Updated 18 December 2015

Extreme watersports in South Africa

South Africa’s legendary summers guarantee fun in the sun for the better part of the year. The ideal way to get fit and beat the heat is to hit the water, fast.

Whether you live inland or at the coast, dive in and discover one of these new, exciting aqua sports…

The beauty of living in good old SA is we don’t need a gym to get our endorphin fix. With the great outdoors right on our doorstep and an enviable climate we have access to a wealth of ways to burn kilojoules, tone the body and recharge the mind – simultaneously. Better still, outdoor sports don’t even feel like exercise.

With spring in the air, increase the fun factor by moving from terra firma to the sea, rivers and lakes. And you’re spoilt for choice in the water: anything goes, from bodyboarding the beach break at Ballito to kitesurfing Blouberg’s swell to wakeboarding on an inland lake.

Take your pick in terms of your specific level of skill, fitness and daring. All you really need is the right gear and someone to show you the ropes. Which is exactly what we do over the next few pages.

1 Kiteboarding

This extreme discipline may be one of the new kids on the aqua-sport block but kiteboarding (or kitesurfing) hasn’t taken long to capture the imagination of the outdoor tribe.

The playground Dolphin Bay near Bloubergstrand is perfect for taking on the Cape Doctor – in fact, wind freaks from around the world rip into the swell here against the classic backdrop of Table Mountain. If you’re new to the sport, head for Langebaan (especially idyllic Shark Bay), where shallow water and consistent wind speeds create the ideal environment for learning the ropes. Upcountry, kiteboarders can get their fix about 300 km from Johannesburg at Sterkfontein Dam near Harrismith.

The gear A quad (or four-line) kite forms the basis of your kit and is operated with a control bar and set of high-tensile lines. The kite size depends on the speed of the wind, your weight and your competence so you’ll need a range of sizes for varying conditions. The boards are bi-directional, with foot straps and a leash – again, shape and size determine the board’s suitability for specific water and wind conditions. Beginners’ boards are generally larger to provide more stability. Finally you’ll need a safety system in the form of a harness, helmet, personal flotation device and a neoprene wetsuit – a must in freezing Cape waters.

Body benefits Kiteboarding is as full a body workout as you can expect from any sport. Specific attention should be paid to the major stressors on ligaments and muscle groups in your shoulders and back. Muscles that benefit specifically from kiteboarding include your laterals (back), deltoid and trapezius muscles (shoulders), and triceps and biceps (arms).

Getting started Kiteboarding is a relatively technical sport but a qualified IKO (International Kiteboarding Organisation) instructor should have you defying gravity after three or four training sessions. This is by far the best way to get into the sport because equipment is supplied and you get a good idea of which boards, harnesses and kites work best for you.

Like all adrenaline activities, kiteboarding is inherently dangerous so it’s best to learn from an expert. Not only will you avoid injuring yourself (and innocent bystanders), you’ll also minimise the chance of ruining your equipment.

In a nutshell

  • Getting started Steep learning curve.
  • Cost Forking out R15 000 to R20 000 might challenge your bank balance.
  • Extreme factor You can really hurt yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Contact Visit Kiteboarding South Africa 

2 Bodyboarding

You can do “stand-up” and you can do “prone” but never both. (For boarding virgins, you stand up on a regular surfboard or lie prone on your stomach on a bodyboard.) Regular surfers have smirked at their bodyboarding brethren for generations but with the recent “Prone and Proud” revolution bodyboarders are carving a niche for themselves in a sport that’s now respected in its own right.

The playground Prone surfers flock to the reef and shore breaks around the coastline and can often master barrels beyond the capability of the stand-up crowd. Hot spots for extreme action include Bloubergstrand, Kalk Bay and Kommetjie in Cape Town, Elands Bay on the West Coast, Bayview at Hermanus, Cave Rock along the Durban Bluff and Umhlanga Rocks further along the coast, as well as Hobie Beach in Port Elizabeth and Port Alfred on the Sunshine Coast.

The gear In simple terms you need a board and a pair of fins (not flippers – those are for seals). Once you are hooked on the sport, details such as your riding style, physique, water temperature and the type of waves you plan to ride will affect your eventual purchase decisions. In short, you can choose “beaded” or “extruded” cores (the techniques used in making the board) or a combination of the two – it’s best to ask staff at pro surf shops for advice. Your board is attached to your arm with a leash and the fins help you power into the wave at optimal speed. Fin socks and a good wetsuit will help keep you warm.

Body benefits Flexibility is the key to bodyboarding and some manoeuvres could extend your muscles and tendons to their limits. So it’s imperative to maximise flexibility by following a stretching routine for your joints and muscles. The hip rotators, hamstrings, quadriceps, shoulders and back are particularly important and you should always warm up before paddling out.

Getting started Basically you lie on your board and paddle out to the break, using your fins and arms to propel you through the water. Once there, you wait for the right wave and power into it just before it breaks. The idea is to carve down the face of the wave, following the direction of the break, while performing flips, spins and other fancy feats. If you’re a “grommet” (a rookie in boarding terms), wage war on small waves until you’ve honed your technique.

In a nutshell

  • Geting started Easy enough.
  • Cost Relatively affordable – you can get the basic equipment for around R2 000.
  • Extreme factor You determine your own danger level.
  • Contact The definitive South African bodyboarding site is
3 Wakeboarding

The sport can be traced back to towing a surfboard behind a motorboat (which earned the cringe-worthy term “skurfing”). Contemporary wakeboarding borrows from edgier disciplines such as surfing, waterskiing and snowboarding.

The playground Gauteng boasts top wakeboarding venues such as Base 3 in Midrand and the Riviera Aquatic Club near Vereeniging. In the Western Cape the Misverstand, Fisantekraal and Blue Rock (near Somerset West) dams score high in the extreme ratings. If you are in KwaZulu-Natal check out the brilliant Boardalign wakeboard camp near Port Edward.

The gear Assuming you already have the boat and towing rig, you still need to spend big bucks on your board and bindings (boots). The shape of the board and its fin configuration determine the skills required of the rider and brands with street cred include Hyperlite, Liquid Force and O’Brien. In addition you’ll probably need a helmet, wetsuit and board bag.

Body benefits Because wakeboarding is based on a combination of flexibility, mobility and strength it’s an effective way to fine-tune your physique and your reflexes. Conditioning is key to your performance so you need to combine strength and endurance training to maximise your performance. Traditional static and dynamic stretches, targeted weight-training and aerobic exercise will benefit your wakeboarding performance and your body.

Getting started At its heart, wakeboarding is a watersport for inland extremists who can’t get to the sea. Acquiring a big-budget boat used to be a major obstacle but the advent of cableskiing systems (think Base 3 and Blue Rock Dam) has made it possible for Joe Bloggs to plug into the action without breaking the bank. You strap yourself onto the board with the bindings (as you would with a snowboard) then hang on to the tow rope and wait for the cable winch to kick in and zip you around the lake.

In a nutshell
  • Getting started It takes balance, strength and skill.
  • Cost It’s fairly pricey even if you don’t need to buy a boat. New equipment will cost you at least R6 000.
  • Extreme factor At high speed, water can hurt.
  • Contact Visit or

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