Dirty Habits OUT ON PAROLE

The date, 11 June 2020, and South Africa has just been moved from level 4 lockdown (house-arrest style) to level 3 which allows some room for movement within provincial borders. This seemed like a good enough reason for us to pack our cars and head up to the desert.

Kyle Cabano shares the story.

"The trip began when Graham Howes contacted me to ask what I knew about the kiting potential of the northern parts of the Cape West Coast. This area is well known among the surf fraternity producing some of the best surf in the world, and each winter there is a pilgrimage of wave hunters that head up when the conditions are on. As far as I know, nobody has charted this coastline with kites.

Packing for a trip like this is an interesting experiment, and with no shops or gas stations around for hundreds of kilometres, once you get there, you've got to plan and pack carefully. All provisions from firewood through to foods and comforts needed to be stocked up. Let's see how this goes!

The first rendezvous was about 100 kilometres out of the city and the boys were all frothing to see each other again after a long sabbatical, and also to be back out there doing what we love. The drive continued for about 3 hours through the beautiful winding mountains of the Cederberg Mountain Range eventually arriving at our final refuel point before we leave the grid. From here on out we lose signal.

With the sun dropping lower and the days travel slowly coming to an end we arrived at our destination. Ozzie got amped to test the water and wind up here and even though he was underpowered on his 9m kite in the 15-knot puff, it was epic to have actually achieved some success, literally upon arrival. The session was short-lived with the wind dying off. We started the evening fire while the dusk set in and the dry desert hues were slowly replaced by pastel blues and stars in a density us city-slickers know nothing about. We kept warm by the evening fire sharing stories of stoke and scandal before eventually retiring for the evening.

The start of the day was welcomed with light offshore winds grooming the open ocean swells. The waves were firing! First to the water was a group of bodyboarders camping on the hill next to us, revealing the true size of the waves. It was big but so perfect so one-by-one we each gave it a bash before getting washed in or denied entry by the set wave. I guess the lockdown has had its negative effects on all of our fitness levels but it was treat to be out there in some of the cleanest and biggest surf I have ever witnessed.

Time in the desert rolled on as the days and nights all kind of morphed together into one. It must have been 4 days by now that the straight offshore winds were blowing.

On the fourth evening of the trip, we went all in deciding to burn the last of our firewood, making a massive fire for the final evenings' campsite feast. The night was perfect and we shared stories while polishing the beer stocks and slowly preparing our meal. There was talk of a big swell hitting the coast the following day and we were all quite excited to see how it would play out.

As the morning went on the silhouettes revealed themselves as towering walls of water. The surf was huge! Slowly but surely the campsite woke up and came to life, everyone gathering on the edge of the hillside to watch these massive waves coming through in perfect form. The wind had now switched direction somewhat as to be slightly more cross-shore

Graham, Ozzie, Darryl and Jason were all keen to give the surf a bash while I opted to attempt the swim with my camera. The swim/paddle in was extreme to say the least. We made it to the back, full survival mode by this point. With the waves in the 10ft range, it was an absolutely epic experience to be out there witnessing these giant waves detonating over the sandbanks on these lonely desert shores. A trip to a destination like this really broadens your perspective and leaves you with more questions than answers.

Watching the ocean from the hill we noticed how the waves were losing perfect shape with the winds turning further cross-shore, almost starting to look kite-able. With the morning berg winds swinging further towards an NE direction there was a chance that we might be able to get something ride-able.

Rocking up at the spot in the bay we quickly noticed how much bigger it was. Ozzie was instantly excited. Ozzie insisted that we at least try and did a test launch of the kite. The kite stayed in the air, so I guess that means we are on? Graham wasn't going to let Ozzie do this stunt alone so while Ozzie took the lead and made his way down to the water, Graham followed suit and geared up.

The kites looked out of place as the sets rolled in over the slabbing west coast reef, almost photoshopped into a scene that was clearly lacking wind. Ozzie went straight into tube hunting mode and committed to the cause, getting caught on the inside a few times and having to eject on some that totally bottomed out. Graham was also getting more and more confident, moving further inside and closer to the rocky ledge. Both riders were impressive to watch out there navigating along the unpredictable slab but it was Ozzie who would claim the barrels before the wind died off even further, causing an abrupt end to the session.

With sunburnt faces, toasted hair and satisfied souls we packed it up and made our way down the coast and back towards the main road and from there on out the city. Leaving behind nothing but footprints but taking home an experience of a lifetime."

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