Nature has always dispensed chicken soup for my soul’s nourishment. The sea mimic’s the large open spaces I call home when the wind blows, the Serengeti’s swaying fields of tall grass parody the ocean. A long-held ambition of mine has always been to learn to surf. Bound to the bush by my chosen occupation as safari outfitter and guide, I never made the time to indulge myself. A casual conversation with the effusive and very persuasive Ingram Casey reawakened that dream. Though I can admit to having a thoroughly bendy rubber arm, in this case I casually emptied my schedule for a couple of weeks, pre “We Are Africa” a travel trade show in Cape Town.
Ingram set me up with 9 times SA ladies Champ “Nikita Robb”. Shy yet affable, Nikita exudes a mellow confidence, instantly alive when her toes touch the water. Prerequisite beachside pop ups, procrastination in the form of a protracted stretching session. Game face on (can I do this without making too much of a fool of myself?). A maiden lesson in the frothy foamies, of the not so tropical Muizenberg – the “berg”. Paddle, paddle, paddle. Back foot, front foot and here we go, hahahaha I’m up. Ooooops I’m off… So much for the controlled dismount we were shown on the beach. A few repeats of the same, and that’s it, you’re hooked.
Next day, a tough one, missioning it out to the backline. Hard graft, keep paddling, head down, head up, make like an Agama lizard chest up crashing through the impact zone to the back. Finally, huffing, puffing, wow that was hard work. It’s comfortable out here sitting in the swell. Really familiar, cosseted once again in natures rhythm. Paddle, paddle, paddle, a shove from the back and her we go. Back foot, front foot, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, my foot finds its way to the centre. I’m up. Wow, I’m actually up. Ha. A big wooohoo from the backline, Nikita providing the effervescent one-man cheering section.
It’s not all, stand up and ride. There are a lot of crash landings, but confidence must be running high because the next day we’re off, early doors to Cape Point. Today we’ve hooked up with Kirsten, our guide, the mission; to explore Cape Point, it’s distinct fynbos, geology, geography, and history, all that embraces this extraordinary habitat. Sunrise stretches out, mists hug the valleys, endemic cape sugarbird sing out. Our safari leads us to the quiet plat boom beach, Ostriches lie in the sand. Kelp forests decorate the rocks where crystal clear waves crash onto the beach. Nikita illustrates the nuances at play with a diagram in the sand.
Hollow waves, driving power behind them. Helpful hint, “stay back on your board when you pop up or you’ll be nose-diving”. Pummelled, again and again, fighting my way paddling to the backline to try once more. Crouched riding hands-on, never truly standing, feeling the raw power and exhilaration. Sensational… Battered and beaten but far from subdued, we spent the remainder of the morning exploring, diving amongst the burnt sienna, bright amber, and golden rust colours of the rolling Kelp. Shy lobster skitter along the sea bed, thistle coloured mussels encrust the rocks. Intense colours burst through the ice-cold crisp saltwater. Stimulating a creative bent, the desire to capture these images on paper.
The intensity of this special day was by no means counteracted by resuming lessons at the berg. Nikita’s mentorship dislodged an awkward bungling technique, spawning a credible if unconventional surfer. There’s a point where you begin to feel like you belong. An aspiring would-be member of the surf mafia… For me it was not solely the elation of catching a wave, it was the flow, sense, motion and drift. The sea nourishes a sense of wellbeing. Thank you, Ingram, for setting me up, thank you, Nikita, for your calm humour, your gentle passion, your mellow serenity.
Voted best guide in Africa in both 2014 and 2015 Alex Walker is one of the most respected safari guides in Africa. Owner and head guide of Alex Walker’s Serian a charismatic collection of exclusive and intimate safari camps in the prime wildernesses of Kenya and Tanzania. Alex was also actively involved in the formation of the Mara North Conservancy and has wrought a life out of his adulation for wild untouched spaces. Alex spent his childhood with his father’s trackers, scouting the bush of Southern Tanzania, Kenya and the vast wilderness of Southern Sudan. With over 25 years’ experience guiding and outfitting safaris throughout East Africa, he has honed his passion for walking. A keen cameraman, Alex continues to keep a hand in by recording some of Africa’s unique images and loves to reveal the inimitable magic of life through a lens. A man of the bush in April 2015 he came to Escape+Explore with a brief not only to learn to surf but to get immersed in all that makes surfing special.
Find out more about Alex Walker’s Serian www.serian.com. Watch this space for a new ‘Surf and Turf’ Safari combining exploring the wilds of the Mara and Serengeti with Alex with our in depth surfing experiences in Cape Town.
Currently, the 9 X South African Surf Champion and the first lady to achieve 4 back to back wins. Nikita competed for 2 years on the ASP World Tour ranking amongst the top 20 surfers in the World whilst surfing every corner of the planet. Nikita’s led 2 month-long dedicated surf expeditions along the entire coastline of South Africa and through to Mozambique.
Growing up in a hotel Nikita was quite literally born into hospitality in East London, where the surf conditions are wild and scary at times, it was the ideal place to be thrown in the deep end and come out on top, forever riding aboard.
Despite being a complete water baby exploring the mountains and nature reserves of South Africa are her passions out of the water.
See Nikita in this action surf movie