Imagine 10 weeks of surfing your way along the coast of South Africa, daily surf coaching, video analysis, and someone else taking care of all the arrangements. From transport and accommodation, to sightseeing and social activities, everything is taken care of. Sounds like heaven right?
This is what I got when I joined Ticket to Ride on their Original South Africa Surf Adventure. Ten weeks of surfing in seven locations – from Cape Town through to Durban – uncrowded waves, and a whole bunch of epic memories.
So is this the ultimate South Africa surf trip? Check out my in-depth review of the trip (and maybe hide your credit cards!).
Who is the trip aimed at?
From complete beginner to seasoned shredder, I honestly feel like any level of surfer would get a lot out of this trip. In the first couple of weeks, the coaching team cover the basics in-depth which is great if you’ve never surfed before or don’t have a lot of experience.
Even if you’re a more advanced surfer, you get to brush up on the foundations, like perfecting your pop-up and learning the correct technique for manoeuvres.
The Ticket to Ride coaches live, eat, sleep, and breathe surfing – there is nothing these guys don’t know. They’re also good surfers. Really good. Many of them are sponsored and a few compete on the WQS, so even if you’re already surfing at an advanced level, they have the skill and knowledge to push you further.
On my trip, the age of the group ranged from 18 to around 40. I wouldn’t get too hung up on age though as the group dynamic is pretty sociable, although it does help if you’re open, chilled, and happy to go with the flow.
Over the course of 10 weeks, the trip stops at seven different locations along the coast of South Africa, from Cape Town to Durban. This is what we got up to:
Duration: 2 weeks
The trip starts in Muizenberg, a little suburb of Cape Town famous for its rows of colourful beach huts. The beach break here is one of the best places in the world to learn to surf and offers mellow waves and long rides. This is where you’ll spend two weeks learning the foundations of surfing, dialling in your skills and technique, and getting to know everyone on the trip.
We surfed twice a day most days, either at the huge beach in front of the hostel, or depending on the conditions, around the Cape at Long Beach, plus a couple of secret spots.
After a few sessions at the beginning of the week, we were split into two groups based on ability which I liked because for me, it meant not fighting for waves with people who were miles better than me, or worrying about getting in other people’s way. It also meant that the better surfers got the chance to surf more challenging breaks.
When we weren’t surfing, there were tons of things to do in Cape Town. From hiking up Table Mountain and visiting the penguins at Boulders Beach, to wine tasting and chilling at food markets in the hills, we definitely didn’t have time to get bored!
Where we stayed: African Soul Surfer
What we did: Hiking up Table Mountain, visiting the penguins at Boulders Beach, wine and beer tasting
Optional activities: Seal snorkelling, scenic helicopter flight, scuba diving
Duration: 1 week
After a full-on couple of weeks in Cape Town, Plettenberg was a nice change of pace. Plett is a quiet holiday town and the only thing to do here is eat, sleep, surf, and relax. And that’s exactly what we did.
Through a combination of the surf coaching in-water and video analysis, I felt like things were starting to click by Plett. We had two surf sessions a day – usually a lesson or supervised session in the morning, then a free surf at ‘the wedge’ in the afternoon.
Lessons were taken by local surf coaches John and Donna and their team at Solar Beach; a punchy beach break. These guys know everything there is to know about surfing and the local area and I felt confident with them in the water.
The hostel was great and as well as having a kitchen, also has a big braai which they light every evening, and a nice garden area to eat in. When we weren’t surfing, we did a couple of stunning hikes as a group and chilled in the sun.
Leaving Plett meant that it was time for the world’s highest bridge bungy. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty terrifying – I cried before I’d even made it out onto the bridge – but everyone in the group did it so there was no backing out! (I’m a sucker for peer pressure)
Where we stayed: Albergo for Backpackers
What we did: Robberg Nature Reserve hike, Bloukrans Bridge Bungy (done on the way to J-Bay)
Optional activities: Skydiving
Duration: 12 days
Easily the most famous spot in South Africa, surfing in Jeffreys Bay was a massive bucket list tick for me.
J- Bay is another holiday town, but bigger and with a very different vibe to Plett. The hostel is set right on the beach in front of an epic point break which doesn’t always work, but when it does, produces long, peeling right-handers. A super fun reef break and (often dumpy) beach break are just a short walk down the beach.
Again, we had a local coaching team who took us out at Kitchen Windows and Phantoms and showed us the ropes. A highlight of this stop was watching a few of the (brave!) guys and girls surf Supertubes. It wasn’t big when we were there, but the razor sharp coral and fast reeling waves made it exciting to watch. (No one died :))
Outside of our surf sessions, we went to a cool little rock pool and jumped, swam, and chilled in the sun. J-Bay is also great for shopping, with loads of surf outlets selling everything from bikinis and boardies, to luggage and wetsuits. The hostel itself is also really social and has a lively nightlife.
Accommodation: Island Vibe
Included activities: Rock jumping, surfboard shaper tour, Quiksilver surf museum
Optional activities: Safari, Sandboarding, skydiving, horse riding, surf outlet shopping
Duration: 1 week
Cintsa is the first stop on the Wild Coast. The hostel feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere (in a good way) and the landscape is completely different. The walk to the beach follows the edge of a lake, then takes you briefly through sand dunes which give way to a massive beach. The ocean genuinely looks wild and as you look into the distance the beach has that misty haze.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t get on well with the beach break by the hostel. For the time that we were here, it was mostly messy with strong currents. But, we also surfed at a semi-secret spot about 15 minutes away that was well-protected from the wind, and that was awesome – clean, reeling lines and no one else out but us.
Where we stayed: Buccaneers Backpackers
What we did: Hardcore chilling!
Optional activities: Kayaking, SUPing, horse riding
Duration: 10 days
Coffee Bay was my favourite stop of the whole trip. We were there for 10 days, but I could’ve happily stayed a lot longer. It’s another off-the-beaten-track spot and still part of the Wild Coast, which you can see as soon as you arrive.
The hostel is a stone’s throw from a little cove, with a small tidal river running through the middle of it. We surfed about a five minute walk away in the next bay and got a real mixture of waves in the time that we were here. Everything from small and fun to big and punchy.
Besides surfing, we did a 10km hike to the Hole in the Wall which takes you along the coastal path and is one epic view after another.
Where we stayed: Coffee Shack
What we did: Guided coastal walk to the Hole in the Wall
Optional activities: A local village experience, more guided coastal walks
The Bluff (Durban)
Duration: 2 weeks
The penulitmate stop of the trip, The Bluff is a suburb of Durban. After being completely away from it all in Coffee Bay, it was a massive shock to the system when we got back to civilisation.
The hostel is set back one block from the beach in a residential area and has a really nice coffee shop run by the owner’s daugher right next door. The surf break is notoriously tricky – it’s looks friendly enough, but has a gnarly shore dump and is well-known for snapping the odd board.
Most of the time we surfed in town at the more mellow beach breaks and had some fun sessions.
If you’re doing the South Africa Surf Adventure, it is also possible to add a zero to hero surf instructor course. and it was Durban where the training for that really ramped up. During the fortnight, people on the surf instructor course did their lifesaving training separate to the group, which did impact a little bit on surfing.
Where we stayed: Ansteys Backpackers
What we did: FlowRider at WavePark Gateway
Optional activities: Surf Instructor Certification + Surf Lifesaver Award (For surf instructor course)
Duration: 1 week
We moved across to the other side of Durban for the last stop of the trip. To be brutally honest, this was probably my least favourite location. The surf break here was really challenging and not suitable for most people in the group so we continued to surf in town, which was fine, but for three weeks didn’t really offer anything new.
For anyone not completing the surf instructor course, I felt like Durban could’ve been a lot shorter and we wouldn’t really have missed out on anything. The hostel was in another residential area and there wasn’t much to do outside of our surf sessions.
This was also the stop that we did the game drive safari, although we did it in the minibus rather than safari vehicles which was a bit of a disappointment as I couldn’t see much! If you’re excited about doing a safari, I’d say look into booking one separately for the full ‘South Africa safari’ experience.
Where we stayed: Monkey Bay Backpackers
What we did: Game drive safari
It’s definitely not the cheapest trip you could take, but when you consider that the standard of coaching is exceptional plus the fact that you can do a fully arranged South Africa surf trip without any worries, it’s a good option.
Ticket to Ride operates a tiered pricing structure so the earlier you book, the cheaper it is.
Prices start at £4,795.
For the latest dates and prices check the Ticket to Ride website.
- Accommodation throughout (Shared dorms are standard, but double room upgrades are available)
- Return airport transfers
- All transport throughout the trip
- Full pre-departure support
- Coaching from top surf coaches
- Surf kit rental for the first two weeks in Cape Town
- Welcome night braai
- Discounts on surf kit including surfboards
- Educational talks such as surfboard anatomy and understanding swell
- Final night dinner party
- Various hikes throughout the trip
- Involvement in community projects throughout the trip
- The chance to scare yourself silly on the world’s highest bridge bungee jump
- Surfboard factory tour
- Safari game drive (although it’s worth booking separately if you want the full, guided, open jeep style safari)
What isn’t included?
Ticket to Ride offer a meal plan as an optional extra for £600 for the trip. This includes breakfast every day, and dinner five nights a week. If you’re on a tight budget, or have specific dietary requirements, it’s possible to eat cheaper than this.
For those not on the meal plan, you are responsible for sourcing and covering the cost of all your own meals. Eating out in South Africa is surprisingly cheap though and it was possible to get a decent meal for around 50-100ZAR (£2.50 to £5.50).
Buying food from the supermarket however, was (weirdly) relatively expensive in comparison to eating out. We only ever cooked for ourselves when we wanted to eat something specific, or when eating out wasn’t an option.
Alcohol is also not included but you can get a beer for around 20ZAR (£1), and a bottle of wine from the supermarket for around 70ZAR (£4).
The other big expense is surf kit. From Plettenberg onwards you need to have your own board and wetsuit, but for the first two weeks in Cape Town, you can take a board from the surf shop next door to the hostel.
The good news, is that surfboards are relatively cheap to buy in South Africa compared to most countries, so if you don’t already have one, it’s worth waiting until you’re on the trip.
There is an opportunity at the end of the two weeks in Cape Town to buy boards, which is great as you’ll be able to try out different size and shape hire boards throughout the fortnight, then buy the perfect board for the trip with the coaches on hand for expert advice.
Ticket to Ride crew get an extra discount. A new mini mal will set you back around £200. There is also an opportunity to buy custom surfboards towards the end of the trip in Durban, so budget that in if you want to get a new board once you’ve progressed.
Wetsuits, on the other hand, are relatively more expensive in South Africa, so aim to get one before you go. You’ll need a decent 3/2 mm, as the water at the start of the trip can be pretty chilly! I got an awesome end of season deal from Wetsuit Outlet and saved a bundle on a Ripcurl Flashbomb wetsuit. This has the quick drying lining and was a godsend on days we were surfing twice a day.
Would I recommend the trip?
If you have 10 weeks and five grand burning a hole in your pocket, then absolutely! Even though I’ve been surfing for a few years already, I wish I’d had this coaching and learnt properly right at the beginning. I feel like my surfing would have progressed so much quicker if I had done.
I learned so much during the 10 weeks, and I could see a huge improvement in my surfing by the end of the trip. I only wish I could do it again in another year’s time once I’ve had time to work on everything I learned and I’m ready to push on again!
Some final tips
Do your prep
One of the biggest things I noticed at the start of the trip, was the amount of people suffering from niggles and injuries in Cape Town, and some had niggles that bothered them right into the trip. Going from not surfing, to suddenly surfing twice a day every day is punishing on your body. Shoulder injuries were probably the most common, followed by problems with the muscles in the ribs.
My best piece of advice would be to do some solid physical preparation before the trips starts. Yoga and swimming are great for surfing, but I’d go even further and do some surf specific strength and conditioning work. Burpees, press-ups, V sit ups – anything that strengthens the muscles you use for surfing.
Be realistic about your need for space
The standard accommodation provided on the trip is dorm rooms throughout. If you’re travelling as a couple, or you just need a bit more privacy and space, consider paying for the an upgrade to private double rooms. It’s even possible to do this for only a portion of the trip.
Couples who surf together…
…for 10 weeks may want to kill each other by the end! In all seriousness though, while it’s possible, and perfectly feasible, to do the trip as a couple, it’s worth seriously considering the strain the trip can put on a relationship. Essentially, you’re spending all day, every day, in each other’s pockets for 10 weeks. Obviously every relationship is different – this may be your idea of heaven – but I’d say for most normal people, it’s going to be a challenge.
If you’re still keen on doing the trip with your other half, think about things like date nights, being proactive about heading off niggles before they turn into arguments, and definitely consider upgrading to a private room throughout the trip.
What date does the trip start?
The trip runs twice a year, and starts in January and September.
Check here for the latest dates and prices and to book your spot.
To really get an idea of what the trip is like, take two minutes to watch this video by Chris from Stoked for Travel. It combines clips from each of the stops and will definitely make you want to drop everything and go surfing!
So is this the ultimate South Africa surf trip?
What do you think, is this your idea of the ultimate South Africa surf trip? Is there anything else out there that’s better than this? Let us know in the comments and as always, feel free to share using the social buttons below.