THE GUSTY south-easters which batter Cape Town in the summertime are not much fun – unless you’re a wind or kite surfer, or a stand up paddle boarder – the latest addition to the wave-riding sports scene.
Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) originated in Hawaii as an offshoot of surfing. Donning wet suits, and armed with a paddle and board, Cape surfers rely on the feisty south-easter for a great paddle.
The top male paddlers in the Cape are Ethan Koopmans, Thomas King, Dylan Frick, Ivan van Vuuren and Greg Bertish. Tarryn Kite and Mishka Steyn are leading competitors among women.
The sport is growing in South Africa, while events in California and Hawaii attract more than 400 competitors.
Cape Town big-wave champion Chris Bertish did a solo downwind from Kommetjie to Saldanha last year – a 130km, 12-hour paddle for charity. Surfing stalwart Gary van Rooyen and some of his crazy friends are planning to a 58km paddle from Hangklip to Fish Hoek soon.
I’ve been a surfer for many years, but I was a bit anxious when I took on my first SUP downwind challenge, a 10km paddle from Milnerton to Big Bay. I was wondering what my mate and fellow surfer Gary van Rooyen had coaxed me into.
I left Milnerton unsure if I could handle 10km. Tired, having lost my balance and fallen off the board numerous times, I lagged behind the other paddlers and reached the beach as the sun began to slip down the horizon.
Fast forward to my next paddle. Van Rooyen, who doesn’t believe in half measures, decided False Bay’s Miller’s run was next on the list. It’s an 11.5km paddle from Miller’s Point to Fish Hoek. I wasn’t too sure I was going to make it.
Sitting in the back of a van with other enthusiastic paddlers we made our way to the drop-off point. I sat quietly and gulped an energy drink. The wind was strong but thankfully the swell was small. As I left the slipway, I was a bit anxious since Fish Hoek looked so far away. In the first 3km, I fell off the board about 10 times. When I finally got to the lighthouse, the other paddlers were already near Fish Hoek. But thankfully one of the other novices, Justin Linley, stayed with me.
Just as we neared Fish Hoek, a 2m shadow swam under my board. It was a great white but posed no threat, confirming my theory that it’s far more dangerous on our roads than in our beautiful ocean.
Paddle boarding is great exercise and is excellent for your core, while at the same time you’re having a great time riding deep ocean swell. Try it – if I can do it, anyone can.
l The Milnerton downwind paddle takes place every Wednesday, while the False Bay one, which is a lot more daunting, usually has far fewer paddlers.