A Complete Beginners' Guide to Surfing in Muizenberg, Cape Town

A complete guide to surfing in Muizenberg, Cape Town

I’m obviously a big fan of the ocean. I grew up boogie boarding off the coast of Natal on family holidays. As an adult, I always wanted to learn to surf but never quite had the opportunity. On a holiday in Cape Town (before I moved there) I finally had the chance to give it a bash. 

Where is the Best Place to Surf in Cape Town for Beginners?

My first attempt at surfing took place in Muizenberg located in False Bay. With its gradual gradient and consistent gentle sand-bottomed waves, it’s considered one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf. It’s also a great place for more experienced surfers to hone their skills, especially longboarders.  

Unlike other parts of South Africa, Muizenberg is located in the chilly Atlantic Ocean which means you will have to wear a wetsuit (and the water will still give your feet an ice-cream headache), but it's worth it.  The sharks in these waters also tend to be the 'Great White' variety BUT, other than that, if you're a complete novice and you feel like giving it a bash Muizenberg Beach is the place to go!

The History of Surfing in Muizenberg:

  • Muizenberg is considered the birthplace of South African surfing. The earliest photo of anyone upright on a surfboard featured Heather Price (yes, a lady) at Muizenberg in 1919. 
  • According to the Guardian, while promoting the British Empire Exhibition of 1924, Agatha Christie (the famous writer and, yes, another woman) visited Muizenberg in 1922. At that time she was introduced to 'prone surfing' which means 'surfing lying down' (like boogie boarding but not boogie boarding). When she later ended up in Hawaii, she ended up surfing standing up (or as we call it 'surfing') and is considered one of the first British people who learnt how to do that. It is tricky! (How I wish surfing and publishing success were related!)

If you have never tried to surf before, here is a step-by-step explanation on how to surf, based on my own very first attempt: 

My Experience 

How to Surf in Seven Easy Steps:

(This next section was stolen from a previous post before I had surf lessons in Costa Rica. If you know how to surf and you're looking for practical information, it's in here, just skip ahead.)

Surfing in Muizenberg, Cape Town

1. First, rent a wetsuit
It restricts your movement and makes even walking difficult! 

2. Then rent a board
Pick up the biggest, longest, heaviest board because that will make things “easier”.

If the size of your board is oppositely proportionate to your level of skill, this is a pretty accurate representation of my surfing abilities:

3. Walk it to the beach
Being the biggest, your surfboard also creates the most wind resistance. This makes it even harder to walk the heavy thing down to the beach in your restrictive wetsuit, especially without accidentally hitting a few people with it and possibly taking out some small children.

4. Wade into the water
If you followed the first three steps correctly, by the time you are far enough out to catch any waves, you’re probably already tired. 

5. Lie on the board (facing the beach) and wait for a wave
“Waiting” sounds misleadingly non-active. Between gripping the board with your feet, maintaining your balance (as you are battered with crap waves) and craning your neck (to look for a good wave) it actually takes a lot of work. You also have to make sure that your balance is not too far forward or back because that could ruin things later. And, the longer you wait, the more you drift towards the beach (which is counterproductive). 

6. Catch a wave
When you see a good one coming your way, you have to start paddling like crazy with your arms so that it catches you. If you time it wrong, the wave will just pass over you.

7. Surf 
When you are confident that the wave has got you and your arms are so tired that they feel like they’re going to fall off, you have to do a pushup/yoga salutation/half-burpee thing (don’t ask me how I know what that is, I so don’t gym) to get from lying down to standing up. You also have to position your feet along the beam-thing in the middle (there’s probably a name for that) and maintain your balance the whole time.

At least that’s the theory!

Whether you get it right or wrong, you then get to go back to point 4 and repeat. 

Muizenberg multi-coloured beach huts

So far, I have successfully made it up to point 6. (I know it's hard to believe, but that picture at the top has been photoshopped!) It turns out that doing the YMCA multiple times a day (during my cruise ship years) is actually not enough to build up the upper body strength required to complete this whole process. 

I did manage to kneel though, so that’s a win. I made it one step further than Agatha Christie did on her last visit to Muizenburg and I also didn’t get eaten by any great white sharks. I’m definitely going to try this again but first I’m going to do some pushups …lots of pushups! 


The Practical Stuff

What do you Need for Surfing in Cape Town?

  • A surfboard - with a leash (one of those straps that go around your ankle)
  • A wetsuit
  • A 'swimming costume' if you're South African or a 'bathing suit' if you're from anywhere else (to wear under your wetsuit)
  • Bio-degradable but waterproof sunscreen for whatever sticks out of your wetsuit. (The South African sun can be harsh.) 

Not necessary but possibly helpful:

  • Booties 
  • Board wax (If you're renting, you probably don't need to worry about this)
  • A hood (if you're really not a fan of the cold)
  • A waterproof watch
  • A change of clothes for when you're done. (Some of the surf shops have showers where you can clean yourself up, but due to a very severe drought a few years ago, a lot of people and institutions in Cape Town still make use of strict water conservation practices.) 
  • A car key safe (To keep your belongings safe while you surf, you can leave them in your car and then lock your car keys to your car with a number combination safe gadget thing)
  • A towel or towel poncho (A towel poncho can also give you privacy while you change your clothes)
  • Drinking water 
  • Water to rinse the sand off your feet if you're driving

Surfboard Rental in Muizenberg

For my very first attempt at surfing, the people at the Lifestyle Surf Shop were very friendly and helpful and even hooked my brother and I up with matching wetsuit outfits! (There’s one for the mantlepiece, mom.)

Matching wetsuits

They are one of many surf shops in Muizenberg that offer surf lessons, board and wetsuit rental, along with (small) locker facilities (it's more like a bag) for one's valuables. 

Some other options include:

The surf shops are located in the vicinity of Surfer's Corner:

Where can I get Surf Lessons in Muizenberg?

I strongly recommend a lesson or two before you attempt this on your own. 
You can get lessons from the above-mentioned surf shops or these surf schools:

Which Season is Best for Surfing in Cape Town?

Muizenberg gets year-round swells with the biggest waves happening in winter (especially July and August). That said, the weather and the wind conditions can be incredibly unpredictable and can make or break the whole experience. 

Luckily, the same Lifestyle Surf Shop (I promise they did not sponsor this post), posts daily surf-condition weather updates on their Instagram account, complete with videos, so you can suss out whether or not it's worth heading to the beach. The Surf Emporium also has a Muizenberg webcam that takes new pictures every 35 seconds. 

septuagenarian surf influencer outside Surfstore Africa, Muizenberg
(My attempt at turning my mom into a septuagenarian surf influencer outside Surfstore Africa)

How to Get to Muizenberg:

Muizenberg is located approximately 30 minutes from the centre of Cape Town and also about 30 minutes from the Cape Town International Airport. 

  • While there are trains and other forms of public transport running from the more central areas of Cape Town to Muizenburg, they can be hard to figure out and sometimes a bit 'stabby'. For tourists (and locals who can afford it), Uber and other ride-share services are the safest and most reliable way to get around. 
  • Car rental is a good option too. If you're not from around these parts (or a place once colonised by the British),  just remember, as they say in the Caribbean: "The left side is the right side and the right side is suicide!" 
Muizenberg Surfer's Corner

Are there Sharks in Muizenberg?

The beauty of surfing at Muizenberg is that its shallow sandbank doesn’t just make for great surfing conditions but fish and sharks tend to stick to the deeper waters further out. The beach also has Shark Spotters monitoring the area. This organisation is as interested in shark conservation as it is in public safety and has been at the forefront of research and cutting edge developments in these fields. Instead of using shark nets (that are fatal to sharks) the organisation employs spotters who monitor the area from observation points and alert beachgoers with a siren in the event of a shark spotting. 

If that doesn’t make you feel better then statistics might help: You are more likely to be killed by a mosquito, a cow or a lawnmower than a shark. Even in Cape Town!

Be sure to check the flag colour before entering the water:

  • A green shark on a green background means shark spotting conditions are good.
  • A black shark on a black background means shark spotting. conditions are poor. (The norm in my experience.)
  • A white shark on a red background means there’s a shark alert.
  • And a black shark on a white background means a shark has been spotted and you should leave the water ASAP or not enter it in the first place.
  • No flag means no shark spotters are on duty.

There’s even an app where you can find out the current colour of the shark flag at Muizenberg or any other beach.

The truth is, if you go to Muizenberg you're much more likely to see a pink plastic flamingo than a shark. 
(Seriously, keep a look out for him and let me know if you find him:)

Muizenberg surf stickers

Other Tips for Surfing in Muizenberg: 

  • Never surf alone
  • Check the wind and sea conditions before you go out
  • Check the shark flags
  • Don’t take valuables to the beach
  • Be a considerate surfer - I tend to stick to the shallows with the kids but if you are more experienced, follow the surf etiquette - I’m told it’s international.
Multi-coloured beach huts Muizenberg

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Surfing in Muizenberg


  1. Surf-riding dates back to at least 1910 when an ordinance was passed to manage surf-riding popularity.


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