When Covid-19 struck, perhaps not many, but some things improved. The environment could breathe again, beer became acceptable on a daily basis, some people were paid not to work and South Africa remained one of the best places in the world to kite. Restricted but not rooted, like many kiters around the world, Kyle Cabano and Oswald Smith reignited their hunger for adventure and discovery in their own country. This is a South African east coast story

WORDS AND PHOTOS: Kyle Cabano

CAPTION: Dune discovery

When Covid-19 struck, perhaps not many, but some things improved. The enviroment could breathe again, beer became acceptable on a daily basis, some people were paid not to work and South Africa remained one of the best places in the world to kite. Restricted but not rooted, like many kiters around the world, Kyle Cabano and Oswald Smith reignited their hunger for adventure and discovery in their own country. This is a South African east coast story

WORDS AND PHOTOS: Kyle Cabano

Good vibes are contagious in Cape Town. It’s the downwinders with the crew; the post-session spirit coolers overlooking an Atlantic sunset; making new friendships and strengthening the old ones. Starting your new year here could sweep you up into making some seriously ambitious goals for the year ahead. We all had hopes for 2020 but the world had other plans in store. When travel bans were imposed worldwide, many of South Africa’s late season visitors had to swiftly pack up the show and head home, too. We were served a ten week period of total lockdown where only essential tasks were permitted and, other than that, we were to stay indoors. As for most of you, I’m sure, it was a massively testing period for me. While the new normal has not quite been defined yet and international borders are still closed, I am stoked that we are allowed outside again and permitted to travel provincially.

As the weeks of national lockdown drew into months, it became increasingly obvious that the upcoming winter months would be a season at home. Plans were stripped away, but South Africa is a diverse country; from culture to climate and landscapes to lifestyle. We are blessed to have 2,800 kilometres of coastline that spans six different climate zones, each uniquely beautiful. Cape Town is the wind sport capital of the country, particularly over the summer season. If you’ve ever been here early in the pre-season, or stuck around in the late season, you may have had a taste of the Cape winter; which is wet and wild! Winter storms generate some spectacular oceans and send massive swells up the east and west coast. Coupled with gale force winds, the raging oceans make for some interesting kite conditions. Nonetheless, we count ourselves lucky to have wind and waves in both seasons.

Ozzie rigging for epic solo session memories

Ozzie rigging for epic solo session memories

Ozzie's kite loop cannons rock

Ozzie's kite loop cannons rock

A semi-secret of the South African winter is the magic that occurs on the east coast. If you hit the long road out of Cape Town and keep driving until you cross provincial borders into the Eastern Cape you’ll be rewarded with crisp, sunny days, moderate temperatures and groomed swells that have marched up from Cape Town. The local flora and fauna change and the urban CBDs thin out into rural farmlands and wild parks. Up here the waves break for kilometres on end due to a seemingly magical coastline geometry. World class surf is available and, if you time it right, you’ll also score fabulous winter winds in the most stunning settings. There seems to be some sort of unspoken agreement between Ozzie and myself to make all travel plans as last minute as we can. We had just touched ground from an amazing west coast expedition with the Dirty Habits crew when Ozzie caught eye of a forecast up the east coast at the remote coastal village of Cannon Rocks. The forecast seemed unreal with roaring westerlies stacked up for days on end before turning east. Quite an unusual sight, so we decided to go and investigate.

Cannon Rocks is on the kitesurfing radar thanks to our friend and host, Cedric Vanderschrik, who was the organiser of the Cannon Rocks Kitesurfing Classic, a yearly event on the South African Kite Tour that attracted kite talent from across the country. Unfortunately the event no longer runs, so the spot is now somewhat out of the kitesurfing spotlight. That isn’t to say it’s going unridden; there’s a crew of locals who are there at a flip of the wind switch. Cannon Rocks is also bordering the coastal belt of the Great Addo Elephant Park, one of SA’s most impressive wildlife parks. Blessed with unspoilt and uncrowded beach environments, one of the world’s largest migrating dune fields is also situated on the west end of Cannon Rocks beach.

Cedric Vanderschrik

Cedric Vanderschrik

THE SEARCH WAS ON AGAIN The morning of our departure was icy as we began the journey north along the east coast. Fully loaded – we had it all from surf and kite quivers, to fishing tackle and a pile of camera gear. As the drive matures you notice the change in landscapes. Towering mountains morph into rolling hills while the river crossings become more frequent. The drive took us a full 11-hours with a few stops along the way and right at the approach of Cannon Rocks our GPS led us onto the scenic route, scoring us a bonus drive through a private game reserve. A super sweet treat! Upon arrival in Cannon Rocks we were treated to a kite session in an unannounced westerly wind. The sand dunes are massive, having reclaimed areas that were once used as parking lots. There’s a real feeling of abandonment and it was an amazing sight to behold; running over the dunes to reveal a windswept sea with ample swell. Until then, the spot had only existed as a name on a map and it felt amazing to quench my travelling thirst and experience such diversity in my home country. We managed to sneak a session in just as the sun was setting over the rollings hills behind the sand dunes before heading over to Ced’s to announce our arrival and catch up with an old friend. Ced has been involved in kitesurfing since the sport landed in South Africa in the late nineties and it was an education to see his collections of antique kite gear as well as hear tales from days gone by.

Over the course of our stay we scored eight windy days out of nine, making the most of up to three sessions per day. The wind can blow all day and strongly! Due to the massive storms that we were experiencing, the ocean was rogue with towering breaks reaching out for hundreds of metres into the sea. Combined with the rocky shoreline and rusted shipwrecks that scatter the beaches, this is definitely not a suitable beginner spot. After an amazing week of binging out on kiting, shooting and taking in the new surroundings, we started making our movements back towards Cape Town. At this point of the trip we had not yet activated the surfboards, so we eyed up the charts and were lucky enough to tuck into some world-class waves out at Jeffrey’s Bay on the way down, which really was a cherry on the cake to round off an amazing time up the coast. In a year where it seems that the world has stood still, I found paradise in my backyard. I have explored more of my home country in the last six months than I have done collectively in my lifetime and for this I am grateful. There are always new experiences out there waiting to be discovered. All you need to do is wander. Follow Kyle: @as_the_dodo_do Oswald Smith rides for Airush and Mystic

Got these on lockdown

Got these on lockdown

The fins of freedom

The fins of freedom

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