Stilbay snorkelling and surfing day

What a pleasure. To drive back to camp knowing that you’ve got fresh fish in the back waiting to be cooked. As fresh as they come. Shot earlier the same day by our very own dive leader, just beyond the breakwater, where the rest of us felt comfortable diving. Cleaned and gutted on the beach. Stilbay Marine protected area provides the perfect setting for first time snorkel explorers and salted spear fishermen alike.

Back up and rewind. How did we get here?

We drove three hours and a bit out of  Cape Town and set up camp for the night in Jongensfotein, a short drive from the main town of Stilbay. The following day brings a day of adventure with good weather for a diving and surfing.

We parked the car and started our trek along the beach. Not yet knowing that it is actually possible to drive all the way to the dive site.

Once there, none of us could wait to get ourselves in the comparatively warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Evgenia waited on the beach with camera in hand ready to shoot the action while Etienne did his usual vanishing trick. Wetsuit and dive gear on, now you see him now you don’t, because he is out way beyond where anybody else feels comfortable diving, looking for sizeable fish to shoot. And it is a good thing he does, because now we have fresh fish to cook on tonight’s fire.

Our two newcomers, after fitting wetsuits and snorkel gear, waded out and tentatively followed me into slightly deeper waters where we saw several fish and see urhcins.

An hour and a half later and we had three fresh medium sized fish and two very tired intrepid explorers, who still wanted to surf.

So we packed up and headed to the main beach where the surf is gentle and friendly and there are no rocks to hamper the efforts of our two intermediate-beginners. Putting on a cold wetsuit has never been fun, but in these, and most other cases, it is far outweighed by the reward of riding waves.

When learning how to surf you very soon realise, around the time of reaching the intermediate-beginner level, that surfing is not really about surfing, it is about paddling. Even for an advanced surfer, unless you are surfing a contest, you would generally spend 30 minutes paddling for every 30 seconds spent standing on your feet surfing waves.

So after learning how to stand up, the next big step is is learning how to paddle. This is ideally done while someone big and strong enough pulls the board while allowing enough slack to let you feel the power required to move the board forward using paddling power only. The stronger your paddling becomes the less that person pulls the board and instead only guides the nose so as to keep it straight. Until you learn how to paddle and keep the board straight. (The only way to go over,  under or through any wave to reach the line up at the back, is to keep the board straight and paddle directly into the oncoming wave. Anything else will end up in you being washed up on the beach.)

Both surfer girls quickly stood up and surfed some sweet little waves. They also quickly realised that to surf as many waves much paddling stamina would be built up in the future.

We even got one of them onto a little reform. This happens when the white water, after already breaking as a wave further out, goes through deeper water on it’s way to the beach and the white water literally re-forms into a little swell. (A swell is what a wave is called before it breaks and becomes a white water. A swell is what you see when you look out over the ocean and you can see bulging lines moving through open water towards the shore. A swell is what is created by wind when it blows over the expansive open surface of the ocean and energy is transferred from the air to the water. A wave, in surfing terms, is thus very short lived and exists only there where the swell is in the process of breaking and becoming a white water, which will eventually smash onto the rocks or roll out onto the beach. A swell breaks and becomes a wave, and then becomes a white water, because the ocean is no longer deep enough to accommodate a certain amount of energy contained in the swell. Therefore the energy “spills over the top” and the wave breaks.)

Having lost most of it’s energy, these secondary reforms are much smaller than the original waves, but they usually have enough power for our purposes and it’s the best way for any beginner to experience what it feels like to surf the face of a wave, as the professionals do, and not just the white water.

Despite the lack of sleeping mattresses we all slept like babies that night. (The kind that doesn’t scream all the time) Etienne probably dreamt of giant red fish, like the one that got away that day. Evgenia and Anne dreamt of doing push ups and building shoulder power for paddling and I dreamt of doing this for the rest of my life.

To end of evenings like these I highly recommend a big bottle of Old Brown Sherry.

Hermann Vivier

We are not offering you a service, but an experience, because we are not a travel company, but a company of travellers. We’ll take you to the best spots and provide all the equipment, but what you do, how you do it and with who, is entirely up to you.


Surfing lessons/Snorkeling/hiking trips – R 350 per person – all included

Yacht trips – R 1200 per hour (10 people max)

For bookings contact
Etienne +27 (0)798685630
Evgenia +27 (0)846170277
Hermann +27(0)848931543

and one of our team members will discuss with you all the details.

To get the reports and pictures of all our trips, please join our blog:

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