The participants on the inaugural Ticket to Ride gap year surfing adventure experienced the biggest swell and tides on the KwaZulu-Natal coast in living memory, when they reached Durban after their 1 600 Km surfari along the coastline of South Africa.
Safely ensconced in the Secret Spot surf camp at Salt Rock, north of Surf City SA, where they have been completing the ‘business end’ of their trip with courses in surf coaching and beach lifeguarding, the riders were treated to an unforgettable testament to the power of the ocean as five metre waves, howling onshore winds and equinox spring high tides combined to wreak havoc on the beachside communities of KZN.
The busy schedule and extreme conditions were in stark contrast to the idyllic circumstances they have enjoyed since arriving in Cape Town in January, travelling through the Garden Route, scoring epic surf at Jeffreys Bay, visiting game parks in the Eastern Cape and kicking back in the heart of the surf-rich Transkei coast.
There they relaxed in hammocks at the Coffee Shack between surf sessions, eating traditional African fare with Xhosa families while being entertained by local indigenous dance groups.
Continuous swell and empty breaks enabled them to further hone their surfing talent under the tutelage of 1990 world pro-am surfing champ David Malherbe.
The simple life of Africa was further evident on hikes through untouched wilderness to landmarks such as the ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’, cliff jumps and evenings reminiscing over waves ridden while watching video footage of themselves in action.
Bigger swell greeted them at the next stop on the itinerary when an Indian Ocean cyclone generated double overhead waves, while the riders were settling in to the beach lifestyle they have so quickly become accustomed to at The Spot backpackers, situated right on the sand at Umtentweni.
As conditions improved, the group spent a day at the famed St Mikes surf break on the lower Southern KZN coastline with 1978 world champ Ant Brodowicz, where they were able to utilise their now well-practiced surfing skills, and demonstrated their grit and determination by going out to ride waves that were still considerably overhead.
Then it was on to the penultimate stop on the adventure at the Secret Spot, where the ideal surf camp setup has provided the perfect environment for the riders to complete their surf coaching courses, conducted by Dene Botha of the Kahuna Surfing Academy.
The lifeguard courses have been held at the SA Lifeguard Academy in nearby Durban, where they had the opportunity to rub shoulders with and be inspired by the commitment of SA’s queen of the surf, Heather Clark, who is herself taking the identical courses.
Preliminary results from the courses have exceeded all expectations, with the riders 10 weeks on surfari developing superior fitness and skills that saw excellent swim times, in-depth knowledge of surfing and rescue techniques, and the confidence to be able to handle themselves and save others, both in and out of the surf.
The culmination of the epic adventure comes after another week of activity, where they utilise their newly learned skills to teach street kids from historically disadvantaged communities the joys of surfing on the beaches of Durban, before going on to join the legendary Palmboom surfing family at the Ansteys Beach International Backpackers on the Bluff.
There they will have their final assessments for the internationally-recognised surf instructor’s certificates, take advantage of the never-ending supply of sub-tropical surf, and do their best to visit every social activity in Durban before departing for home.
The success and popularity of the Ticket to Ride concept has been firmly established, and with 20 riders already signed up for the two trips to be conducted at the beginning of 2008, the organisers have added another one month ‘road trip’ to South Africa in July 2007.
This latest addition to the surfing adventures on offer will start in Cape Town and end in Jeffreys Bay where the riders will be able to see the world’s top surfers in action at Supertubes during the annual Billabong Pro J-Bay.
For further information on Ticket to Ride, including bookings for 2007 and 2008, and details of their Wonder Breaks packages to Portugal and Mozambique, see the Ticket to Ride website.