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‘It blew our minds’: the surfers who braved sharks to ride Africa’s mightiest wave

Forget the blond California stereotypes. New book Afrosurf captures Africa’s overlooked surf culture – and celebrates its heroes, who’d ride colossal waves at beaches they were often banned from

To surf Africa’s biggest wave, which rises to 50ft and crashes down on waters filled with great white sharks, you first need to take a boat out into the clashing currents of Cape Town’s Hout Bay. Then you jump into the maelstrom, paddle like crazy towards the deafening roar of breakwater, and suddenly it’s right there under your bracing, twitching legs: Dungeons, as this terrifying colossus is called, propelling you towards the shore. “It blew our minds,” says Cass Collier, one of the first surfers to trace a line down this notorious wave’s surging facade. “We felt like babies.”

It was the late 1990s and Collier’s parents, although South African-born, were of Indian heritage, which meant the apartheid regime classified him as “coloured”. But in brutal heavy surf, he says, all racial differences ceased to matter. “You’ve got to have a clear mind and a clear conscience – and know that your fellow surfer in the water with you is your brother. If anything happens, he’s the one who’s going to help you.”

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