A three-day weekend calls for adventuring, and what better place to do so than South Africa? Last weekend we headed an hour west to Jeffery’s Bay, home of the Billabong Surfing Championships. After a road trip and a few wrong turns, we made it to Island Vibes, our hostel and home for the next few days.
From the moment we talked to the smiling Charmain at the front desk, I knew I would love Island Vibes. The laid-back, surf bum feel was absolute heaven to me. I had never stayed in a hostel before, but it ended up being AMAZING! It was kind of like living in a big house, except your house-mates just happened to be incredible surfers from all around the world. As I leaned over the balcony watch the waves crashing on the shore and breathed in the salt-tinged air, I was filled with bliss (how’s that for Island Vibes?)
I thought that my time at J-Bay would be filled with sunbathing and not surfing, but after a few of my friends signed up for lessons I decided to give it a try. For anybody who knows me, I have an atrocious sense of balance, so I thought I would be awful. Our surf instructor, a lanky curly-haired guy named Ronnie, assured me that by the end of the day I’d be standing up (I was incredibly doubtful).
After squeezing into some wetsuits, doing some stretching and learning some basic surfboard terminology, it was into the waves. At first, we just learned paddling and took some time riding the waves to the shore without standing up, which I was totally okay with. We then practiced some pop-ups and headed back. As the next big wave headed towards us, I got on my board and took a deep breath. You got this, Jen! I thought to myself.
The next moment, I was head over tails in a swirl of salty ocean spray. For a few terrifying moments I thought I was drowning, but broke the water, snorting and sputtering, to see Ronnie a few yards off laughing and telling me to try again.
After a dozen more attempts, I found finding my balance to be easier and easier, and eventually worked my way up to my knees…and then, standing! By the end of the day I was able to catch a few waves and ride them all the way to the shore, even throwing up a “Hang Loose” as I went.
That evening we enjoyed my first Mexican food at South Africa and ended the evening hanging out with our new surf friends and some other folks at the hostel.
The next day we got up in time to see the sunrise, had an amazing hostel breakfast (pancakes wrapped around bacon with syrup!) and hit the beach again. I definitely think I’ve fallen in love with surfing and am going to try it at the beach here in Port Elizabeth. We ended our trip with a visit to Billabong and some time at the arcade (where I was the proud winner of a duck, a barrel of slime, and some loom bands).
Jeffery’s Bay has definitely been my favorite place in South Africa so far, and aside from jumping off a 216 meter bridge (yes, that also happened), one of my favorite memories from my trip. This weekend we’re headed to Shamwari for an overnight safari, and I can’t wait to finally see the Big Five!