Stab Magazine | Locals Say The Sand At Skeleton Bay Is The Best It’s Been In Years

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Locals Say The Sand At Skeleton Bay Is The Best It’s Been In Years

For the first time in a while, the sand has stopped deteriorating.

news // Jun 13, 2017
Words by Photography
Reading Time: 4 minutes

There was once a time when the future of Namibia’s freakish lefthand sandbar, Skeleton Bay, looked uncertain. With a large sand deposit forming halfway along the 2.1km wave, what was normally a guaranteed 50-to-60 second barrel was starting to split in half. And the relentless northward current, known as the Benguela, only made things worse by depositing thousands of more tonnes of sand, further breaking the wave up. Locals and travellers alike were worried, and there was a legitimate concern that one of the world’s best lefts would turn into a straight closeout.

Well, it seems that reports of Skeletons Bay’s demise were misjudged, or at least premature. And in regards to sand, everything seems to be in the right place.

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Anthony Walsh enjoying the combination of bluebird conditions and calculated sand deposits.

Photography

Tom Pearsall

“The sand at the moment is the best it’s been in years according to the local crew,” photographer Tom Pearsall tells Stab. “This year has seen a number of systems pushing further north than previous years, and with such consistent swell (there have been at least 15 days with waves in the Bay this year already — six since May) the banks have been preened almost to perfection.

“This year has seen it improving, not deteriorating, for the first time in many years. Maybe since Lopez first exposed it even. Every half an hour or so there were eight-foot sets that freight-trained from the top to the bottom of the bay, no sections. Just an endless grinding dream, with 90 percent going unridden.

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What’s more painful? The feeling of getting caught in the impact zone with this breaking in front of you or knowing that the same wave went by unridden?

Photography

Tom Pearsall

“Thursday was to many the best day they’ve experienced, locals and pros alike. Shortly after first light, Anthony Walsh said it was as good as he’d ever seen it and Andre Botha also said it was the best he’d seen it since he first came in 2014. Both of these guys were the standouts, catching the longest, biggest barrels, the most waves and taking no breaks. From before the sun came up ’til after it went down these guys were running back up the 2km lineup to get another, “Barrel of your life.” Both were inspirational in their level of fitness and commitment. 

“And it’s not an easy wave to ride, it’s the most pleasant and painful experience to surf for the day at Skeleton Bay. You find all new levels of exhaustion, cold, and humility. But you’ll also find new levels of ecstasy, awe and amazement at such a wonder of nature. In the surfing world, it’s definitely a Holy Grail. The people there have shared a pilgrimage from all over the globe to be there on that special day, and experiencing it together made strangers friends for life.

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One of (what would be safe to assume) many coverups tucked under by Oliver Kurtz.

Photography

Tom Pearsall

It was a bizarre feeling at the end of the day to actually feel desensitised to 2km long six-to-eight foot barrels. It’s such a surreal experience to see all these humans with surfboards and cameras in a place totally devoid of life; no animals (except seals), no vegetation. Just roaring winds, the rancid smell of sulphur, endless sand and a wave your mind finds almost impossible to comprehend.” 

So, what caused Skelton Bay’s sand fortunes to turn around? “General consensus is that no one really knows,” Tom continues. “This year has seen dramatic improvement with an unprecedented amount of swell. With a climate in such a state of flux it’s hard to predict, especially long term. There is local chat saying that potentially after the years of El Niño (2014-2016, where the bay only broke several times) they saw those systems travelling further north, so it could be a cyclic factor in the behaviour of Skelton Bay’s sand movement.

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How long will this sand pattern last? Hard to say, but for the time being it’d be in our best intentions to take every advantage of it.

Photography

Tom Pearsall

“The general feeling I gathered after speaking to the crew on this swell, and the one in September 2016, is that as long as there is consistent swell the bank will remain intact. Maybe instead of a two-minute long barrel, it will be two one-minute sections. But fuck! Where else do you get those opportunities over a sandy bottom!”

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