Skeleton Bay: the endless Namibian barreling wave

July 25, 2019 | Surfing
Skeleton Bay: one of the longest surfing waves in the world

Skeleton Bay, also known as Donkey Bay, is a legendary surf spot located on Namibia's Skeleton Coast.

The wave breaks at the Pelican Point sand spit, five miles northwest of Walvis Bay, a small port town known for its dunes and safe harbor.

It is a miracle of nature; an endless left-hand point break that peels nearly parallel to the coastline in a remote desert zone.

Skeleton Bay is the most famous and longest wave in the African continent, and one of the longest in the world. Let's not forget Chicama in Chile and Pavones in Costa Rica.

A ride at Skeleton Bay can take you on a journey of up to 2,000 meters. In other words, an experienced surfer may get barreled and ride a wave for three and a half minutes.

Pelican Point: a sand bar stretching along Walvis Bay's Skeleton Coast | Photo: Roper/Creative Commons

A Long and Windy Ride

Interestingly, the natural phenomenon occurs in a particularly windy region.

On November 24, 2012, at Walvis Bay, Paul Larsen set a new world speed sailing record - 65.45 knots - aboard his Sailrocket 2.

The waves at Skeleton Bay break over a sand bottom, all-year-round, but they achieve perfection during winter, i.e., between June and September.

In ideal conditions, you could score eight barrels in one wave.

But after each ride, you need to walk back to the take-off spot - four-wheel-drives are not allowed.

2008: The Year of the Discovery

The history of Skeleton Bay as an ultimate surfing destination is not completely clear.

In 2008, Surfing Magazine invited readers to embark on the "Google Earth Challenge 2." The goal was to browse and identify potential world-class surf breaks using the computer program.

One reader, Brian Gable, spent between 50 and 60 hours analyzing satellite images and trying to pinpoint the wave of a generation.

After submitting the precious Namibian surf gem to evaluation, the panel of judges reached an obvious conclusion: Gable had found an idyllic African wonder wave.

When the now-famous left-hander was publicly presented to the surfing world, the community was positively shocked with its beauty and wave riding potential.

A few months later, Floridian goofy-footer Cory Lopez traveled to Donkey Bay with a video team, scored it, and unveiled the surf gem via YouTube.

Later, the surf movie "5'5'' x 19 1/4'' Redux" by Lost came out with more footage of the so-called Cory's Left.

Some say that Randy Rarick found it first in 1980 - but didn't surf it - and that Grant "Twiggy" Baker rode it a few years before the online "discovery."

The rumors have not yet been confirmed or denied.

An Uncertain Future

Oceanographers believe that this freight-train barreling dream may not survive a negative combination of powerful currents and strong southerly winds.

Geomorphologists and coastal management experts have confirmed that Skeleton Bay is growing north-westward into the Atlantic Ocean at a rate of approximately ten meters per year.

As a result, the angle that helps create this mile-long wave may no longer be the same in the upcoming decades. So, let's enjoy it while we can. 

Skeleton Bay: you can get barreled for three and a half minutes | Still: Koa Smith/GoPro

Skeleton Bay | The X-Ray

Location: Walvis Bay, Namibia
GPS Coordinates: -22.9376218, 14.4175265
Wave Size Range: 4-8 Feet
Swell Direction: W/SW
Bottom Type: Sand
Wave Direction: Left
Tides: Low, Mid, High
Wind Direction: E
Water Temperature: 57-68°F (14-20°C)
Best Months: June-September (Winter)
Hazards: Seals and Jellyfish

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