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beyond every dawn a journey of early morning affairs on the east coast

End of day one. We scored fun lefts where you would normally score rights. We took a familiar road away from home yet a new landscape unfolded around every bend. Sipping on the sweet reminder that life in transit provides answers for questions you cannot ask. For the next few days, rails would be buried into walls of water, tails would snap ollies on abused concrete and warmth would be gained from quiet camp fires under the African night sky. We are going to drink it all in. That’s what I wrote lying in the tent on our first night, waiting for the sleeping bay warmth to sink into my toes, even though some red wine and a braai already helped considerably. So when asked about the trip I figured I’d write some more, not to tell a story or to remember it one day, but to remember it now.

It was Dean who mentioned casually, one early beach morning while pulling on his wetsuit in the empty car park, when he learned that Cobus just took up surfing: “Ja bru, now you get to do surf trips, that’s the best part about all of this”. Indeed, surfing away from your local break is a breath of fresh of life into the constant search of a feeling that most people will never know. Paddling out at a new spot, whether it’s perfect or not, has a kind of nervous energy and excitement to it - like when you kiss that hot girl for the first time - that just makes the waves so much more fun. Then you start to figure her out a little more, where the peaks are and how they shift, how the sets stack up and unload over the sand or reef, where the best spot is to lie, how others fight over her, and how, if you’re lucky, she will grant you with a couple of rides that will be imprinted in your mind for years to come. This is what we love and crave, and sometimes you have to pack up the bakkie with your boards, mates, a tent, and go search for just that. And so much more.

Is it possible to surf that much? Three sessions a day, over six hours in the water? Sure it is. Will your arms and the rest of your body complain a little? No doubt. Is it worth it? Yes. That’s what it’s like to be a grom again. You see the young kids from the community that live close to Kitchen Windows in Jeffrey’s Bay out in the water there, and they would just surf the whole day, go in quick to eat and then back out again, just tearing down the line, so quick. They’re on almost every wave and has that spot so dialled it’s not even funny. One kid was really ripping, bright wetsuit, bright surfing. I picked up on his energy, trying to catch more and more waves, taking off deeper, turning in more critical sections. It ended up being one of the most fun sessions of the trip, that is, once they got out of the water and you could actually get some waves.

When everyone on the trip is on the same level in terms of getting the most out of every day, magic happens. We would get up early at first light and boil some water for tea or coffee, eat rusks with beanies pulled down low and jackets buttoned right to the top, watching the sun paint the chilly morning sky with ever-changing colours. Cold fingers would stupidly fumble to extend tripod legs to uselessly try and capture the beauty of dawn. As much as we try to combine correct shutter speeds with apertures, nothing can correctly convey what it’s like to be right here, right now. The dawns became one of those little road rituals we like to develop while travelling, standing on the shore and watching it all come to life. The first morning in Victoria Bay the sun was rising behind the east headland, aptly named Dolphin Point after its shape, and the sunlight poked through the old train tunnel in the middle of the headland which serves the dolphin’s eye. We stood sipping coffee out of oversized tin cups as the rays spilled out over the new day.

I’ve never surfed the beach break at Vic Bay, in fact I’ve never surfed there at all. I didn’t even know the beach break could do that. That being perfect little fun lefts breaking towards the rocks where the right running down the point ended. I came on an east coast trip totally amped on surfing rights the whole time and here I was going left wave after wave. It shows you that no matter how much you make things up in your mind before the time, on the road you can always find something else and nothing is set in stone. We never could have thought that in this secluded little bay we would camp next to a family from Malmesbury, an inland town just under an hour from Cape Town, with the dad and son taking up surfing 8 months ago. The dad was frothing, looking up surfing clips and spot info on the internet before they came, out there in the line up early morning before anyone else, with his glasses on and catching waves on his old yellow, beaten up longboard. His stoke was tangible and he showed that surfing is not just reserved for that 19 year old long-haired blonde kid living in Kommetjie, or whatever stereotype you fancy.

He borrowed Cobus one of his longboards that first morning and it was the first time he stood up, riding the foamies all the way to the shore. The stoke was ignited by this simple act of sharing and it would fuel the rest of the trip, that first wave, standing up and gliding on the water towards the shore. That’s all it takes, that one wave. I like to picture my first wave on a perfect glassy day, cruising down the line on a wall of water almost as tall as me, but the reality is that it was also a mushy, already broken foam roller crashing into the shore. For many that could easily be their best wave ever, that first awkwardly standing ride onto the sand that would fuel a lifetime of stoke, but we tend to forget the little things. That day Cobus was the best surfer in the water, for he was the one having the most fun. Into the late morning we surfed, it stayed perfect. Time and time again I would turn my gaze from the horizon and look back at the green headland and the beautiful bay it protected and I could hardly believe where I was. Often you don’t have to fly half way around the world to find perfection. Chance plays a big part when you’re on the road. Even more so when you have no set plans. We had but one, get to J-Bay.

A minute later and we would’ve missed Neels. He was busy loading boards into the back of a van that was all too familiar with carrying various water riding craft, outside his beach bar Pili Pili in Sedgefield. “Craig and I are going to surf Buffels, come along.” After a short drive further along the N2 and the 8.9 km down to the coast, we were greeted by gentle little peaks breaking further down the point and no one out. I haven’t really tried out the 5’6 soup spoon I made a couple of months ago that much, which is a cross breed of inspiration between a Simmons, Sperm Whale, and the Coach Potato into something that looks like a minimal but half the size, complete with a quad fin setup for speed. The board went dreamlike. You could really catch the wave late, drop down and turn hard off the bottom, and then the most beautiful glassy face opened up for you to turn on. You quickly learn how much looser the board is if you try and surf it like a thruster, and pretty soon it becomes all about cruising, gently, not forcing anything, drawing a different line. With tired arms you paddle back up the point for one more. And as all proper addictions go, one more is rarely enough.

My actual surfing experience when it comes to J-Bay is minimal to say the least. Yet what it lacked was made up for in the endless wanderings of my mind when it comes to those perfects lines marching down the point at Supertubes. To say that the place can mesmerise you as a surfer is an understatement. From quick visits as a kid travelling past the town with my parents, to getting my face scrapped open on the sand

trying to bodyboard the main beach at age 8, to witnessing the greats at the Pro like the classic 2005 final between Kelly and Andy, a Christmas and a New Years, to wild overnight stops while tour guiding, this all has built up to that feeling of sacred surf ground when you stand on the boardwalk next to the aloes peering out over one of the best pointbreaks in the world.

Cobus must’ve felt the same when we sat there upon arrival and watched the guys paddle out, and even more so the next morning when Elandsberg, still covered in a thin cloud blanket, was awakened in the distance by the golden morning sun, lighting up the ocean and providing the perfect backdrop for a school of dolphins making their morning stop down the point, their slick grey bodies slicing effortlessly through the water and jumping out of the waves while we stood on the rocks in awe of the private show nature was so kind to put up for us. The next few days seemed to morph into one stoke fest, still palpable on the drive back to Cape Town. Even as the darkness slowly started to engulf us as we travelled next to the Langeberg Mountains, their sharp edges cutting into the grey sky, thoughts of getting home late or work the next day didn’t seem great, we found what came searching for, and more. And this is only the beginning. Peace be the journey.



Photography and words by Guillaume Marais Edition one of one Self published Cape Town, South Africa Š httip://

Beyond Every Dawn  

A journey of early morning affairs on the East Coast