Downwind Destination: Cape Town
Warm and windy - in January!
This is the first in a series of posts, each highlighting a downwind destination. I've also created a web page - travel.dwfoil.com. It pretty much covers all the known and speculative downwind destinations. A complement to map.dwfoil.com!
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Cape Town Summary:
Reliable and very strong wind, large variety of runs from beginner to expert, with easy logistics, lots of foilers and good weather in the windy months of December to March.
Cape Town is very windy in December to March. It is also my hometown, so this blog is not from fresh eyes. I moved to the UK for work and so have spent many UK winters escaping the January cold to Cape Town over the years. Until I started foiling, these trips were always frustrated by the wind.
Cape Town is very windy. The South Easter is the local wind, and it blows most afternoons through the summer. It increases in force through the afternoon settling at around 25-35kn. It will do this for about a week, before taking a break for a few days. In short, there is more than enough wind (the direction switches in the winter months and is generally more stormy).
Because of the wind, many wind sports companies have bases in Cape Town, or have R&D teams based there. On my trip, more than a few people were riding prototypes. Lots of photoshoots, and lots of travelling pros passing through.
The weather is also very warm, 25-35° Celsius. The water is a cold 12-15° Celsius. The currency is weak. It is a very popular tourist destination. Easy flights from the EU, on roughly the same timezone. As a destination, it is evidently popular with euro-kiters, who come in droves, flocks, airplanes full.
Through the summer the surf is small. The South Easter is localised and so does not create much long range groundswell.
The downwind action happens in Table Bay, the iconic bay, with the South Easter blowing roughly SSE. See interactive map here.
This is the only spot I managed to downwind, and currently the epicentre of foiling in SA. There is a shuttle, there are lots of local and international foilers, and a great wing and prone foil spots around Big Bay that make it an epic foil destination. There is also a Downwind Dash race (runs on some Wednesdays) that has a wing and foil division.
Starting in calm conditions at Lagoon Beach (some water quality issues, so don't hang around). It is an easy bay run for the first 5km, after which you start to encounter a bit more swell from the West. If these conditions are too tricky, you can head in at Kite Beach or Dolphin Beach (look out for the KFC) for a 7km run. Otherwise continue on to Big Bay through the "Bermuda Triangle" where things get tricky with refraction and more swell for a 10km run.
This clip shows the landing of the shorter run at Kite Beach in pretty typical conditions for that part of the run, where the side-on swell starts to feature.
See below for a video showcasing the start and end of the longer 10km Lagoon Beach to Big Bay run.
It is also possible to run this reverse of this in a NW wind, but much trickier.
The Downwind Dash race runs often enough in the summer. A typical Downwind Dash ~11km race finish below:
I rode a progression 140 and a 95L SPG Pegasus and was a bit underfoiled for my 70kg and current low skill level. This is an ideal place to dial gear as you could manage a few short runs.
A single stat, from the 2nd January to the 25th January while I was paying attention, the shuttle ran 12 days. Usually in bursts of a few days at a time. Locals reckon about 10-13 shuttled runs per month is typical through the windy months.
Millers Point to Fish Hoek, on the False Bay side, is currently popular with wingers. Millers is a beast and often compared to Maliko in Maui. This is an open ocean technical run, also popular with surfskis and big toothy fish. Warmer water, and bit more seaweed.
You are committed to a longer run, so you want to be sure you know your game. Challenging for most, and some of the better locals don’t like the fish there 🦈.
There is a shorter variation too, Froggy Farm to Glencairn.
Heading North of Cape Town, is Langebaan. Home to the Langebaan Downwind Dash, a long running but intermittent downwind race.
Langebaan is a beginner downwind heaven. The easiest run is from the Yachtclub to Sandra’s parking, ~2.2km and requires strong SE and incoming tide. Standing waves, easy to catch and read and short enough to not stress you out if you are not getting on foil.
You can extend to Mykonos 7km but past Sandra’s the bumps go very weak and then slowly build up as you go towards Club Mykonos again - you exit via the harbour.
In theory one could foil from Cape Town to Langebaan (100km), as the coast runs along a SE orientation and so does the wind. In practice I don't know!
Winter / NW Wind spots
There is also a Reverse Millers Run which works in the NW winter wind and becomes something of a bay run.
Brandvlei is an inland dam that has some local wind effects that cause the NW to howl! Not officially a downwind spot as there is little evidence of anyone sending it, but certainly something to have a look at if the wind goes even light NW.
(Thanks to Mick and Peter for some feedback on this article!)
There are two Cape Town based companies, Signature Foils and AK Durable Supply Co. Both make excellent downwind foils and boards, and are committed, rider owned companies that have been driving the downwind progression. Signature built a downwind foil board in 2017!
Howling South Easter with relatively flat surf through the months of December, January, February.
Use the NSRI SafeTrx app at all times.
Be aware of wind being stronger than forecast, and water at times colder than expected.
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