of Hout Bay. They invited six top South African surfers each from Durban and Cape Town, but no international invitees. The September spring weather was not the best time for catching the big Atlantic swells, but not wanting to wait another day, the Durban surfers illegally jumped off the Nauticat for a session in the 15-foot plus waves. The Cape Town six refused because it was ‘onshore’ and “you don’t do Dungeons when it’s onshore”. They had a lot to learn and even though the waves did not arrive and the competition was shelved, the experience was invaluable.
One of the most memorable rides of the next season’s competition was when Sean Holmes, in his own words, ‘not a big wave surfer’, made an insane drop and surfed the wave from the back. Then as the wave jacked and curled on the inside, he slid into one of the hairiest, most celebrated barrels of Dungeons’ history. Sean Holmes scored the first 10 point ride and won the first ever Red Bull Big Wave Africa.
These waves are known for power and ability to scare even the most hardened surfer and attract the best big wave surfers in the world. The competition is not easy to watch though, as there is no coastal path to get to a viewpoint and you have to climb up the Sentinel Mountain with a good pair of binoculars or be on a boat. You certainly don’t want to be on a surfboard unless you are ranked as one of the best big wave surfers in the world.
Is it going to happen this year? Tell us what you know.