Spike’s Winter Swell Course-my review

If you let go the fear, the fear let’s go of you

So said the surfer I passed on my first grim and terrified march down to the waterline at Muizenberg.

Easier said than done, you Crusty Old Salt.

But since knowledge is power, (And I already got a handle on the shark side of things HERE ) I decided to enroll in Spike’s Winter Swell Course  to fight my fear of waves  that are above three foot. (Pffft. Mop up those tears of mirth and mockery. We all have to start somewhere.)

So Spike, as you know, is the Actual Wind Guru (forget that other website thingy)


He is the Obi Wan Kenobi of swell prediction.


The ultimate soothsayer of where to surf when.


You can check out all his forecasts over on Wavescape  But you knew that already, right?

Here’s something you might not know. Spike may be a man of mirth over there at Wavescape, but he morphs into a man of maths at the Winter Swell Course. Be sure to pack your thinking cap (or don’t drink the free craft beer too early) because there are graphs and charts and formulae and calculations to be beheld. And digested. (That, or You ous might be dossing in twenty minutes)

Some things whizzed by in a blur of moving wavy arrows and the odd synoptic chart (the latter b.t.w, are for ballies at the weather services) but here are some cool things I learned:

(Without giving away too much. Go pay for your own ticket for the next course)

  •  How swell is formed
  • The difference between gravity swell and wind swell
  •  How and why sets are formed (makes sense when you know)
  • The effects of refraction on swell (tricky one.)
  •  The effects of a higher swell period (clue: you will feel some effects on your head if you get caught inside)
  • A whole bunch of other cool stuff that includes wavelengths and formulae and energy and distance/time/velocity calculations.

what giphy

I know. I had to revise my amplitudes, wavelengths, refraction and other such blasts from my High School Science Past very quickly in my head. Because Spike’s power point slides only have about a 5 second period.

Anyway  I came away with a brain full of important wavy stuff and I recommend you go check it out next time. In the meantime, though, let me assure you, that Spike is not just an emoji face. He can figure out, to the half hour, when the sets will start arriving. So, if you can’t rely on your own Maths and Oceanography skills,  just check out his forecasts HERE They are probably better than yours will ever be.

The venue for the Winter Swell Course was A Touch Of Madness in Obs, which Eat Out aptly describes as “comfy, casual, hip and happening” A choice of tacos and either a craft beer or a glass of wine were included in the ticket cost. The food was generous and delicious.  The husband noted, with his sad, babysitting-weary eyes, that I squandered a good Jack Black opportunity by choosing a glass of wine.

Here are some extra gems, polished up nice and shiny for my hometown and my Wahines.

  •  Nearly The Most Important Thing: Why PE has no waves when it’s so close to JBay  – the bay is pointing away from the prevailing swell direction. That is all. Otherwise PE is perfect. But you knew that.
  • The Most Important Thing:   The Ideal Scenario for Powerful Waves (the ones I fear)
  1. A steep depth transition
  2. An Offshore breeze  (you knew that)
  3. Deep Energy Swell  (you knew that too – no piddly 6 second period.)

Which brings me to the good news for the Wahines:  Muizenberg doesn’t have the steep transition. It’s a little spilling wave. So powerful waves ain’t gonna happen. Wahines, your bikinis are safe at the Berg.

However, don’t y’all be popping off to paradise in Tahiti anytime soon. Teahupo’o meets all those criteria in Supersize. Your bikini will never be seen again.

Keala Kenelly the Ineria

Keala Kennelly Photo Cred The Inertia


See more of photos of Teahupo’o  over at The Inertia

If you have FOMO, you can read more about these kind of  things in Spike’s book, Surfing South Africa, (if you haven’t already. It was published in 2008) It’s available on Takealot  HERE

If you’re bleak you missed the Swell Course, then don’t miss Wavescape’s   Surf Film Festival  here in Cape Town in December (Only 3 months away, people!!) because it’s kiff and balmy and then the b*&#$@ wind comes up. (But you’ll have to take the Swell Course to find out why.)



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