Famous for the "perfect wave", Jeffrey's Bay is considered by wave chasers from California to Hawaii to be an ultimate surfing destination.
But that's not the whole picture - Jeffrey's offers a unique combination of beautiful beaches, abundant shells, white gold (calamari), whales breaching the surface, sharks jumping, penguins swimming, and pods of dolphins surfing by in the hundreds.
Not surprisingly, all this magnificence has turned a beach with incredible waves into a commercialized resort town. Despite the commercialization, "J-Bay" (as it's now known) has retained a surf town vibe. Here, Laurence Platt, who spent much of his youth surfing the waves there, recalls "the early days" before the town earned its fame.
|Jeffrey's Bay - The Early Days|
by Laurence Platt
In 1964, when you drove to Jeffrey's Bay from Cape Town up the Garden Route, you knew when you were close to the mecca. The climate changed. If your arm hung out the window, the hairs on the back of your hand "knew" you were getting close. It was an indescribable feeling. Like moving into another climate zone.
And the scent. The pungent aroma of the Jeffrey's fynbos. That unique scent of Jeffrey's Bay.
In the beginning, there were the waves ... later came the development, the houses and the parking lots.
But in the beginning there was just the land abutting the point. No 9' 6" board could have made it through "tubes" or "supertubes" (although we did not have those names back then) so no one bothered to try.
Anthony ("Ant") van den Heuvel "owned" Jeffrey's Bay point back then, and almost every (longboard) surfer in South Africa at that time knew all the other surfers in the country on a first name basis. Many of the faces in the South African chapter of Bruce Brown's film "The Endless
Summer" were friends of mine.
We drove our Volkswagen Kombis and Beetles and Austin Mini Minors replete with roofracks with about six boards lashed to each down the dirt road to Jeffrey's Bay village. There was no "official" parking lot at the point. There was no construction at the point. Just sand dunes. The locals townsfolk did not know they lived near some of the most amazing waves on the planet.
But the friendly farmer who owned the land at the point knew what we were there for (even though he may have "checked us skew" at first). After the first few visits, he even installed a solitary tap so that we could get fresh water.
If we did not sleep in the kombis, we slept in the bushes on the dunes. We braided the six foot tall gorse into habitable "units" and stayed there for weeks on end - each respecting our neighbors who inhabited a similar braided unit on the dune. Before sunrise we were all awake - listening for the break even before it was light enough to see it.
In those days, for ten cents you could by a half a pint of milk, a loaf of course meal brown bread and a half a dozen bananas at the village cafe. This was supplemented by the "alikruikels", sea snail which we dove out of the bay from our surfboards in between sets and cooked in their shells over open flames. It was a nutritious meal fit for kings.
At night, lit by the fires of piles of driftwood, we shared the stories of the days "kraakers" (ie "big waves") not that there was anything unknown. Everyone there had been in the water at the same time.
Some things never change. If you have heard the crash of the waves at Jeffrey's as they hit the rocks, you will know that you are not just listening to a wave rising and breaking. You are listening to a wave which rises and then smashes "with intention" - like a freight train careening down the point.
And even when the sun has set, you can tell that the freight train waves are still there as they rumble down the point until you fall asleep dreaming of the tomorrow ... and how you can perfect that "toes on the nose" manoeuvre you almost got right today ...
Jeffrey's Bay (we did not call it "J-Bay" back then) is still there. But the dunes and the land have been changed. Houses and business sites have been built, and the solitary tap has gone.
But the waves are there. Endless. Churning. Cranking. The Green Room. It's still there.
Many years from now, when all the houses and parking lots are overgrown ruins and the developments have been washed away, the waves will still be there.
And the Green Room will still be calling me.