INDEX
 

Jeffreys Bay


Long, fast, exquisitely tapered right-breaking point surf, regarded for decades as one of the world's premier waves; located at the base of Cape St. Francis, South Africa, 45 miles west of Port Elizabeth. "It's an almost indescribable sight," South African pro surfer Marc Price said of Jeffreys in 1982. "Watching from the beach, you start off looking up to your right and end up facing left as the wave travels down the point. This 180-degree perspective is something no photograph can capture."

Waves along the enormous point at Jeffreys Bay are broken into five connected but distinct surfing areas: the Point and Tubes are the two innermost breaks (the former shapely and long, the latter short and intense); Boneyards and Magnatubes are the outermost breaks, both shifty, hollow, and hard-breaking; Supertubes, the magnificent centerpiece, located between Tubes and Boneyards, is the main draw and has become all but synonymous with Jeffreys Bay. A good Supertubes wave will last for about 250 yards. On the rarest of days a surfer can take off at Boneyards and carry on through Supertubes into an express section known as Impossibles, which shoots the rider into Tubes and through to the Point—a high-speed, half-mile ride lasting nearly two minutes.

Waves occasionally roll into Jeffreys during summer, but it breaks primarily from May to September, the result of winter swells generated in the fabled Roaring 40s. Winter air temperatures at Jeffreys range from the upper 40s to the low 70s, while ocean temperatures remain near 60. The wind here can be fickle, but often blows offshore or side-offshore for days at a time (usually as a result of the same storms that produce waves at Jeffreys); most surfers wear a full wetsuit against the wind-amplified cold and booties to protect their feet from the mussel-covered rocks that line the shore.

At daybreak, dolphins are regularly seen leaping from wave faces at Jeffreys as they race down the point, often in groups of 100 or more. Sharks, meanwhile, are an ever-present threat at Jeffreys. As of 2013, there had been about a half-dozen nonfatal white shark attacks on surfers and dozens of sightings. More attacks, including fatalities, have been recorded at nearby St. Francis Bay surf breaks.

Pioneering South African surfer John Whitmore spotted waves at Jeffreys Bay (named after local 19th- century hotel owner J.A. Jeffrey) in 1959, but the break wasn't ridden until 1964, when Cape Town surfer John Grendon, along with Muphy Bokhorst and four others, tried their luck at what would later be called Supertubes.The waves proved too fast for their 9'6" longboards. Repositioning to the north, they had a better time at the Point, which soon became the featured surf break at Jeffreys. (Former South African champion Tony van den Heuvel later claimed to have surfed the break a year earlier, and other surfers have "first at Jeffreys" claims as well. Supertubes, in any event, wasn't regularly surfed until the late '60s.)

Meanwhile, California's Bruce Brown filmed Mike Hynson and Robert August in 1963 discovering and riding "the perfect wave" at Cape St. Francis, 20 miles south of Jeffreys, in what would be the highlight sequence to Brown's movie The Endless Summer. Three years later, as Endless Summer was being shown in theaters across America, a Surfer magazine article titled "Quest for the Perfect Wave" denounced Cape St. Francis as fluky and unreliable, and introduced the surf world to the far more dependable and consistent waves at Jeffreys Bay. Visiting surfers began to camp out along the undeveloped sand- and aloe-covered beachfront, and dine in the nearby Afrikaner fishing township, also called Jeffreys Bay.

Jeffreys was a showcase wave from the beginning. Gavin Rudolph, Jonathan Paarman, Peers Pittard, and Bunker Spreckels were among the early standouts. Terry Fitzgerald, the 1971 Australian champion and aptly nicknamed "Sultan of Speed," was magnificent at Jeffreys throughout the '70s, linking one blistering turn to the next. 1977 world champion Shaun Tomson was for years the standout Jeffreys rider, placing himself deep inside the tube almost at will and driving his board into a wide range of turns. Mark Occhilupo of Australia, during his world tour debut in 1984, was one of the first goofy-foot surfers to match the regularfooters at Jeffreys.

Beginning in the early '90s, when high-performance shortboards became thinner and narrower, the performance level at Jeffreys among visiting pro surfers actually declined as their boards wouldn't hold the kind of sustained turns that Jeffreys demands. Tom Curren and Kelly Slater were able to find the right lines, however, and set a new Jeffreys standard before the end of the decade. The world pro tour included a stop at Jeffreys Bay in 1984 and 1996, and from 1998 to 2011. The 2001 Oxbow World Longboard Championships were also held at Jeffreys, with the win going to California surfer Colin McPhillips.

Jeffreys has over the years been home to a small but richly talented number of expatriate surf world eccentrics, including Malibu legend Mickey Dora, Florida ace Mike Tabeling, and Australian surf writer Derek Hynd. Once a remote but overwhelmingly beautiful break, Jeffreys, since the mid-'80s, has been crowded with South African vacationers and wave-seekers from around the world, and the rolling beachfront hills are now lined with houses, condos, and parking lots.

Jeffreys has been featured in dozens of surf movies, videos, and documentaries, including Freeform (1970), Fantasea (1978), Storm Riders (1982), The Search (1992), Endless Summer II (1994), Litmus (1997), Great Waves (1998), and Drive Thru South Africa (2005). Jeffreys Bay: Down the Line at the World's Best Pointbreak, a coffee table book, was published by Surfline in 2007.

The Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay was as men's division world championship event from 1996 to 2011. Winners included Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Andy Irons, Taj Burrow, and Jordy Smith, 

In 2011, Surfer named Jeffreys the second-best wave in the world, after Pipeline.