DI­A­MONDS IN THE MIST : BY PAT O'SHEA : ALL PHO­TOS AN­DREW LIT­TLE, EX­CEPT WHERE NOTED.

Tracks - - Three -

The fog is thick. No; thick doesn't do it jus­tice. The fog is nigh im­pen­e­tra­ble. The en­tic­ing sound of waves break­ing is about the only thing that cuts through the shroud of grey-white. This area of South Africa, known as the Weskus, is no­to­ri­ous for its fog. Two hun­dred days a year it rolls in from the sea, blocks out the sun and cov­ers ev­ery­thing in cold and damp. The waves here are qual­ity, but ckle, and their lo­ca­tions are well-guarded se­crets. It's taken some se­ri­ous re­search, plan­ning and a very long drive to nd this spot; a su­perb right-hand point. But we can't be sure that we ac­tu­ally have found it be­cause we can barely see an arm's length in front, let alone the surf.

Our group is made up of a ver­i­ta­ble tri-na­tions of surfers; two Saf­fas, a hell-bent, hell-charg­ing, mous­ta­chioed Kiwi and my­self. One Saffa and the Aussie suit-up and dis­ap­pear into the haze wear­ing the full hood-and-booty garb of a Weskus surfer. We edge blindly to­ward the sound of break­ing waves; over mounds of dried mus­sel and limpet shells, around foul-smelling pools of wa­ter and onto a range of un­steady boul­ders. When we step onto a bed of live mussels we know we're close. Three paces later we plunge into the icy At­lantic.

The kelp is nigh im­pass­able; im­mense, strong, nbreak­ing stalks in densely packed forests that im­pede our progress. We strug­gle through; anx­ious to put some dis­tance be­tween our­selves and the mus­sel beds be­fore a set looms out of the gloom and causes some is­sues.

A heavy splash just be­yond the eld of vi­sion causes a jump in heart-rate and I look around to gauge a reac- tion from my coun­ter­part. But he's nowhere to be seen; swal­lowed by the mist like ev­ery­thing else. Now that I'm clear of the kelp and I can't see the shore I'm not sure which way to pad­dle in, so I push on. Some­how I stroke into a clear patch; like a sunny clear­ing in a for­est of murky vapour. I spot my man Daryn pad­dling over a shapely four-foot wave and all thoughts of large marine crea­tures are erased from my mind. He turns his head and grins; this is go­ing to be a ses­sion to re­mem­ber.

The aim of the trip is to connect with a swell at that des­o­late sand spit in Namibia they call Skele­ton Bay. Au­gust is sup­posed to be one of the most con­sis­tent months up there and we have the en­tire 31 days to score. Alas, as we set off from Cape Town the fore­cast looked about as bad as it gets. No red blobs charg­ing across the charts; only the unin­spir­ing blue and turquoise of an ap­par­ently in­ert ocean. So we made a de­tour to this lonely cor­ner of the African con­ti­nent where the reefs and points don't need so much grunt to get go­ing.

A large slice of the Weskus is di­a­mond min­ing area. Most of it has, at one time or an­other, been fenced off, locked up and had the guts ripped out of it in the hunt for those glitzy lit­tle rocks. There are parts of the re­gion that are still strictly off-lim­its to the public. A quick scan on Google Earth shows some po­ten­tial set­ups in the coastal di­a­mond ar­eas. But the stan­dard pro­to­col for deal­ing with tres­passers in the Wild Weskus is some­thing like 'shoot rst, ask ques­tions later'. With the swell sit­u­a­tion we had on our hands it was de nitely not worth the risk. It was due to drop in the com­ing days and even our swell-mag­net point (which re­quires a covert vault or two over un­guarded fences to ac­cess) would prob­a­bly shrink to knee-high kelp run­ners.

There's only so much fris­bee you can throw on the beach be­fore one-foot drib­blers start look­ing good. But they never are. There's some­thing about bounc­ing around in gut­less white-wa­ter that makes you want to scream in frus­tra­tion. We scour that coast for any sign of a wave and come up empty handed; mid-morn­ing on­shores and fog banks don't help our des­per­ate op­er­a­tion. The fore­cast is dire but we per­se­vere be­cause none of us re­ally has a clue about this area. And empty one-foot­ers are bet­ter than crowded one-foot­ers any day of the week.

A small pulse of west­erly swell lls in one day and we nd a slabby lit­tle right that it's hit­ting nicely. There are por­poises fang­ing around in great num­bers and in the translu­cent glass on a rare fog­less day we watch them pass un­der­neath. The wave it­self is a shifty peak throw­ing thick lips over a kelpy ledge. The glassy con­di­tions pro­vide some de­lec­ta­ble in-tube mo­ments but the bar­rel of­ten clamps shut. The Kiwi, who refers to him­self as Vadar (like the Star Wars tyrant) even though his name is Brad and ev­ery­one calls him Brett, elects to sit on the rocks, comb his mous­tache and be­moan the small con­di­tions. We name the reef Britt's in hon­our of the way 'Brett' sounds with an ex­ag­ger­ated Kiwi ac­cent and wish his mouth would oc­ca­sion­ally clamp shut.

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