South Africa’s Dungeons surf spot unleashes world class waves


Situated at the foot of the Sentinel Mountain outside Hout Bay, Western Cape, the Dungeons has for years been a popular, but challenging surfing spot for both locals and globetrotting surfing adventurers.

Voted as one of the must-surf ‘big wave’ destinations by numerous international surfing experts, the Dungeons’ distinctive giant swells are few and far between, but always worth the wait.

The big waves usually occur more frequently during the South African winter, generated from Southern Hemisphere ocean storms known as the Roaring Forties. This year, the pinnacle of the Dungeons’ power was on 24 August with local and international surfers, some of whom wait months on the shoreline for the big wave season, fully prepared to take on the legendary wave.

The Dungeons was first ridden in 1984 by Cape Town surfers Pierre de Villiers and Peter Button. Ten years later, the advancement of surfing equipment such as lighter boards and better wetsuits allowed others to tackle this mythical Cape of Storms beast.

Wave swells of over 14m due to the combination of wind conditions and the reef layouts have been recorded at Dungeons.

The more common 3m to 4m waves, however, are not for the fainthearted. Sportswriter Steve Barilotti calls the Dungeons “a deadly prima donna of a wave, not to mention a favourite feeding ground for Great White (sharks)”.

Sharks attacks took place in the past when surfers swam through the dark and deep channel to get to the breaks, but these days they are safely towed using jet- skis to get to where the big waves are at their best.

While the sharks still pose an obstacle, it is the waves themselves that has built a legendary and deadly status.

Wipe-outs are common, even amongst the most seasoned surfers. Yet if negotiated successfully, the Dungeons’ payoff is said to be indescribable. Beginning with a harrowing near-vertical take-off atop of a swell, surfers can tackle one or more churning bowl sections, with rides lasting for up to 300m before tapering off into the deep-water channel.

Masters of the Dungeons include South Africa’s Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker and Jeremy Johnson, who spend months preparing at other locations for a single session in the Dungeons. Despite the dangers, the spot proves inescapable for surfers keen to prove their mettle.

American Greg Long, widely regarded as the best big wave surfer in the world, is the only surfer in history to score a perfect 10-pointer ride on the Dungeons at the Red Bull Big Wave Africa event in 2008.

Source: EWN reporter

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