Words by C.S. Louis
Cape Town is best described in verse. Prose’s rigid and confined structure will always feel contrived describing the raw swirling ocean of peoples trying to co-habitate the southern tip of Africa, or the Mother City, as she is affectionately known. She has a natural energy — it makes you love all girls, women and even men. You can drink the water; you can breathe the air and run amok in a port that wont even notice you out of place.
HOW: Remember when you wanted to dig a hole through the earth to China, well you would’ve been turtle-heading in South Africa if you had ever looked at a fuckin’ map. Get here on an airplane, several airplanes. From California you connect through Europe (Amsterdam, London or Frankfurt) and hopefully fly direct to Cape Town at about eleven hours each leg plus or minus a layover joint, pint, or bier. From the east coast you can fly direct with a stopover in Senegal to refuel, to Johannesburg in 16 hours and then connect to Cape Town in two hours. You’ll want to whizz through Jo-Burg rapidly, think of a rich Arizonian who’s painfully friendly and sits in a lot of traffic daydreaming about relocating to Cape Town.
SURVIVING THE TRAVEL: A long story short, it ends up taking over thirty hours travel time and crosses ten time zones and you’ll arrive like a vampire at noon seeking a toothbrush, shower and personal space. My advice is to have a damn drink to tweak your mind further around towards a full rotation, meet a new friend at the Power and the Glory on Buitengracht Street and then make love for the remaining twelve hours to get you back on schedule, minus two days. Stay anywhere in Cape Town CBD or “town” as it is referred to, awake to Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean across from a sea of tower cranes and shipyards, skip the cable car tourist buses and have a quiet coffee at Deluxe Coffeeworks on Church Street. You will be ridiculed by the staff of ardent coffee Nazis and no matter what you order, will receive a flat-white. Next, hop into the searing cold sea at Glen Beach in Camps Bay to receive a humble dose of reality.
THE MOTHER DRAWS US ALL IN (The African Melting Pot): The ancient San tribes, the Xhosa (pronounced with a click by placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth), the Dutch pilgrims who missed Plymouth Rock and since known as the Afrikaans (the white tribe of Africa), the French seeking Terroir, the Indians and Malays that made love with the Afrikaans and today are referred to as coloured (not considered derogatory), the British Empire fucking it all up like normal, the Zulu Empire starting wars and shit, the Germans being German, the Homosexuals (Cape Town is the third point of the Pink Triangle), and the Congolese, Nigerians, Zimbabweans, and Malawians whom all used to be doctors in their own country before civil turmoil — but somebody’s gotta feed the rest of Africa.
SURFBOARDS: After your thirty minute maximum ice-bath chasing your too-high-performance-hybrid shortboard around after your comp leash snaps, and realizing the guys in the hoods and gloves look way happier than you, go visit Volker at Sport and Surf on Long Street for a decent leash, suitable surf craft and extra rubber. Two years ago Channel Islands came to South Africa, and although they are twice the price of a local shape at $600, they are, well, Merricks. Or if you’re really clever, killing time at work before departure, shoot Dave at DVG shapes an email a month (make it two he is a shaper after all) before you arrive to shape you a couple custom tuned sticks that are more accustomed to the Cape’s board-breaking waters. Plus sharks don’t eat local shapes. At $300 bucks each you are truly a deranged, self-absorbed fool if you even ponder lugging a boardbag through 3 to 5 airports with 3 to 5 potential fee-rapings along the way.
WEATHER: Cape Town lies at the convergence of the Benguela Current from Antarctica and the Agulhas Current from India creating up to a twenty-degree seawater difference on any given day across a four-mile wide strip of peninsula. The differential creates a relentless southeast wind (offshore on the Atlantic side) throughout their summer each year. Watch the Cape Town portion of the 1966 Endless Summer and be blown away. The wind is known as the Cape Doctor because it blows any pollution away and leaves Cape Town’s air cleaner than Scandinavia’s.
IN THE WATER (SUMMER): On day one you wont have a word to spare while running down the dunes into a crystalline sea of barreling beachbreak perfection. Day three will become tiresome as you retrieve your board from OUT to sea after a wave in the 45 degree water dislodges it, whacking you in the face and garnering a few reasonably priced African stitches. On day five you will be curled up in a ball unable to walk out the door for fear of the sky falling, sobbing like a baby, necking brandy, wishing the air around you would remain static for even one second. And while you’re strapping on your 4/3 and assorted neoprene goodies, keep in mind it’s summer, one hundred degrees with bikini-clad babies everywhere.
IN THE WATER (WINTER): In winter the wind switches to northwest during storms and often still in between opening up a lot more stretches of the coastline. Spend some of the thirty hours on the plane looking at a map to unlock these beauties and maybe bring a shark repellent leash. There are weekly swells swinging west to east 1000 Kilometers south in the Roaring Forties, and you did remember your 9′ 6″ right? Whatever size wave it is you’re comfortable with can be found in Cape Town during the winter. Or you can sneak into a more swell-shadowed cove for something only reasonably overhead. And you have heard of J-Bay, right?
WHEN: Plan your trip depending on what you seek grasshopper. Summer offers long days, warm dry breezes in the wine lands acting like a Huguenot, with bustling eves at Caprice in Camps Bay rubbing shoulders with Leo DiCaprio, European models and rich douches in pop-collared Polos. There is always a head high wave somewhere if you know where to look, and if not remember that it’s winter in Europe and all of their models (especially the hedonistic, pleasure seeking variety) are in Cape Town to snort lines of blow off of their producer’s dicks, and well son, that could very well be your dick with a couple well-placed white lies.
And winter is a mix of wild and wooly seas wrapped around a fireplace, drinking wine and reminiscing about your surf survival earlier that day. On the biggest days, I’d recommend leaving the boards at home, grabbing your lady from night one (remember her?) and spend the day exploring the peninsula by car.
DAY TRIP: Start at the Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay on the Indian Ocean side. During your presumable hangover, it will feel like the cafe’s patrons are crawling down your back, but realign your delicately balanced mood and order the day’s omelet, sip a cappuccino, and throw down a high quality shit before hitting the road south for the day. You’ll wrap through sad little drinking towns along the False Bay side of the peninsula and arrive at the Cape Point Reserve. The main attraction is the lighthouse at the end of the Cape of Good Hope on the southern most tip, but be sure to explore the little side roads that veer off occasionally to the left and right. Each has a treasure or African buck, ostriches, baboons, and dassie rats and a system of hiking trails set along the rugged coastline of surging bull kelp. Bring a picnic, have an afternoon beer, get your new friend naked in nature. But do remember that three of the five deadliest snakes reside here.
On the way back to the city, stop off in Hout Bay for some ribs at Pirates and good old-fashioned binge drinking. There’s a flourishing swingers scene and group sex may be on the menu for the most adventurist sailors.
BEERS: Upon returning to the city, drop off the lass like a gentleman. There’s sure to be some rugby on in the afternoon. Try Fireman’s Arms for a draught beer. The local beers are Castle (think Bud), Hansa (think Coors), Black Label (think ether) and they’re all cheap and refreshing. You’ll also find Amstel and Windhoek everywhere and although they are technically not local, most Saffas treat these lovely green-bottled lagers affectionately like domestics.
ART: If it’s a Thursday, the city’s art galleries have a collective open house with free drinks and couples walking along Long and Kloof streets around dusk. Try Salon 91 for a more accessible collection from younger local artists, most of them ladies. It’s a super un-creepy way to get them talking, buy a piece to take home, and take them out dancing for God’s sake.
CLUBS: Hop into a taxi and direct it towards Assembly where all the cool kids hang out. At first you’ll be disappointed with the electronic nature (house, deep house, trance, cranium-ringing garbage), but remember there’s a large European influence in Cape Town and they suck at making music.
GIRLS: On the way out the door, you’re not far from Mavericks and it is morally sound in a foreign country to sample the local booty. However, this local institution is filled with Sharapovas and Kournikovas and you’re just gonna have to make a judgment call regarding morality. At the time of this issue’s print, the current exchange rate yields reasonably priced trips to the “upstairs” VIP and who knows, you may return with a Russian bride by way of Cape Town.
Watch the Atlantic episode of Cluster below.