Hang Ten in KZN

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Gero Lilleike

We leave Joburg under cover of night for Kelso, a small town, near Scottburgh on the KwaZulu Natal south coast.

The drive is painless. We arrive at a camp called Vulamanzi and settle for a much needed rest.

The strong wind puckers the ocean. Waves break unevenly along the shores. The cool breeze soothes us to sleep as the afternoon fades.

A train passes and the driver’s horn sends Vervet monkeys scurrying into the surrounding bush. There are 10 of us. We all love the ocean. Surfing consumes us.

The rising sun pierces our cabin. “Hey, get up.” John taunts us from our slumber. It’s 7 am. There’s no wind. The air is fresh. Waves await.

Standing on our porch, toast and coffee in hand, we watch the waves wrap around the point. We  make our way to the beach where fishermen line the shore. The sea is clear and warm. We paddle out and reach the waves we’ve dreamt of for so long. We see fish swimming beneath us.

Gero Lilleike in action.

The bottom is rocky. Not too long ago, the coast of KwaZulu Natal was pounded by the biggest swells in decades. Apart from doing massive damage to properties along the coast, the waves also washed away many of the sandbanks, exposing rocks. It’s scary looking down and seeing the rocks, especially when you plan on riding a wave over them.

There are about seven to 10 waves in a set, with the last being the biggest and breaking  further out to sea. This is the wave you want to catch. It’s called ‘the outside’. Fear strikes when this wave arrives. I yell “outside” and panic sets in. Everyone scratches the water to get over it. The beast approaches and I just make it. I look down at those who are too late and shout “bye”. The wave crashes down, spraying shards of water into the air. I chuckle to myself. Some make it, some don’t. It’s all part of the fun.

More surfers flock to the break for a piece of the action. One of them is a grey-haired man in his mid-70s with a long board who paddles into the sea. He’s fit and we witness him yodelling into some of the best waves of the day. Hopefully we’ll still be doing the same when we’re his age.

After a few hours in the water, hunger sets in and we retreat to our cabin to share wave stories over lunch. We’re beaming, rejuvenated by the energy of the sea. Every day should be like this. The sea teases your fears but when you embrace them, the sea can liberate your soul.

Eat, sleep, surf, repeat!