Surfing in Port Elizabeth dates back to 1962 with first organised surfing competition taking place in 1964 to be followed by the creation of the Eastern province Surfing Association in 1965. Leo Davis was Chairman from 1965 to 1971.
The first Eastern Province Team to take part in the 1965 South African Championships consisted of: Ken Noble, Dave Young, Roy Marais, Bruce Mathews, John Heath, Steward Hickson-Mahoney, Viv Spindler, Peter Morgan, Mush Hide, Peter McLeleand and Gavin Rudolph.
The first surf shop named ‘The Surf Shop’ was opened in Brittania Street off of Main Street (now Govan Mbeki Avenue) by Sandy McGillivray, who was the first Eastern Province Surfing President. Port Elizabeth has a very active surfing scene covered by local blog – Millers Local.
Algoa Bay Wild Side Surf Spots:
The wild side is a rocky section of the coast west of Cape Recife, the southern promontory of Algoa Bay. This section is is exposed to the southern weather systems that bash up the coast. The spots here are mostly exposed and sensitive to any south wind and big swell. For surfing the best conditions are light northeast to northwest winds and clean three- to six-foot groundswell.
Some of the best Port Elizabeth beaches are located at Secrets and Sardinia Bay – this could also be as a result of the charm of being remote and indicative of the desert island feel of each.
Beachview – This break has the least obstructed swell window on the wild side and waves quickly get huge here when elsewhere is mediocre. Three predominant breaks here, one behind the tidal pool in the Beachview Resort, one up about 150m towards PE and one further down on the beach. The tidal pool one is the most popular. It has both left and right peaks and waves tend to meet for spectacular close-outs. Best on northerly or easterly winds. Access is as per Kini Bay but ignore Kini Bay turnoff, continue along road, turn left just before Seaview Hotel and follow road to Beachview Resort. Hazards include reefs and currents.
Boilers – A beach break that entails a bit of a walk. Can be good. Depends on sandbanks. Works in all tides. Boilers is a break roughly 500m down the beach from Noncom Carpark and is so named because a wrecked ship’s boiler is still visible on the beach.
Bullets – So named because, while much further away than Secrets and generally out of the firing line, Bullets is downrange of the Cape Recife shooting range. This is a right-hand reef break and the best conditions are at low tide with light NW or SW winds. The reefs can be hazardous. Access is difficult to explain since there are no recognisable landmarks close to this break. Go there with a local or travel along Marine Drive, past the shooting range until you see a group of cars parked alongside the road. Stop there and take a short bush hike to the break. Don’t go unaccompanied.
Craters – The big allure is that Crater’s is not often overcrowded because a substantial hike is involved in getting to the break, which puts most casual surfers off. It has both left and right peaks in the bay depending on the sandbanks and can get out of control during storm swells. Access is either from Schoenmakerskop village, which is at the end of the Marine Drive road, or from Sardinia Bay. To get to Sardinia Bay, travel out of PE from Walmer suburb on Heugh Road, follow the road all the way and look out for the Sardinia Bay pointers. From these stops it is about a 1 to 1,5 km hike along the Sacremento Trail to get to the break. Hazards include currents, shallow reefs and sandbanks.
Doughnuts – A sandy right and left break accessed by walk about 1 km down the main beach from the Sardinia bay parking lot.
Doughnuts Back Reef – A left off of a rocky reef a few hundred metres behind Doughnuts.
Loch Ness Surf Spot – A Right handed reef running into a small bay. Nice take-off but fades quickly. Short ride. West winds. Low to incoming tide. Take Marine Road to the Noordhoek Car park. Walk down the beach to the left rocks, jump out and paddle to outcropping.
Lookout – Insane left breaking in front of car park (just before Noordhoek Ski Boat Club) with take of between two peaks and shallow reef on the inside.
Maitland River Mouth – This is a peaky beach break that works best on northerly or easterly winds and a pushing tide. Like Beachview it can get big very quickly and is a viable option when all else fails. Access is as per Beachview but carry on past Beachview Resort to the river mouth. The mouth is silted up most of the time. Shallow sandbanks are the major hazard here and schools of dolphin often patrol along here and frolic in the waves.
Noncom – Sometimes called Patti. Good left and right sand peaks break into a gully in front of the Cape Recife Nature Reserve car park. Northeast winds are best. All tides. Enter the Cape Recife Nature Reserves off of Marine Drive, follow the road to the MV Patti Wreck parking lot. Walk to the left for about 800 metres.
Rockies – Noordhoek comprises three primary breaks namely Rockies, Noordhoek and Suicide Reef. Rockies is a left breaking reef break to the left of the Noordhoek Skiboat Club slipway. It has a freight-train take off and a short hollow wave. The shallow reef over which the wave peaks and the predominant current being into the peak makes for an exciting and unpredictable wave. Access is as per Noordhoek below. Hazards are the currents, shallow reef and skiboats. Accessible through the Noordhoek Ski-Boat Club.
Noordhoek – This powerful wave comes off a rocky reef and is situated within the surrounds of the Noordhoek Ski-Boat Club.
Schoenies – this powerful wave is recommended for professionals only and is situated off the suburb of Schoenmakerskop close to the Sacramento Shipwreck.
Secrets – Nudist beach with sandbar peaks for surfers. Likes the summer northeast. Works in all tides depending on banks. Surf naked.
Sixties – This break got its name from a roadside speed indicator sign that used to stand next to the break. It is a small reef gully with the best breaking waves outside the gully. The waves break on either side of the gully in toward the gully. The break works very rarely and is best on the high tide with northerly winds. The gully reefs are the main hazard. Access is directly off Marine Drive, past Noordhoek.
Virgin Bay – A 10-minute walk left of the Cape Recife Nature Reserve car park. Right sandbar, can be epic, but fickle. Very dependent on sand. Doesn’t like too much swell. Light west or northeast. All tides depending on banks, normally low to incoming.
Port Elizabeth Surf Breaks:
6 Pillars – on Humewood Beach – look for the massive 6 pillars in the sea. A sand bar right off of a sandy bottom.
Avalanche – Right-hander breaks on a sandbank behind a rocky outcrop and runs into a small bay. Can get a weird bump on it from sidewash off the rock, which makes for interesting sections. Quality wave if sand is right. Low tides are best, although rideable through the high if the swell is big. Along Marine Drive then turn left into the Something Good Roadhouse. This is well sigposted. As you enter the large parking spot, the break is on your left hand side. The Summerstrand Surf-Lifesaving Club is at the opposite end of the car park with the roadhouse in the middle.
Baked Beans – Right in front of Barney’s Tavern on the north side of Shark Rock Pier with a big rock in front of it. A short powerful wave. Rarely surfed, usually only by bodyboarders on bigger swells.
Beachview – This beach is part of the Beachview Resort. Lifeguards only during peak season and not recommended for safe bathing due to strong rip and backwash most of the time. This right forms off a rocky reef and the consistent wavs can become huge. Beachview can be found on the Claredon Marine road to Seaview.
Black Bottom – This is a peak between Pipe and Rincon. Size, shape and consistency varies with the sandbank under it. Has both a left and right break, though the right gives a longer ride while the left tends to close out. Best on middle to high tide with a SW wind. Hazards are crowds and shallow reefs close to shore.
Bluewater Bay mouth – Only spot in PE that handles the northwest berg wind, which is straight offshore here while the rest of the bay has morning sickness. Picks up a lot of swell. Excellent rights and lefts sometimes break off a sandbank into a river mouth. Beware currents and sharks. Go over the Swarkops River Bridge, first left into Bluewater Bay, right and then second right along the Bluewater Beach to the mouth.
Brighton Pier – Sand-bottomed right off the pier. Gets good. Warning – the sewage works is right opposite the break and it is a high risk area. On you way out of Port Elizabeth in a Northerly direction take the Perserverance turnoff at the Algorax Factory.
Cobbles – Mellow right reef point ideal for longboarding. Cobbles is just on the bay side of Cape Recife and gets a wave when the bay is flat. Handles size if you can handle the paddle. Pushing tide best. Can be surfed on the low, but entails a long walk over dry reef. West winds.
Clubhouse – Right reef. Only breaks over six feet. Goes off in solid storm swell. Any southwest or west wind. Located near to the Summestrand Lifesaving Club House on Pollock Beach.
Denville – Sandbar off a rock at public pool. Depends on banks. Usually small. Closes out a lot. Many of the surf schools hang out here. Best on pushing tide and west winds. Situated just south of McArthurs Baths, Humewood.
Fence – Sand-bottomed left in a land of rights. Fence wedges off the harbour wall. Gets good on its day, but the sandbanks have been off for years. The ballies say that it was much better years ago, and that there is too much sand now. Likes east swell in west to southwest winds. Needs incoming to high tide. Next to Harbour wall and can be accessed via a ten minute walk from the Kings Beach parking lot.
Flat Rocks – This hollow and powerful wave over flat rocks is a powerful right and left hander. The parking lot used to have the Flat Rocks Roadhouse and is situated diagonally opposite the entrance to the Humewood Golf Course on Marine Drive.
Hougham Park – Beach breaks along this beach pick up more swell as you leave the swell shadow caused by Cape Recife. Likes northwest, but sketchy and sharky. Not surfed often. On the Northerern side of the Nqura Harbour.
Humewood – Right sandbar next to the old jetty off of Humewood Beach, Marine Drive. Gets excellent – one of the best waves in PE. You can hook insane barrels here. Handles east swell well. Handles south wind but likes southwest, with some protection from strong southwest.
Millers – Long right-hand point. Breaks over rock shelf, but mellow. Picks up less swell than breaks closer to Cape Recife. Likes high tide. Holds big swell, but rips kick in and the paddle is challenging. Best in south or southwest winds. Situated around 200 metres South of Hobie Beach near to Bird Rock North of Avalanche.
Pipe – There is usually something to ride at the Pipe, which is the reason why it is infested with groms. Fun beach break that varies from good to crap, depending on how much sand there is and where it has been deposited. Picks up the most swell. Apartment blocks protect it from strong westerlies. Better on pushing or high tide. Situated just off the Pipe Parking lot diagonally opposite the Radisson Blu Hotel.
Rincon – Moving towards PE from Cape Recife, you will come across this good-quality right-hand point, but it gets sectiony. Best on pushing tide. Prefers southwest to west wind. Needs decent swell.
Shark Rock Pier – Sandbar next to pier. Can be excellent depending on sand. Usually better after the summer easterlies have pushed the sand in. Low tide only. Backwash issues. One of the few places in Algoa Bay that likes east swell. Wants southwest or south winds. You cannot miss the Shark Rock Pier on Hobie Beach.
The Beacon – This classic right and left breaking wave can be found after traveling along Marine Drive and then turning off at the Pine Lodge resort. Enter the Cape Reciefe Nature Reserve, follow the road to the lighthouse car park. The Beacon is about 200 metres from lighthouse back toward town.
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