The beast of the North West has awakened: The Donkey. Like it’s namesake, it’s slow to action, almost stubborn, and takes it’s time to hit the sweet spot. But, when it hits, it’s exactly like a runaway freight train.
The knowing whispers begin days, even weeks before the first major west swell thunders its way up South Africa and Namibia’s Atlantic coastline. The phones start pinging, ringing, and either the standby flight is arranged or the van is quietly prepared to haul some ass up the N7.
Of course, there are no guarantees, even with advanced forecasting services at our disposal, and especially when you’re dealing with nature. But, damn it, it’s as much a part of the mission as is letting your tires down, rolling down the sandy track and witnessing the almost mechanical, and terrifying, perfection of the Donkey in full swing.
“For us, this trip was quite last minute.” Dale Staples relays in his relaxed St Francis tones. “We’d just got back from Mozambique. Myself, Shaun Payne and photographer Grant Scholtz tracked the swell 2 days before it hit and jumped in the car for 20 hours of overnight driving from Cape Town to Nam. We arrived to perfect waves and 3 days of swell. The one day was super heavy, some crazy drops and a couple of scary ones that were just chowing everyone’s boards.”
On the bright side, the broken boards, and the roll of the dice could seriously pay off with a cash and product flush event like the Striped Horse Challenge ’18 just begging for a winning entry.
So, back to Donkey kong. If you didn’t already know, this rare, exciting and risky strike mission has just been successfully pulled off by local and international chargers, as the Skeleton Bay coastline received its first delivery of psychosis-inducing shacks for the year. We spoke to an ex-PE shredder, Granville West and his wingman, Adin Jeenes, about their trip.
Granville has one of the most razor-sharp backhands around, never mind what decimation unfolds when he’s facing the wave, which is the case at the Donkey. Wilderness local, Adin, is also a goofy (footer) and has made it his business to surf waves of serious consequence and perfection all over the globe. The boys were on to the swell 17 days before it made landfall. Once the storm had developed into a near certainty about a week before it hit, they drafted Paul Daniels and Sean Holmes onto the team.
“We got there on Wednesday, expecting the swell to build into Thursday with Friday being the day,” Granny tells us. “We took a drive down the point on Wednesday evening and it was so flat it looked like the salt pans! On Thursday it was only half a foot and we started to stress… Then a 2-foot set reeled down the point so Adin paddled out. On his first wave, he got barreled right past us and the adrenaline kicked in. By lunchtime, it was 4 feet and firing. As perfect as it gets.”
Sounds like the perfect situation, right? Yes, unless you get food poisoning. Like Adin did. Granny takes us through every surfer’s worst nightmare: “I woke up at 11 on Thursday night to Adin getting violently sick. It went on all night until 4 am when I decided to get him to a hospital. They put him on a drip and confirmed that severe food poisoning was the cause. The culprit? Off garlic bread! So, 5:30 am rolled around and I had to make the call. Adin screamed at me ‘what are you still doing here – get to the beach!’ So I rushed home, picked up Sean and Paul and we headed down.” Arriving to the sight of windless, fogless and perfect 6-foot dredger’s steamrolling down the point, they couldn’t get suited up fast enough.
“The adrenaline is hard to explain. The wave is only breaking 30 meter’s from the shore and getting out is a challenge on its own. When I got out a set began roaring down the point 200 meters up. As it approached, my heart was in my throat, and an Aussie charger swung around and took the beastly drop, found his rail and set his line. It was thick, heavy and fast and as I paddled over the shoulder, he was standing tall, GoPro in his mouth, and eyes so big you couldn’t tell if it was from pure stoke or complete fear. Then I knew it was going to be a memorable day.” Of course, when in the midst of memorable surf sessions, there are always stand-outs. “Ja, Ducky Staples, Andre Botha, Sacha Specker and Koa Smith from Hawaii were casually taking on the heavier sets and impressing the hell out of everyone in the lineup.”
So, there you have it, fam. The Donkey (and Granville) has spoken. Not only will you get the barrel or the beating of your life, but you’ll come away humbled by how heavy, perfect and challenging it actually is. “Many guys leave humbled, especially myself.” Says Granville, with that far away post-adrenal look in his eyes. Now, let’s just hope the boys took a videographer with and get an entry into the Striped Horse Challenge…