A Complete Guide to Surfing in Muizenberg, Cape Town


While South Africa is famous for its surf beaches, the good ones (like the renowned Jeffrey's Bay) tend to be in the Eastern Cape. The east coast near Kwazulu Natal offers some decent surfing conditions too, with the added bonus of a year-round warm tropical climate. The Western Cape on the southwest point of South Africa has neither warm water (you will have to wear a wet suit and the water will still give your feet an ice-cream headache) nor perfect conditions, but it is definitely up there in the top three places to surf in South Africa! The sharks in these waters also tend to be the 'Great White' variety BUT, other than that, if you're into surfing - or you're a complete novice and you feel like giving it a bash - and you happen to be in Cape Town anyway, Muizenberg Beach is DEFINITELY the place to go. 

A complete guide to surfing in Muizenberg, Cape Town

Truthfully, with a sandbank and gentle waves, Muizenberg in Cape Town is considered one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf. And if you already know how to surf, it's not a bad place to practice either.


Other fun facts about Muizenburg:
  • 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 at the sport which happened to be in Muizenberg: 


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). 

Booking.com

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

Board rental and lessons

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:

You can also get lessons from these companies:


The surf shops are located in the vicinity of surfer's corner:


Sea conditions

Muizenberg gets year-round swells with the biggest waves happening in 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 if you're not closeby. 

Booking.com


What to take: 
  • A towel 
  • A 'swimming costume' if you're South African or a 'bathing suit' if you're from anywhere else
  • Sunscreen - The South African sun can be harsh, be sure to cover up anything that sticks out of your wetsuit.
  • A change of clothes for when you're done. (The surf shops have showers where you can clean yourself up, but be advised that 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.) 

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

How to get there:
  • 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 is 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


Where to stay

(This section contains affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you make a booking through them)
If you are a visitor to Cape Town, Muizenberg is a lovely seaside holiday area that's not too far away from the city's main attractions and is generally a pleasant place to stay. Booking.com offers a range of accommodation options from surf hostels to more upmarket apartments.

(And if you need flights, Kiwi is a great way to get cheap flights, especially if you are doing a multi-city trip.)


Multi-coloured beach huts Muizenberg

What about the sharks?

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 champagne cork or a ladder 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 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
#findrodrigo


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About the Sharonicles


The Sharonicles is a travel humour blog by a location-independent South African travel writer. After five years as a cruise ship crew member, Sharon is now trying to adjust to life on land with itchy feet. (That is an expression but cruise ships will literally give you Athletes Foot, just FYI.) Born and raised in Johannesburg, she is now exploring her new home city of Cape Town (and hopefully a number of more land-locked locations throughout the rest of the world too).

Here she shares advice, opinions and anecdotes revealing the funny side of travel from her experiences on five continents and a number of seas.

She also photographs a plastic flamingo called 'Rodrigo' on her travels because it seemed like a good idea ten years ago and 54 countries later, it’s probably too late to turn back now.

To find out more about Sharon and Rodrigo’s travel aspirations read this.

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