First Look: Skeleton Bay's Best Swell In Years - Stab Mag

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A re-stimulated Skeleton Bay. Possibly revived by a large Atlantic swell subsidy. But was it too big to fail? Frame: Nic Von Rupp

First Look: Skeleton Bay’s Best Swell In Years

What causes Skeleton Bay’s boom-and-bust cycle? Nic Von Rupp sends video dispatch from Ground Zero.

cinema // Jun 21, 2023
Words by Christian Bowcutt
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Skeleton Bay’s boom-and-bust cycle is akin to the real estate market.

It’s complex. So here’s Margot Robbie in a bathtub to explain it to us à la The Big Short...

Just kidding.

Namibia’s treasured lefthander is a lucky heir to a trust fund of natural anomalies: Local winds ensure a steady stream of fresh sand along the point, and a northward current called the “Benguela Current” constantly dumps new sand in the Bay. Together, these forces add an estimated 1 million cubic tonnes of sand into the equation each year. Once deposited, large Atlantic west swells are charged with stripping away excess sand and molding it into tube territory.

Now, the local winds and the Benguela are workaholics, but the large Atlantic swells can be lazy as hell. If not big or consistent enough, the sand can build up and either slowly worsen the wave (as it has been doing for the past few years) or destroy it altogether.

Namibian locals often remark that for many years before its fateful surf “discovery” in 2008, the wave was merely a closeout.

And there is no reason why Skeleton Bay cannot return back to a dirty old closeout again. So, around the end of 2019, when the wave began to get more sectiony and less perfect, surfers grew bearish and pulled out of the market, not knowing when the cycle would flip and they could buy back in.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not coincidentally, this decline in wave quality lines up with the start of La Niña in early 2020. And the sudden resurrection lines up with the start of El Niño right now. If you’re in the mood for some insider trading, here’s our exclusive interview with El Niño himself.

But, miraculously, Skeleton Bay is reviving itself sooner than expected. And surfers with the kind of capital necessary to make the strike mission are buying back in. This is a breaking story though, time will tell if the wave fully revives or goes back to its watery grave.

Nic Von Rupp is one of those institutional investors able to make the jaunt and reap the bounty. Watch the wave-rich get richer in this edit just sent to us by Nic himself.

“To the moon”, and all that.


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