South African surfers chase big winter waves

October 20, 2011 | Surfing
Rebel Sessions: big wave joy

A group of photographers and filmmakers has been documenting the surfers riding the giant waves off Cape Town’s coast.

For 100 days, the inaugural Rebel Sessions seeks to document the skill, commitment and camaraderie of the surfers who push themselves to the limit in the heaving waters of the freezing Southern Atlantic Ocean each winter.

Six waves with more than 15 feet were recorded by the specialized media camera crew and and the surfers who usually ride these giant waves just for the thrill of it are now eligible to win a share of the prize money of R110.000.

The best surfed big wave paddle-in, the biggest tow-in wave, the biggest paddle in wave and the worst wipe out will be awarded.

A panel of local and international surfing legends will judge the footage and photos captured by the Rebel Sessions and winners will be will be announced at an invite only awards, in Hout Bay, on 4th November.

Local legends like Andy Marr, Simon Lowe, Mickey Duffus and Mike Schlebach were joined by a new generation of young guns including Durbanite Josh Redman, Kommetjie locals Matt Bromley and James Lowe and fifteen year old Max Armstrong who all stepped up to the plate.

The Capes big wave reefs are world-renowned and for some of the Sessions local surfers were joined by the likes of professional big wave surfer, Grant “Twiggy” Baker from Durban along with his good friend and fellow Big Wave World Tour competitor, Californian Greg Long and Hawaiian waterman Ian Welsh.

The Sessions were slow to start and the Cape of Storms only started living up to its name almost a month into the Rebel Sessions window. After a long and depressing flat spell, session one eventually went down at one of Kommetjies famed outer reefs on 13th August in choppy and tricky conditions that saw the crew revving up their wave-runners and strapping into their tow boards.

Rebel Session number two went down in wild, wet and windy conditions on a Sunday end August. The freezing conditions did nothing to deter the dedicated and wave hungry crew who revelled in the mountainous seas when the biggest swell of the winter hit the Dungeons reef.

The size and conditions always suggested it would be another tow surf session but just to make sure some of the crew tried to paddle into the giant waves but after having only limited success they sensibly went back to the tow boards and everybody scored some seriously epic rides.

Session three followed hard on Session two’s heels, where Sundays session was huge and hairy by Monday morning the wind had dropped and the swell cleaned up allowing the eager big wave riders to ditch the tow boards grab their big sticks and paddle into some awesome 15-25 foot bombs.

With the perfect swell hitting both the outside Western reef and the inside 2.5 peak, the twenty plus surfers were well spread out and the more patient and experienced crew like Simon Lowe and Twiggy opted for the bigger but less frequent waves of the outer peak, while the likes of Josh Redman and “Mad” Mike Baleta threw themselves at everything on the inside, with Mike eventually having to retire after breaking all his boards.

While sessions four, five and six never came near to the size of session two and three they were each special in their own way. Session four was the spring session in sun-kissed perfection, session five the lumpy wipe out session and session six the unexpected silky smooth and super sexy session.