An insider’s guide to Jeffreys Bay, South Africa

Jeffreys Bay in full cry for this week's Supertrials event. The winner was granted a wildcard spot in the Jeffreys Bay Pro. Photo Luke Patterson
Jeffreys Bay in full cry. Photo by Luke Patterson

The Jeffreys Bay Pro in South Africa returns in July after a two-year break from the ASP World Tour, so GrindTV is taking an in-depth look at the wave universally known as one of, if not the, best wave in the world.

The location: The break and the town of Jeffreys Bay lie about an hour’s drive from the city of Port Elizabeth, pretty much smack bang in the middle between Cape Town and Durban. The wave itself has been surfed since the early ’60s, the longboard pioneers discovering the end sections perfect for their heavy logs. However, as time progressed, and surfboards became shorter and more maneuverable, the focus soon moved up to the aptly named Supertubes—the barreling 400-yard section that you have mostly seen in videos and photos.

Optimal conditions: A 6- to 8-foot swell is best with light offshore southwest winds. Both of these are common from May to September. By paddling through the key hole, which, granted, is a big “if,” you can even be in the lineup with dry hair. Sets can come with six waves, each wave a mirror image of the last, with five-second tubes the norm. It’s also a known scientific fact that you will never travel as fast on a surfboard as you will if you catch a 6-foot wave at Supertubes.

The catch: Catching a 6-foot wave at Supers can sometimes be a frustratingly difficult task. While the constant flow of tourists to Jeffreys Bay will always ensure a crowd, the locals’ response to this endless invasion will probably cause you the most frustration. Known as Jeffreys Bay Underground (JBU), these locals are a close-knit group of hardcore surfers who match intense talent and Jeffreys Bay knowledge with some good old-fashion localism. Luckily, by showing them respect, and with the wave so long and so consistent, it is still possible to have the best surf of your life, day after day after day.

Supertrials winner Dylan Lightfoot speeds through the Impossibles section of Jeffreys Bay. Photo Luke Patterson
Dylan Lightfoot speeds through the Impossibles section of Jeffreys Bay. Photo by Luke Patterson

The breaks: If the action at Supertubes is too intense, there are plenty of other sections offering world-class waves and a more mellow vibe. After Supertubes comes Impossibles, before sections known as “Tubes,” “Point,” and the “Albatross,” which all offer set takeoff zones, less crowds, and long, wally fun waves. There is also a range of quality waves at the underrated Magna Tubes just round the corner and Kitchen Windows about a mile further up. The perhaps overrated Cape St. Francis and Seal Point are also super fun righthand points, with Seal Point needing nowhere near as much swell as Jeffreys.

Accommodation: Island Vibe, in front of the break Kitchen Windows, is at an amazing location, although it is a bit of a walk from Supers. Also try Ubuntu, Hard Rock, and Phoenix for cheap beds and great times.

Watch out for: Sharks are abundant, large, and sighted all too regularly. Avoid on dark surfs and never, ever surf on your own—no matter how enticing it looks.

Boards: The full quiver, from fish, shortboard to big guns, all aimed at down-the-line speed. This wave has serious range, and paddling power is always handy.

Rubber: In winter a 4/3 is a minimum requirement, with booties a necessity, and gloves and hoods often worn by locals.

Out of the water: J-Bay has a thriving backpacker scene and attracts surfers from all over the world. For bars try the Moroccan Lounge and The Lounge.

Flat day fun: On a flat day a safari though the Addo Elephant Park is a must—the park being one the Eastern Cape’s biggest with all of Africa’s big game on display.

Check out the teaser for the Jeffreys Bay Pro, which starts on July 10:
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