End-of-season impetus triggers Bruce’s iconic beauties

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Here is a question; where do you go when South Africa’s first point break at Jeffrey’s Bay is wild and out of control? During a late-season spurt last week, a rare but equally heartbreaking alternative presented itself, just a 45-minute drive south of SA’s favorite wave.

Named after Bruce Brown’s iconic discovery in endless summer, Bruce’s Beauties is a notoriously temperamental spot at Cape St Francis, which makes this off-season swell all the more remarkable for those who have surfed it. It’s a place steeped in history and physical change over the years, and on Wednesday, September 28, local photographer and insider Mike Ruthnam scored, along with friend from Margaret River, Lee Parkinson.

Weather: Cape St Francis

Killers.

© 2022 – Mike Ruthnam/mrimagesjbay

“We walked down the hill to the parking lot overlooking Bruce’s and were greeted by 4-6 foot lines stacked on the horizon,” Mike said. “Dark conditions, a draining tide and steep coasts prepared these lines as they rolled into the bay from the harbor wall.

“It’s strange to predict Bruce or have any idea when he’s based on Jbay. I’ve been there days that looked so promising and came back empty handed and then heard reports of good waves while the swell readings were pretty bad.

Aussie Lee Parkinson discovers the African superbank.

Aussie Lee Parkinson discovers the African superbank.

© 2022 – Mike Ruthnam/mrimagesjbay

“So many variables have to come together: sand buildup, swell size and direction, favorable winds and of course you have to be very close because as fast as it appears it will fire a quick one at you and disappear for a long time. while.

“Late season swells of this nature are not uncommon at this time of year when we have a lot of high pressure cut lows, and then early in the year around the same time Snapper/Kirra s turn on we get these cyclone swells turning in the mozambique channel which can light up points on the east coast from mozambique all the way south to bruce. Aligning all of these takes a little bit of perseverance and patience.

Local Shelly Rankin walks up to her.

Local Shelly Rankin walks up to her.

© 2022 – Mike Ruthnam/mrimagesjbay

“A little luck and good karma helps too!”

Mike’s friend Lee last surfed on Bruce’s back in 1993, so he was more than eager to make the trip after seeing a disappointing JBay surf test.

Local ripper Joel Dace, grandson of veteran shaper Eric Stedman.

Local ripper Joel Dace, grandson of veteran shaper Eric Stedman.

© 2022 – Mike Ruthnam/mrimagesjbay

Similar to JBay, Bruce presents several points, the furthest removed being the ominously named killers.

“Man… My wetsuit was so full of sand after working on a few at Killers,” Lee explains.

“The jump when it’s over 6 feet is not for the faint-hearted and is quite intense,” says Mike. “Visitors will be warned if they are foaming too hard and paddling too much. The caution is most often spoken politely.”

Killers, 2005.

Killers, 2005. “Eric had a wave from the top of Killers to the slipway at the end of Bruce’s,” Mike said.

© 2022 – Mike Ruthnam/mrimagesjbay

Port St Francis is the only private working port in South Africa and changed the landscape and wave mechanics when it was built in 1997.

“Before they built the harbor in 1997, there was a place called 69’s which was the farthest breaking wave from the point. When the original harbor wall came up, the 69’s were pretty much gone, except sometimes when the sand shifted and a proper swell came in. Rumor has it that the name comes from the year it was first surfed, but other stories point to a more hippy origin to the name.

Eric fielded one last week.

Eric fielded one last week.

© 2022 – Mike Ruthnam/mrimagesjbay

And Eric at 69's in the early 1990s!

And Eric at 69’s in the early 1990s!

© 2022 – Mike Ruthnam/mrimagesjbay

Eric Stedman, local shaper and resident of Cape St Francis, added: “Although the harbor has all but destroyed the 69s, the main reason for Bruce’s deterioration is the non-existent sand flow due to the prevailing onshore winds these days. .

“Development on all the dunes bordering the point has resulted in the disappearance of the main dune between Cape St Francis beach and the rocky point of Bruce’s Beauties. The sand that has remained is shifting around a bit causing dredge sections at different parts of the tip. on the most extreme low tides whenever a decent angle swell arrives.”

The biggest swell on record for Bruce was 1993,” Mike said. A former professional lifeguard turned squid fisherman was famous for being the only one who paddled and surfed the waves all by himself. Two others attempted the paddle…one ended up in the hospital.”

© 2022 – Mike Ruthnam/mrimagesjbay

Wave distribution

MSW forecaster Jamie Bateman broke this swell that filled in at Cape St Francis last week.

Our MSW swell map showing this thing filling South Africa from the East.  Wednesday September 28.

Our MSW swell map showing this thing filling South Africa from the East. Wednesday September 28.

High pressure isn’t something you normally associate with swell-producing events, but they’re probably more common than you think. For example, in the South Atlantic Ocean last week, a strong anticyclone collided with a shallow depression off the Eastern Cape of South Africa as it moved steadily west.

Until Tuesday 27th September broad bands of 30-40 knot easterly winds were generated just off the southern coast of South Africa producing a healthy 12ft @ 10sec ESE wind swell which peaked in the afternoon with strong gale force, onshore wind.

A timely weather front moved off the coast of the Eastern Cape Province early in the hours of Wednesday 28th which actually swung the wind seaward at places north of Cape St Francis, just when most of the earlier easterly wind swell was still in the water – and that means it was a day of days for unstable spots.

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