Just head out there
We went to Namibia because we wanted to experience Skeleton Bay. Apparently you need very specific conditions to be able to catch a real Skeleton wave. Swell Navigator told me the swell direction, wave height and wind direction would be favourable for a couple of days straight. So I realised this was a unique opportunity. I called my buddy Kaspar Hamminga. The next day we booked our tickets and that night we were airborne.
Once we got to Namibia, we had to cross a big chunk of the Kalahari desert to get to the coast. We had to take a cab to the nearest train station and take a shuttle bus from there. The bus took us to the cold, misty village of Swakopmund. I was prepared for it to be cold, but I didn’t expect to walk around in a thick winter coat all day, and the water to be twelve degrees. Good thing I brought my hooded winter suit and boots.
It is a beautiful country, though, and the people are real friendly and willing to help you out. So I’d love to come back and go on an adventure more inland. We only saw the coast this time around. Because the waves were just too good.
Getting what you came for
The wave we came for we got. We surfed Skeleton Bay six of the ten days.
It wasn’t easy to get to the spot, especially considering we didn’t have a 4x4. Most days we hitched a ride with this local surfer, who had just started out surfing. The conditions were usually too intense for him, but he wanted to go out there anyway. He sat there getting stoked and watching people get barreled.
Half of the time, it was impossible to see though, because of the mist. That also made it quite intense to paddle out. We had no idea what you would find out there. I’ve used Swell a lot to get a better idea of what the conditions would be like. I’ve been making lots of custom spots and putting in the conditions I wanted. I especially like how you can see multiple swells going in multiple directions. That makes the forecast really really accurate.
The wave is known for its endless barrels. At the same time many people underestimate its power and intensity. The wave’s lip often throws wider than tall, so it’s pretty hard to get in there. Especially on overhead days it was hard to make a drop. Ironically , most accidents happened when the waves were a bit smaller. We saw broken boards, wipeouts where the surfer came back up with ankle, knee and even neck injuries. Serious stuff.
Learning to surf Skeleton Bay
Many of the pro’s were even going over the falls every now and then, which wasn’t reassuring when you are next in line to paddle for the wave. But if you make the takeoff on a bomb, it’s very likely you’re going to score the barrel of your life. A classic case of high risk, high reward. A tip I can give if you want to make that take off - and maybe take offs in general - is that you have to fully commit. There’s no time to hesitate. Not even a second. Sometimes it helps to keep going straight first, before going down the line. The wave is often too hollow to put your rail into the wave from the start.
The main thing I learned as a surfer in Skeleton Bay is to keep my line in the barrel. Normally you’d ride a barrel for two seconds if you’re lucky, but at Skeleton that could be twice or three times as long. So you really have time to think and focus on committing to your line.
Also I learned how to fall in barreling waves. I learned to pull in my legs and protect my head. And in addition to that, I try to get better at knowing when to stop. Sometimes we were getting so tired but we were too stoked to get out of the water. That’s when accidents happen.