“Don’t get too excited” That is what every surfer should be told upon entering J-Bay. Don’t get too excited because when you have expectations, unless you have the innocence of a child, you usually set yourself up for disappointment. And you really do not want to do that in this case, because J-Bay really is worth getting excited about.
Some say it is the best Point Break in the world. I cannot say, I do not yet share their travelling experience. Hopefully one day I will. But I am pretty sure that Jeffrey’s Bay comes as close as it is possible to come to that mythical title.
I have a bit of history with J-Bay and that made this trip even more special. Admittedly the waves were not the best that J-bay has to offer, but there were some seriously epic rides to be had and we had some serious fun. Besides, if the conditions were perfect, chances are that I would not have caught nearly as many waves. This spot is as renowned for its crowds as it is for the quality of its waves.
Despite the lack of super quality swell, on day one we had a fun session at The Point, which breaks further down the line from the famous Super Tubes. The coastline forms a more prominent point just above this spot and this protects the coastline further down which allows for the swell to break a little bit more gently. This also helps to keep the waves off the rocks when the swell is too small for Super Tubes. Which was unfortunately the case on Day 1.
Day 2 brought the real thing and the butterflies were swirling in my stomach when I jumped off the rocks to paddle out at Super Tubes for only the second time in my life.
Considering the quality surf spot that Super Tubes is, surfing it is a very rare and privileged occasion. It gets very crowded very quickly and these crowds are serious crowds. Some of South Africa’s best surfers can be seen out there on any ordinary day.
On top of that coming to J-Bay usually tends to be for the sake of one of the big competitions and then we mostly surf The Point (the spot further down the coast mentioned above) for the sake of avoiding the crowds or because Super Tubes is reserved for the competition.
If you are able to paddle out at Super Tubes, catching a wave is no easy task. It takes a lot of luck and some balls to paddle into a wave that you know has hosted the best of the best. Empty waves do not exist, every wave is surfed by someone, and you have to paddle to the back to claim yourself a wave. A daunting task for any Super Tubes novice.
But the experience is worth every part of the effort. Riding the wave is unlike the average surfing experience. It really is something special. Usually focussed on manoeuvring the board into the sweet spot and doing elegant turns, at Super Tubes I was content to race down the line and simply ride the wave and make it past the next section.
To put this into ordinary language: Usually, at the level of surfing I’d like to think I am at, one has to do something special to make an ordinary wave extraordinary. At J-Bay I had the distinct feeling that nothing special is required to make this wave extraordinary. It does this all on its own.
It is a humbling experience. I paddled back and caught myself thinking: “Now is a good time to shut up and appreciate the fact that you have two legs to surf on.”
Usually I’d paddle back thinking about what I did on the last wave and what I could’ve done instead to make it better. But paddling back after my first wave at J-Bay I had a profound thought which went something like this:
“This may be the most famous surf spot ever and perhaps the best surfing has taken place here and perhaps the best moves have been done here by the best surfers. But none of that has anything to do with me. Up until now I have not enjoyed my surfing as much as I could because I always compared the surfing I saw around to my own surfing experience. However, I now see that my surfing experience, like my experience of life, is made of my experience and not the experiences of others. Fuck what you could’ve done on that last wave and how it wasn’t as good as the next guy. Those things create expectations based upon what you see other people doing. What you did do on that last wave was to enjoy riding one of the best waves in the world. For that you need to be thankful and nothing else matters. You can surf, enjoy it for what it is and for once don’t wish it to be something else.”
I paddled back and Thanked the Universe for this privilege over and over again. Thank you for being alive, thank you for being able to surf and thank you for making J-Bay into such a perfect creation of nature.
I find it quite ironic that in the Mecca of high performance surfing I found that enjoyment does not come from performance. Performance comes from enjoyment, and for me enjoyment comes from surfing.