UPDATE: I originally wrote this post in January 2013 as a quick list of things I thought might be helpful to kiters coming to SA and since then it’s become quite popular! So I’ve updated it ready for the 2016/2017 Cape Town season with some new tips – see you out there…
So this is my 9th trip (Ed: gonna be 13th this year) to Cape Town; I’ve spent many a time here filming, kiting and escaping the British winter and really I can’t think of a better place for kitesurfing at this time of the year. And I’m not the only one as it would seem that half the European kite surfers seem to agree with me, coming and going over the next couple of months.
I thought that I’d list out a few of my tips for anyone coming to Cape Town to kitesurf, saving you all that messing around and ensuring you get out on the water as much as possible!
- Flying. I’ve only ever flown with British Airways but Thomas Cook now fly direct too. That’s my main tip ie unless you have to, fly direct as it’s so quick and easy – take the overnight flight and you’ll sleep most of it, waking up first thing the next day ready to hit the water.
- Where to stay? Cape Town is an amazing city with what feels like lots of smaller towns and villages dotted around the cape. But don’t be convinced into staying in one of the quaint (Simon’s town) or cool (Camps Bay) locations: there is only one choice for any keen kitesurfer – Blouberg!! It ain’t fancy (basically a middle class suburb), but this is where the best kiting is day in day out. Everywhere else is a short 20-40 minute car ride when you want a bit of culture ;-)
- Accommodation. There are loads of places to stay along the beach or a block back. Rental prices are quite high at the moment, particular in peak season over Christmas and into early January. Your best bet is to speak to Carla at Cape Town Guru. AirBnb has become popular though prices can be high. There are also several hostels (Surf house, Beach house, Cape Town Kite Club or KiteWorldwide Mansion) which are great options for lone travellers or those looking for an easy social setup.
- Car Hire – there are lots of great places to kite up and down the coast and though you can get away with no car, it definitely opens up your options and if nothing else it makes it easy to pop into Cape Town when you feel like. If you fancy cruising around in an 80s Merc with a boot big enough for all your gear then try Acker Car Rentals. Rent directly from vehicle owners for cheaper rates through the secure service ‘Rent my Ride’.
- You can’t talk about cars with out a word of warning… South Africans are terrible drivers, beware! The traffic police are rife too and they’ll catch you for the smallest thing so make sure you know the different highway laws.
- Buses & Taxis – Since the world cup, new bus routes have been setup that connects the suburbs with the city centre, so for those not wanting a car or looking for a night out in town, these are a safe and viable option. Taxis are common now too and the Uber service is really safe and efficient – for those opting to go car-less, Uber is a really cheap for short runs around Blouberg. Expect to pay about R250-300 to get back from the city, to Blouberg, late at night.
- Wind. The Basics. So Cape Town is renowned for its strong trade winds, these blow from the South East, are thermal winds generated by a combination of the the cold Arctic ocean, hot expansive land mass and huge presences that Table Mountain adds to the mix. The day can start with zero wind but if a South Easterly is forecast then at some point you will see a line of wind creeping its way down the coast from the Mountain until to hits Blouberg and then Big Bay. The trades start working during the summer – October – April, with Dec-Feb being the best of it. Let me just repeat what I said earlier, if the forecasts ( WindFinder / WindGuru) predict a SE, then don’t be stupid thinking that there’ll be no wind, if you don’t feel it by lunchtime. Don’t be convinced by your partner to go off somewhere else instead – the wind will come in later!
If you’re not living on the beach then the Best Shop’s webcam and live wind feed is essential for your web browser. You can also get live wind reports for the whole cape, over text message, but be careful because obsessively checking the wind this way can get expensive ;-)
- Waves. So the summer is not the best time for waves but you can be sure to get some great swell at different points over the summer months. Blouberg and the Cape will always have something but you can expect some good 5m swells to come through from time to time. Head out to Witsands/Misty Cliffs/Scarborough for big and cleaner waves.
- Langebaan. If you want to escape the waves then a trip up to Langebaan is worth the hour drive. A massive lagoon getting similar wind patterns to Cape Town. Main beach is the best place to start off but as it gets windier head over to Sharks Bay (don’t worry they’re not actually sharks just the odd little sand shark!).
- Kite sizes. For waves a 7 & 9m are a safe bet for 90% of the time (I bring a 11 and 5m too, just to cover myself ;-). For twintip riders, an 11 may also be worthwhile. You can time your sessions to get out on larger or small kites depending on what you prefer – the wind will generally start in the 20 knot range and increase to 30 knots, If it’s a “proper” south easter then expect 30-40 knots. And the wind here is punchy, and I don’t necessarily mean gusty, though that is the case later in the day. The wind seems really dense, allowing you to get away with smaller kites and this wind has some serious lift, boosting big jumps here is a breeze! There is a reason its the home of the Red Bull King of the Air event in Cape Town (if you are around, go, it’s an amazing event)!!
- Wetsuits. Unfortunately, though the air temp is anywhere from 25-35°C the water isn’t quite so warm! Thankfully, in fact, because that is why we get the amazingly strong wind, but it means you need a full-length wetsuit, probably a 4/3 or 5/3. But don’t be put off, the air temp makes it really nice and the cooler water is actually very refreshing! If you head up to Langebaan then you can get away with a shortie if you want to bring a second suit with you.
- Cape Town. Honestly, I’m not the best person to ask about all the other attractions for those light wind day, nights out or when you need to keep your partner happy! But rest assured there is SO MUCH to do in and around Cape Town, it’s an amazing place and you will never get through seeing everything – get a Lonely Planet. One thing I’d recommend is a trip to the wine lands – Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. And if you go to Franschhoek then you’re crazy if you don’t go to Le Quartier Français and get a table in the Tasting Rooms – a 9 course meal + 10 course wine tasting! It’s amazing, stunning food, with locally paired wines, the most friendly, knowledgeable staff and half the price of anything you’d get anywhere else. Just remember to book a month in advance!
- Food. Lots of great restaurants everywhere. It’s actually cheaper to eat out most of the time as its pretty reasonable. In Blouberg Primi Piatti is good for your staple pizza/pasta (try a Jam Jar too!), Cattle Baren for an amazing steak (it’s not uncommon for a group of 10 of us to all order the same – Chateaubriand 300g!) & there are sushi places everywhere (tried them all and my personal favourite is now in Big Bay near the Pick n Pay). In Cape Town, you have a lot of amazing restaurants. For eating and general supplies you’ve got supermarkets everywhere, Checkers, Pick n Pay and Spar being the main ones. If you aren’t on a budget then head straight to Woolworths, it’s nothing to do with the failed British retailer but actually Marks & Spencers, so their food hall is very nice indeed!
- South Africans love a good Braai (BBQ), chum up to some locals and get invited along to the biggest meat feast you’ve ever seen!
- Mobiles. It’s worth getting an SA SIM for your phone as they cost nothing, airtime is cheap and its then easy to keep in touch with friends to plan the days kiting. Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C and ATT are the main brands. Data is pretty reasonable too, for those with Smart phones (who should all be using our Progression Player app !! – and you don’t need the internet once the videos are downloaded either!). Personally, I use Vodacom, they are a little bit more expensive but the coverage is the best, especially out on the cape. You may need proof of address in SA, so make sure you have something printed out confirming where you are staying with your name on it and the accommodations address.
- Sharks. Have to mention this as everyone gets freaked when you say you’re kiting in SA. No one has been attacked by a shark on the Blouberg side of the Cape, the water is cold and though there are definitely some around, they don’t care for us much. On the other side of the Cape the water is warm and there does seem to be a yearly bite or two from a hungry shark to a surfer or swimmer. Don’t worry about it, just keep an eye out for the whales & dolphins ;-)
- Goes without saying, make sure you download some Progression videos to learn something new on your holiday!
More reading & links:
- Kiteworld Magazines Cape Town location guide
- iKsurfMag’s Cape Town 2012 location article
- Cape Town Guru – one stop shop of accommodation + any other help getting setup here.
- Cape Town Kite Club – great place to stay
- Wind forecasts – WindFinder or WindGuru
- Live wind reports – Best Kiteboarding Shop, Wind Reports
- Accommodation in Langebaan
- Lots of good Cinemas
- Kite shops in Blouberg – Best, Cabrinha, Ocean Spirit, SuntraxSuntrax & Watersports World
- If you need to work while out there then CoworKite offers ultra fast fibre optic internet at their coworking office, just a stone’s throw from Kite Beach.