This is South Africa’s Surf City!


World-renown Supertubes
World-renown Super Tubes
Etienne Venter
If you’re not a surfer, it takes someone like Etienne Venter to explain what it’s all about

I never realised what it was that set Jeffreys Bay apart from all other seaside destinations with waves for surfing.  The most over-the-top surfing photo I’ve seen comes from The Dungeons, round the corner from Hout Bay, for example.  Well… that’s not what most surfers will ever want to tackle.

So it took someone like Etienne Venter to explain to me what waves are all about… and why Jeffreys Bay is so special.  He runs the Jeffreys Bay Surf School and organises surfing holidays.

Jeffreys Bay is world renowned for its safe beaches and surfing waves, with many different surf breaks, each possessing its own magic. Surfing spots include Kitchen Window, Tubes, Super Tubes, Boneyards, Point and Albatross.  Jeffreys Bay offers a range of waves that caters for beginners to real aficionados.

Around that grew the surf culture — clothing shops synonymous with Jeffreys, surf shops where you can order customised surf boards, hand-crafted leather shoes and hand-crafted shell art.

And then there’s the weather — year round summer.  Temperatures are moderate all year round along the coast with rain scattered throughout the year.  Water sports are practised throughout the year.

And that’s what built the Jeffreys Bay brand, internationally.

Jeffreys Bay surf culture
The southern end of town is where you’ll find a thriving surf retail culture… mementos to take home.

While Cape St Francis may have captured international fame as a surfing mecca before Jeffreys Bay did — in the 1967 cult classic Endless Summer — it is Jeffreys Bay that is now synonymous with surfing.  (Click that link for two video clips that show exactly what perfect waves actually are all about.)

You can't dine any closer to the sea than this! Walskipper Restaurant is a quirtky and delightful experience.
Walskipper Restaurant — you can’t dine any closer to the sea than this.  It’s a quirky and delightful experience.
Jeffreys Bay dining
There are pockets of interest all over the town, more than enough to keep any tourist happy.
Sunrises & sunsets at Jeffreys Bay
Early morning on the banks of the Seekoei River. Sunrise and sunset promises something special most days.

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Jeffreys Bay lies largely between the Kabeljous and Seekoei Rivers, each with their own nature reserve.

The Kabeljous Nature Reserve is popular for walking, horseriding and for anglers, with a diverse range of fish. The Kabeljous estuary is one of the best preserved estuaries in the Eastern Cape. The lagoon is home to waterfowl, herons, and a variety of waders.

Kabeljous estuary
Putting one’s head down takes on a different meaning!

The Seekoei River Nature Reserve lies between Aston Bay and Paradise Beach, on the estuary formed by the Seekoei and Swart rivers. The reserve is rich in birdlife with over 120 species of birds.

The town is one of the fastest-growing in South Africa, popular as a tourist destination and for retirement homes.  It falls under the Kouga Municipality which also includes St Francis and Humansdorp to the west, and Hankey & Patensie to the north in the Gamtoos Valley.

Is the Municipality up to the task?  I don’t think so.  A previous story relates the appalling roads in St Francis.  In Jeffreys Bay I encountered three things in my short stay there:

The first was the municipal library right on the beachfront.  Apparently the very active angling club was kicked out of the premises by the municipality to make way for the library.  That doesn’t seem an inspired decision at all.

Jolly Dolphin
A small section of the huge Jolly Dolphin upstairs – does it comply with safety regulations? Is the municipality up to it’s job?

The town centre seems assured — unless there are intelligent interventions which seems beyond the capability of the Municipality and Province — of sliding more and more downmarket.  The new Fountains Mall outside the town has drawn business away from the town centre’s second mall, just as it did to the first mall.  And a new mega-mall just 7okm away outside Port Elizabeth is likely to continue that trend.

And then something really puzzled me enough to walk around it twice — the complex housing the Jolly Dolphin in a prime beachfront spot.  Most shops on the beachfront side were empty, and broken vehicles and a ramshackle caravan were parked in the mall.  And the Jolly Dolphin — a major pub, party, live entertainment venue of the first floor — which is apparently packed to the seams during holidays, doesn’t seem to have any fire escapes.  Now the Municipality will probably blame the owners and developers of the property, but it points to criminal incompetence and oversight at the Municipality.

Does the Municipality take tourism seriously?  Jeffreys Bay Tourism receives R4000 a month in Municipal funding.  The mayor’s entertainment budget is probably more than that!

Hopefully Kouga’s mayor and council will be history after next year’s municipal elections.  The town can achieve much, much more.

Jeffreys Bay
Life’s a beach

 

 


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