Watch: Mirage // The ever-changing story of Skeleton Bay

Stu Nettle
Reels

"Skeleton Bay is an infant in geological terms." - Alan Van Gysen

Since it was unveiled in 2008, the wave at Skeleton Bay has become a synonym for perfect, never-ending, sand bottomed tubes. But unlike Pipeline, G-Land, or [insert your preferred iconic world class wave here], the two-kilometre-long left on the edge of the Namib Desert is in a constant state of flux. If satellite imagery is anything to go by, the wave we know today didn’t even exist 30 years ago. Mirage is a 15-minute documentary that traces the genesis of the Namibian sandspit and how it became one of the most sought after waves on the planet, as told by pioneering locals and some of the best tube riders in the world.

Some reading?

From 2012: Death of a wave foretold
From 2016: Dislocated Skeleton: The shifting position of Skeleton Bay

 

 

Comments

scrotina's picture
scrotina's picture
scrotina commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 9:38am

fark that screenshot pic of the vid. what a barrel ..

Ronson's picture
Ronson's picture
Ronson commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 9:41pm

How good! That outside lump just screams “I’m gonna run down this bank for two kms”
Now I’m going to watch it.

garyg1412's picture
garyg1412's picture
garyg1412 commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 10:23am

We are the modern day conquistadors. From a few local boogers/surfers to the place looking like a Toyota Hilux showroom.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 10:37am

The mystery no-one can solve is how impervious the wave is to change.

In Indonesia, waves have been fundamentally altered when the ocean bed has moved a metre this way or that. I can also think of numerous spots around the world that have been terminally ruined when sand flow has changed. The lesson is that perfect waves are rare, fragile things.

Yet the impact zone of Skeleton Bay has moved approximately 500 metres in twenty years. Zoom down to a shorter window...say when Corey Lopez visited in 2008, and the wave currently breaks nearly 200 metres askance - and yet it has the same quality.

How can a wave hold its quality, and not just for a section or two but for distance, when its foundations have been so fundamentally altered?

JQ's picture
JQ's picture
JQ commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 6:34pm

I think Stu, the key might be that the wave IS the result of a state of flux - its foundations are fluid.

aussieguy's picture
aussieguy's picture
aussieguy commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 10:44am

8:30 ... looks like big Cloudbreak.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 11:17am

I find it so hard to fathom the shift in tradition when it comes to discovering new waves. From sworn secrecy and subterfuge to open exploitation for self gain by magazines and pro's.
Staggering. And disgraceful.

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 12:05pm

Wouldn't say Skeleton Bay followed any typical path towards exposure. The wave was pretty much found by Surfing magazine, and their timing was impeccable as it really didn't exist before that.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 1:13pm

Kind of my point though. A magazine holding a competition using the new google earth technology to discover a new wave purely to expose it and benefit commercially. How did that become ok? As lindo states below there are many elements which have contributed to the shift in attitudes in general society which extend into the surfing subculture, but I can't help but yearn for quieter times when isolated discoveries were treated like treasures and not commodities.

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 1:27pm

Yeah, maybe, but then magazines have ALWAYS blown the location of secret spots. I've got SWs from the sixties that contain detailed maps and instructions for finding waves in Tasmania, south coast NSW, and north coast NSW, then you get to the seventies and eighties where they often sold the mags on the back of that info: 'Secret Spots Exposed!" etc etc. I could walk into my shed and pull out handfuls of mags with that exact cover line.

You could argue that discretion has only become a thing in the digital age.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 1:45pm

You could argue that...but I won't listen...haha...

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

blow-in-9999's picture
blow-in-9999's picture
blow-in-9999 commented Friday, 30 Oct 2020 at 10:31am

Stu, how many of them are still "hard to find" out of interest.

Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 11:57am

That vid was good as they talk about how hard it is to surf....It looks like it would be super hard on your backhand. don't really see that many crew on their backhand in these vids....

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 12:10pm

Any waves of Taj ?

lindo's picture
lindo's picture
lindo commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 12:17pm

Things changed rapidly from the 60s, and ramped again through the 80s, once the concepts of 'The Search' and 'The Crossing' were heavily commercialized by those clever marketers, and with the new found wealth those companies had to throw at it, aided, as noted in the vid, by Google Earth (rather than old-school nav. charts). Around the same time there was rapid growth in surfer numbers and a global boom in surf tourism (camps and boats) catering to a massive new market, many of whom wouldn't necessarily have had the time, knowledge or desire to go off the beaten track for months. The idyll of a lone surf explorer stumbling on great unsurfed waves became a lot more challenging. Add to that the major growth in would-be pro surfers to make a living from it, rather than as a pastime, new video tech and the net, and the rest, as they say, is history, from the near sub-Antarctic to the Arctic. But that all said, there are still a few places sufficiently off the beaten track for those game enough. Keeping quiet about it is a different matter, in this 'look at me' era.

Lindo

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 1:27pm

The modern mini local version of wave discovery had also been rooted by social media.

I remember when you’d find that quiet little bank that had just formed. You could surf it by yourself for days, even a week before crew knew. And even then you had the perfect tides wired which made your experience even better.

Now if there a bank anywhere the insta, whatsapp etc crew are all over it.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 1:30pm

I still find these banks even across Manly of all places and end up surfing them empty on the right tide while the masses swarm and flow past with the rips/tides/winds like blue bottles. Ha.

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 1:53pm

Nice.

Yeah still find them but feeling the more common nature of people is to ‘brag’ via the internet. The flow on effect is very different to telling a couple of mates over the phone or down the pub.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 1:59pm

True, I just post photos once it's gone or months later.

Polly2's picture
Polly2's picture
Polly2 commented Friday, 30 Oct 2020 at 12:21pm

Yep, change is constant and our sport is and always will be more than just that.
I too have a quiet little wedge ofa local break that I still get to surf on my lonesum every now and then while the crowd are all gathered 500mtrs down the coast . Tempted to put a pic here but profile pic will be suffice I think. And I think there are still discoveries made that we haven’t yet heard of. Actually, I know there are but I respectfully ‘know nuuusing’ hey shoultz! Lol

Ajp

lost's picture
lost's picture
lost commented Thursday, 5 Nov 2020 at 11:51pm

You must live in a different Manly to me. I’ve often paddled out to where the crowd isn’t to only 10mins later find the crowd has joined me. So many people can’t seem to see a wave or corner is surfable until they see someone else ride it - drives me nuts. If I had more cash I’d hire back packers and send them out as decoys to where there definitely isn’t waves and watch the crowds grow.

knB

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 6 Nov 2020 at 5:24am

Oh this happens all the time haha, but then you just have to paddle them deeper off the bank or switch banks for a little while. All fun and games.

lindo's picture
lindo's picture
lindo commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 3:41pm

From admittedly vague memory, back in the '70s Bill Finnegan and his travel buddy Brian Di Salvatore wrote a series of articles for Tracks called 'Tales from the Paradise Trail', or something similar, in which they documented their travels to famous and not yet famous surf breaks (G-Land, Nias ...), and the histories of their discovery, promotion - exploitation and 'decline'. I remember, having surfed Nias back in April of 1978, how stunned I was when it appeared on the cover of Surfer mag not that long afterwards, followed by a major expose in Tracks not long after that, and then of course 'Storm Riders' basically sealed the deal. In '78 I stayed in the village, in one of the few remaining houses left standing after the attack by Botahili folk (long story), but even then the first bungalow near the point, Jamborai, was under construction. There were 5 of us surfing there during the new moon swell, Chris Simpson from WA, Sid and a mate whose name escapes me now, from Bondi, and Leeroy and me from Noosa. It got big (double+ overhead) and sets on the close-out beach-break across from the village would shake the area like repeated minor earthquakes, but as is well known the reef was deeper and far less intense than it is today, when a real earthquake lifted it a metre or more. Now of course it's a very different story both in the water and on land there, which brings me back to Bill and Brian and those Tales.

Lindo

shraz's picture
shraz's picture
shraz commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 6:02pm

Clearly not a wave for the average punter, 60 hour+ travel times, via Jo'berg on a small plane, fark knows how much 4W-driving, goofy's only need apply by the looks and you need to be Tarzan as well (like a lot of SA's are too!). Oh yeah typical west coast setup would be onshore most of the time too. On the last day of a 3 week trip, they finally scored! I'd say it will be a fair while before that place is overcrowded. Fuggedaboutit and stick with your local.

Mishad's picture
Mishad's picture
Mishad commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 6:15pm

I've been there 3 times in last 8 years. First time did a 27hr 1 way drive to score(skunked) 2ft sets with occasional bigger to give us a taste for a day then we (3 of us crammed into a fart filled polo) for 27 hrs back again. 2nd time was that heavy swell of 2014 which reminded me of big tombies with mist so thick you couldn't see em coming but you could hear em. Some guys started claiming teahpoo over sand and that was not an exageration. It scared the shit out of me,not to mention if you lost your board and then get swept down the point into the mist towards probably 15ft solid closeout shorebreak.No thanks. 3rd trip more manageable,took my kite gear up and had a great time on the windy days towing into 1km long waves while the surfers stuck to the bottom 1km section. Occasioanlly I rode thru them when I couldn't help myself. Next day it was ON! barrels so long I got pig dog knee and sore ankles from running back up the point all day. This year I can only imagine what went down there during winter...empty barrels for the few locals who care to check it out. Next year....

Panman's picture
Panman's picture
Panman commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 7:41pm

I met guys who had been to South Africa in the 70’s and they told me about a wave sand barrel on that west coast

Cowabunga's picture
Cowabunga's picture
Cowabunga commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 7:46pm

It's always held a fascination this section of coast since I saw photos of it from a south African I was working with in Nigeria, mid noughties, he had worked in diamond dredging back then before starting offshore

they were not super epic shots around the 4' mark but that set up was indeed one for the wow factor

great footage

Daz

GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 8:57pm

Could be wrong but I can't remember seeing anyone surfing it on their backhand .... is that right?

Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 9:34pm

One fella in the vid was pig dogging. Taj was on the beach also. Plenty of crew tackle it on their backhand, just not many shown in this vid.

The Fire's picture
The Fire's picture
The Fire commented Friday, 30 Oct 2020 at 7:11pm

A good watch.

Peace

mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner commented Friday, 30 Oct 2020 at 6:31am

That’s a great insight into the place. Gives me goosebumps wanting to go back. Easily got the wave of my life out there last year.
It’s not the type of place which will be stacked with crew because of the risk and time involved of scoring it.

Bungan33's picture
Bungan33's picture
Bungan33 commented Friday, 30 Oct 2020 at 10:16am

Loved seeing punters have a go. Nice reality check that maybe scratches it off this Natural footers bucket list. Some gnarly injuries!

Ricko2526's picture
Ricko2526's picture
Ricko2526 commented Friday, 30 Oct 2020 at 12:35pm

Great footage. A lot of 'professional surfers' out there that I've never heard of.

Dicky Roberts's picture
Dicky Roberts's picture
Dicky Roberts commented Friday, 30 Oct 2020 at 2:08pm

Travelled this coast in 1996 and went surfing with some surfers from Swakopmund in basically just thumping closeouts very near there. Even fished in Walvis Bay with a few locals but there were no mentions from anyone of some mythical right point. So either it didn't exist then or they were all amazingly tight-lipped.
In fact I did see some good surf further up the coast at Cape Cross, but I didn't fancy sharing it with 5000 bodysurfing Sea Lions and their no-doubt tag along predators under the surface.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Friday, 30 Oct 2020 at 2:14pm

When you look at donkey bay on goggle maps there appears to be a similar set-up further up at the top of the sand spit. I wonder if there’s waves up there.

Mishad's picture
Mishad's picture
Mishad commented Friday, 30 Oct 2020 at 6:29pm

nope very deep drop off

mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner commented Saturday, 31 Oct 2020 at 1:04pm

100% there is. My last trip we arrived the day before the swell and donkey was flat and we surfed a mini me version of it up and round the corner. Good 4-500m. Not as perfect but still fun shape

tiger's picture
tiger's picture
tiger commented Saturday, 31 Oct 2020 at 6:43am

It really is a mesmerising wave. Love how in this clip there is lots of pulled back, real time, front on vision of the wave being surfed. Get a bit sick of the slow mo POV stuff.

shoredump's picture
shoredump's picture
shoredump commented Saturday, 31 Oct 2020 at 7:55am

There’s only so many 4x4 rentals Walvis Bay can sustain year round which should help keep the lid on numbers at their current levels during the 3 or 4 swell events each year

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat commented Saturday, 31 Oct 2020 at 8:22am

Beautiful wave. Product placement, not so good.

onetimeonly

scrotina's picture
scrotina's picture
scrotina commented Sunday, 1 Nov 2020 at 5:54pm

i still cant get over that screenshot of the video. that wave must have had the most thumping barrel. i wonder if the guy in the pic thought about swinging and going.