Cape Town has a proud surfing heritage and is an iconic place to learn to surf with a variety of options. The coastline offers you access to a consistent supply of waves if you know where to look. As a beginner, the protected bays of Big Bay, Muizenberg, and Strand offer sand bottom breaks and are consistently the safest places to learn to surf in Cape Town.
I first paddled into a wave on a longboard at age 12 under the guidance of my father who still heads down to Surfer’s Corner for a wave. Whether you are a beginner, an intermediate, or a professional surfer, it is incredibly beneficial to have a knowledgeable coach in the water with you. You will find the most joy when sharing waves with others!
Below, you’ll find the best surf schools and how much you can expect to pay for a surf lesson in Cape Town before diving into the topic of how to predict the conditions for each spot.
Perspective of Cape Town, South Africa from NASA
Surf Schools in Cape Town
With stories of wave riding pioneers dating back to the 1950’s, the Mother City is the home of surfing in South Africa. Luckily you do not have to ride a homemade styrofoam board like ‘Oom’ Whitmore and can reach out to a surf school near you to get a head start at one of Cape Town’s best beaches.
From the character-filled surf shops, to the great ‘meet-up’ shops on the coast, the best surf lessons are often hosted by surf shops who are dedicated to the long-term development of the sport. Below are the best surf schools offering lessons in Cape Town’s Big Bay, Muizenberg, and Strand.
Image from Boston Public Library
Atlantic Surf’s Anton and Shane Fourie welcome you to the ocean with years of experience surfing in Table View and all along South Africa’s coastline. The shop is home to Fury surfboards and is steeped in history, having established its footing in the area in 1995. It is a space for surf culture to be celebrated with music and events most often held in summer, so pull in, or message to find out more.
The surfing lessons take place with stunning views of Table Mountain as the backdrop. Whether you are a complete beginner interested in learning to stand up or an intermediate looking to improve your take-off and down-the-line surfing, the team at Atlantic Surf will help you to do so safely. As a bonus, you can follow the Atlantic Surf Instagram account for a morning surf and wind report.
Lessons include the surfboard rental, while a wetsuit rental is R50. Private lessons are R500, or you can upgrade to a four-lesson package for R1800. Group lessons are R250 or book the four-lesson package for R800. Easily book a surf lesson with Atlantic Surf on the website or contact the shop on 0612239551.
Image from Atlantic Surf
Lifestyle Surf Shop
Wind back to 1975 (the year that Lifestyle Surf Shop was established) and you will hear stories about South Africa’s world champion surfers in the likes of Gavin Rudolph and Shaun Tomson. Today, we are represented on the World Tour, but the conversation between surfers is more often about shark sightings or jokes about Muizenberg’s reputation of having the most surfers riding the same wave.
Lifestyle Surf Shop has remained true to its core values of respecting nature, those around you, and the traditions of surfing. You can easily spend an hour in the shop, perusing the boards, looking through the shaping bay window, and reading about the heritage boards on display. Here you’ll find Tich Paul, and his son Craig Paul have continued to celebrate surfing culture from this iconic position in the ‘Berg.
A one-on-one lesson including the board and wetsuit is R550. You and a friend can book a lesson with one coach including boards and wetsuits for R950. The price gets more affordable when booking for three or four surfers, so it’s a great motivation to get your friends who are at a similar level onboard.
Image from Josh Muller
Stoked School of Surf
I taught surfing with Stoked between 2013 and 2017 under the guidance of Michelle and David as the head coaches. This mobile school based in Camps Bay offers beginner and intermediate surfers lessons with the option of transport to the beach. Your coach picks you up from your accommodation in the city, and travels to the Atlantic coastline or False Bay depending on the surf forecast of the day.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride with views of Cape Town’s dramatic mountains. Joining a group of similar standing surfers under the guidance of a great coach is exciting. Stoke’s group lessons visit Muizenberg or Big Bay depending on the best conditions on the day. While the private surf guiding is the best option for experienced surfers wanting a knowledgeable guide and companion in the water.
A group lesson meeting at the beach is R620 or pay R920 and the Stoked Bus will pick you up from your accommodation in the city. Choose to meet at the beach for a private lesson for R1800 or pay R2100 to get picked up from your accommodation in the city. Visit the website for lessons or info on surf camps.
Image from Stoked Surf School
When surfing in Cape Town, beginners can have a positive impact on their own lives and the lives of others by booking a surf lesson. Making a positive impact in Muizenberg’s Surfers Corner is the Surfshack surf school. Here you can learn the basics of surfing from coaches who follow the lead of a standout surfing family. They strive to share positive ocean experiences with beginners and intermediate surfers.
The instructors at Surfshack are standout surfers in both the longboarding and shortboarding competitions. As a beginner you will learn to paddle on a longboard, to stand up, and how to turn the board. Trust me, a longboard makes catching the broken wave at Muizenberg easier. The length and buoyancy of the bigger board make it possible to catch many waves, helping to fast-track your progress.
Includes the surfboard, wetsuit, and use of the Surfshack Facilities. The adult private lesson is R500 (or R900 for two) while an adult group of 3-5 people can book a private lesson for R380 each. Groups of more than five are possible, with the addition of coaches. You can book your Surfshack lessons here.
Image by Laurence Garrett
Natural Energy Surf Lessons
While a 40-minute drive from the Cape Town City Centre, Strand Beach on the far side of False Bay is where most students from Stellenbosch and Somerset West learn to surf. Natural Energy is located on Beach Road and has been a part of Strand’s surfing culture since 1981. You’ll feel at home here whether you are chatting to the shop assistant about the forecast, or about the majesty of this coastline’s surf.
The Natural Energy surf store is located above a coffee shop and has a view of the surf at Strand. So, you can give the shop a call if you want to book a lesson and find out about the conditions on the day. Thanks to its location, you will benefit from softer waves which break over a sand bottom beach.
A private lesson will set you back R450 and includes the use of a board and wetsuit. If you convince some friends, you can book a private group lesson for three to five people for R380 each. The best way to contact the shop is to phone 021 853 1151 or message Natural Energy Surf Shop on Instagram.
Image from Albert Dehon
How to Predict Weather and Surf
One of the most important parts of surfing is predicting the weather and waves. When you’re starting out, a friend, surf coach, or forecasting app can help you. Information on the bathymetry (the surface beneath the waves), swell, wind, and the tide can all help you in your prediction of the conditions. While the tide does not affect the swell size, an incoming tide can enhance the existing swell at a beach break.
Without going deep into the topic, waves are produced by wind blowing over the sea surface. If the wind blows fast, over a long period of time, and over a long distance, you’ll get larger swell. Luckily, you don’t have to chart swell like in the old days and can simply search the forecast for the week. Considering the angle of the swell and wind you can use the information on the surf spots below to decide where to go.
Located in False Bay, Muizenberg has a limited window and is best on a Southeast swell combined with a Northwest wind. I have had my best waves on an incoming tide when the swell is less than 2 meters.
Positioned in an exposed cove on the Atlantic coastline, this consistent spot sees the best conditions for surfing when a Southwest swell combines with an offshore wind from the East and East-southeast.
Protected by its position in False Bay, the waves here are best when a Southwest swell combines with an offshore wind direction from the East.
Tips for Your First Surf Lesson
Whether you are a jedi in the water like John John Florence, or you are a beginner wetting your toes for the first time, there are some basics we all have to get right.
Your failproof checklist before you head down to the beach is:
- Sun protection (Hat and sunscreen)
- Warm clothing
With these essentials covered, you will have a wonderful day out with a smile from ear to ear, no matter the weather.
Spotted! A Light Wind and Swell
So, you’ve kept your eye on the conditions and you’re ready to surf in Cape Town! Muizenberg is often the softest wave and is the ideal place for your first longboarding experience. Next, explore the Atlantic side and you’ll grow in confidence while getting to see Table Mountain from a striking perspective. Afterwards, hang in for a sunset over the ocean and live music with your friends from the surf shop.
A special thanks to Michelle Smith, Josh Muller, Shane Fourie, Albert Dehon for the use of your photos.