Aug 18

Catching waves on Namibia’s coastline

… Pro Surfer’s Descend Upon Skeleton Bay

By: Vitalio Angula

Surfing became an Olympic sport in August 2016 but did not feature at the Rio de Janeiro showpiece, surfing only debuted at the Tokyo Games of 2020 (2021).

A lifestyle for natives of Hawaii, children begin to surf as early as age four. Nathan and Ivan Florence are international surf pro’s (professional surfers) from the island of Hawaii and this past week they were at Skeleton Bay, along Namibia’s coastline at the harbor town of Walvis Bay to surf.

Also known as Donkey Bay, the waves are described by pro surfers as having the world’s perfect barrel. A barrel is the inside of a wave and surfers attempt to ride it for the longest time for cash prizes at international events.

Surfers also travel the globe hunting big waves for the thrill of riding the longest barrel and preparing for international events and competitions.

George Toma travelled from Windhoek when he heard the big names of the sport like Jamie O’Brian, Brett Barley and the Florence brothers had come to Skeleton Bay to catch the world’s longest barrel.

“It’s not a wave for beginners, it requires a skill set. This is the most crowded it has been. On Wednesday there was a big swell but the wind was bad. Saturday, all the requirements for good surf were met and that is what made this occasion so special,” Toma explained.

Toma said surfers usually follow swell charts in order to identify where the best waves in the world will be at a specific moment in time and this August (the first week of August) Namibia presented the best opportunity for surfers to ride waves.

Jamie O’Brian, 2004 Billabong Pipeline Masters Winner was also at the coast and described what this this gathering of elite surfers meant to him.

“It has always been a dream of mine to come out to Skeleton Bay and catch the longest barrel of my life”. O’Brian said.

“It has always been a quest of mine, to travel the world’s longest barreling wave and it just happens to be right here at the Skeleton Coast,” he further said.

O’Brian, has been surfing since he was five years old and travels the world as a professional free- surfer.

“I travel the world as a professional free-surfer. I have won big contests at the Pipeline. I won the Pipeline Masters when I was twenty-one years old”, O’Brian said.

The Pipeline Masters is the most prestigious surf event in the world.

“There are so many elite surfers here. Kelly Slater, Brett Barley and Nate Florence. The amount of talent here is incredible because this is probably because this is the best wave in the world; it’s so long, it’s so perfect. When you get the right wave here you can be in the barrel for over two minutes which is impossible anywhere else in the world. It’s the world’s best perfect barrel”, O’Brian explained.

Pro surfers make money through social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram. They upload videos as blogger’s for their followers. They also have sponsorships from big name brands in the surfing merchandise business like O’Neill, Billabong and Quicksilver.

Mahina Florence, a lifestyle and commercial model travels the world with her husband Nathan Florence. She records his surfing videos for upload on YouTube and she spoke to Future Media about the sport.

“We travel the world to waves and just make vlogs, and he has sponsors and that’s how surfers usually get paid. It’s hard for people to understand that this is a job, a professional job and I think we got very fortunate to be in this career and lifestyle”, Florence said.

Mahina pointed out the lack of local participation as an opportunity for young Namibians to get more involved in the sport although she did point out that surfing is an expensive sport.

“I definitely noticed that there are not a lot of locals surfing out here. I definitely think that it’s a sport they should start learning and adopting”, she suggested.

“Sometimes surfing does have really good opportunities but sometimes it doesn’t so you see a lot of surfers here they are not making a lot of money but they are committed to the sport but I do think it will be really cool to see more Namibian surfers out there”, Florence noted.

Free surfing is a branch of professional surfing where surfers watch a swell chart consistently and try to be at a place where there is a good swell (right waves for surfing). Surfers are not always so lucky because nature dictates whether the weather will present the perfect conditions to surf and this past week Skeleton bay presented the best conditions for surfers to ride the best waves.