Jeffreys Bay

History of Jeffreys Bay

Referred to as J-Bay by locals and loyal visitors,Jeffreys Bay boasts long stretches of golden sand, lapped by the warm waves of the Indian Ocean. Its prime location near the very tip of Africa makes Jeffrey’s Bay an ideal and exotic holiday location for the traveller seeking relaxation and an authentically African visit to the Continent, while never negotiating on convenience, luxury and quality.

Jeffreys Bay is best known for its spectacular surfing spots, particularly Supertubes, which is internationally acclaimed as being one of the world’s top ten surf spots and is host to the International Billabong Pro surfing competition. Jeffrey’s Bay is situated at the gateway of the beautiful Garden Route – the famous route between Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay) and Cape Town. From Jeffrey’s Bay, this scenic road winds through the beautiful Tsitsikamma forest, Nature’s Valley, and the seaside towns of Plettenberg Bay and Knysna. Due to this prime situation, Jeffrey’s Bay provides travellers with an ideal base from which to explore the enchanting east coast of South Africa.

In the beginning…

Jeffreys bay- the cradle of mankind?

Recent research put forth by Arizona archaeologist Prof Curtis Marean shows that between 120 000 and 190 000 years ago the planet experienced a massive ice age, which cut the population of humans at the time from 10 000 to just 600. These 600 individuals managed to survive by migrating to the Aghulhas Plain (an ancient coastal area encompassing Jeffreys bay and the surrounding coastline) where the weather was more moderate. Human beings, on the verge of extinction, then repopulated the planet from only these 600 remaining individuals.

So everybody alive today comes from this coast. That’s the theory- and all the evidence so far supports it.

It is a shivering experience to realise that this is where it all began.

Jeffreys bay has always been known as a magical place to the locals. It’s original Nguni name is ‘Indawu Yama Pupa’, which translates as ‘Place of dreaming’.

The fact that now science is recognising it as the “coastal cradle of mankind” probably comes as little surprise to the locals who have always recognised the magical healing energy that this coastline exudes, and the effect it seems to have on visitors. Come feel this for yourself, and like most visitors you will either extend your stay or plan on coming back as soon as possible, it really is that tangible.

Discovery

In 1498 Vasco Da Gama ‘discovered’ South Africa, and the wheels of colonization and exploitation were put into motion. He was soon followed by Dutch settlers and then the British.

The Khoi-San-the egalitarian and peace loving ancestors of the 600 original inhabitants who roamed this coastline for millennia, were rapidly forced out of their homeland and today form one of the smallest minorities in South Africa.

Rumour and myth has it that one Captain Jeffreys who sailed up and down the East coast of South Africa on trading expeditions was ship wrecked on the main beach of Jeffreys bay in the 1840’s. Recognising the gem he had stumbled upon, Jeffreys erected the first house (built using the materials from the wreck) and decided to settle down on this beautiful stretch of coast.

Regardless of who the first settler really was, soon other families followed, and Jeffreys bay began gaining a reputation as tranquil seaside getaway.

The Arrival of Surfing at Supertubes

It was John Whitmore, the father of South African surfing, who apparently first discovered the waves in Jeffreys bay. He was passing through the area and stopped for a toilet break on the side of the road, when he caught a glimpse of the now world famous lines of waves wrapping along the coast.

In 1961, surf film maker, Bruce Brown, came to South Africa to film his classic “Endless Summer” and managed to capture perfect Bruces Beauties, a spot just south of Jeffreys bay, which set the imaginations of surfers around the world on fire – could there really be endless perfect waves peeling-off, unridden, on the tip of Africa?

By the mid sixties, surfers from Cape town and Durban, as well as American and Australian surfers, began to trickle into the quiet Dutch community of Jeffreys bay.

Clive Barber, still a resident and Surfboard shaper in Jeffreys bay, finally arrived in here in 1965(He was looking after John’s shaping bay in Cape Town when the Endless Summer crew came here). He remembers the time vividly

It was just too good to be true, off the main dirt track there was a farm gate which you went through and you would come to this tall dune. I would park my old Volvo up on that hill and watch these perfect lines peeling past. The sand used to blow straight off the dunes and into the sea, filling up any irregularities in the rocks, resulting in these completely perfect endless lines of empty waves. Myself and a few friends would camp out there for weeks, wondering if we were just dreaming this all up, it really was that pristine.


A donkey cart on the beach at Surfers Point, 1966 by Clive Barber

Clive also remembers when things began to change. By 1968, Surfing had transformed from a select few individuals who knew the art, into popular subculture. Added to this was the overcrowding of the worlds surf spots, and the temptation to escape the draft, as less and less young men were returning home from the mess of the Vietnam War.

When we first arrived it was peaceful, we were here for the waves and got on fine with the locals, but by 1970 it had all changed. Surfers and hangers on were pouring in and the local farmer even tried to put up a fence to stem the tide. Yet there was little the original Dutch settlers could do, the perfection and regularity of the waves simply could not be ignored. Inevitably this led to clashes between the farmers and the surfers, and the campsite at Surfers Point was regularly raided by the police.


A Donkey cart and surfer at Surfers Point where cultures converged, 1966, Clive Barber

To be continued………