Why you should be Surfing in Namibia
Surfing in Namibia is so much more than just surfing and definitely a lot more than “just” Skeleton Bay.
It isn’t exactly the first country that jumps to mind when thinking about your next Surftrip. But it really should be – empty lineups, gorgeous landscapes and diverse animal wildlife make it a prime target. That’s why you should be surfing in Namibia.
Reading this story will tell you what to prepare before your surftrip, where to surf, where I went and found surf, where to stay and what to do when its flat or you’re surfed out. (What you‘ll probably be given the 3-4 surfers only per surfspot).
When looking for information myself I like to have an imagination of what awaits me upfront, so I can quickly decide if this fits my demands or not. So here’s a quick pros and cons of surfing Namibia
If you don’t want to spoil the article skip this part and jump straight into it.
– empty Lineups (rarely more than 5 surfers, yep that’s you included)
– powerful waves
– no recorded shark attacks ever
– beautiful country
– rich culture
– massive history
– gorgeous landscapes
– diverse wildlife
– surfing in Namibia is an amazing lifetime experience
– cold water (depending where you’re from)
– strong currents
– hard accessibility (you’ll definetly need a car, best case 4×4)
– long distance traveling if you want to cover the country
Table of Contents
1. Preparations for Surfing in Namibia
There are a few things that you need to prepare and be aware of before you set out to go surfing in Namibia. Namibia is a huge country and as the photo above shows, there’s endless roads to be traveled. There is a lot of beauty in this vastness and solitude, but also some hardships alongside it. Namibia isn’t your weekend surftrip kind of destination like Portugal or Cornwall, where you pop out of the airport and straight into the ocean. It‘s much more an adventure – the sensation of feeling „the search“ for waves as well as simplicity and tranquility in our hectic lifes. That alone isn’t easy to come by these days.
Flights into Namibia go to Windhoek, which is the capital of the country, and Swakopmund only. (That is, if you’re going without an expensive Fly-In Safari) Windhoek is inland and about 200mi/320km away from the coast. Swakopmund is right at the coast as well as one of the Surf Destinations. Ticket prices might still make you chose Windhoek over Swakopmund – plus if you’re willing to explore more of the country than the surf, Windhoek might be better situated for that. Especially if you want to visit Etosha Nationalpark. (Which I cant recommend enough)
Once you arrive at the airport you will need to rent a car, and if you want to visit and surf the skeleton coast I recommend it to be 4×4. Theres loads of options to rent a camper truck so you wont need accommodation at all. Namibia is filled with camping spaces all over the country. A truck is the option we went for and it was the best decision. Just make sure to refresh your skills on changing a tyre, checking oil and brake fluid levels and basic car inspection, if you need it.
Surfing wise you will have to bring everything yourself. The only place you’d find surfing gear is Swakopmund and there’s not a lot. So Make sure you have everything you need. Replacement leash and fins as well as a ding repair kit. It would suck if the waves are pounding and you can’t go surf because your board got dinged on the plane, wouldn’t it.
For the medical kit goes the same as anywhere else – Be able to first-aid yourself until you make it to a doctor or hospital if needed. All you need to know about vaccination when it comes to Namibia can be found here.
Visa-Applications are not necessary if you’re a traveler from the EU. You just need to assure that you’re passport is validated for another 6 months and it’ll allow you to stay for 90 days. If you’re living outside the EU please check for your country-specific visa regulations. And that’s it – you’re all set to go surfing in Namibia.
2. Surfing in Namibia – Destinations
Lüderitz is a harbour town in the very south of Namibia. The Name is actually german, and after the colonization through Germany had ended it stuck with it. Lüderitz somehow managed to stay the colonial town it was back in the day. Walking through its streets you’ll probably feel more like walking through an old German village in 1920 than an African country. Colorful houses in bright yellow and orange tones, as well as a Christian church overseeing the Lüderitz Bay atop the hill. And yet the local culture is felt throughout the town.
Where We Stayed
We stayed in a camp that’s run by the NWR called Shark Island. The NWR camps are great. They’re not always the cheapest but it‘s super easy and convenient to book ahead on their website. You’ll immediately see when it‘s free and get your confirmation after the booking process. So upon arrival you just flash your phone with the email plus reference number and you’re all set.
If you take a look at this photograph shark island is situated at the very tip of the landmass where you can guess the entrance into the harbour bay. Except of one family and two girls we had the camp to ourselves. It had the typical fireplace for your brai (Namibian way of having a fire and later putting a grill on top for a barbecue) and the usual sanitary blocks with toilets and showers.
As you can see in the picture we were right in front of the ocean and it was amazing to fall asleep to the sound of the waves.
Where To Surf
So according to the Stromrider Guide Africa there’s no waves around Lüderitz, as it doesn’t get listed at all. Even the search on wannasurf.com comes up empty. It does tell you about two spots, but one is hard to access and almost impossible to find without a boat equipped with gps and the other is closed to the public.
Starting south of Lüderitz all the way to the South African border stretches an area called „Sperrgebiet“ which is German for „Closed area“. This is due to diamond mining. They started in 1908 and are still mining diamonds to this day. I bet along this stretch of coast are some awesome waves to be found, but considering the money that is made in the diamond industry and its resulting protectiveness, I wouldn’t mess with trespassing. I do like surfing a lot but I like my life just that tiny bit better.
Well, welcome to surfing in Namibia, where you can still live The Search. But jokes aside, there are waves around and further north they are way more established and easier to find.
However, I did find same waves on the Lüderitz peninsula. The peninsula is great for spotting wildlife like flamingos, seals and dolphins. In the google maps picture you can see the 4 marked beaches, check these depending on swell direction and feel free to explore the rest of the peninsula. To find it, just follow the road signs to „Diaz Point“ or use google maps.
Where I Went Into The Water
Well, in the case of Lüderitz the heading is misleading, as I didn’t go into the water down there. I found one wave that would’ve been surfable on a longboard, and I might’ve gotten a few tiny waves, but I was exhausted from driving and didn’t feel like going through the hassle. Although It would’ve been a surf shared with flamingos, so check it out if you always wanted to do that. I mean, everybody can surf with seals and dolphins – but Flamingos?! I bet very few can say that of themselves.
Theres another wave that can be spotted from Diaz point, and I saw dolphins playing in it, but there were a few big rocks and I didn’t feel comfortable going in alone.
What To Do When It‘s Flat
Lüderitz is a beautiful and colorful, german colonial town. Strolling through it is already a blast but there are a few things you shouldn’t miss.
Staying on Shark Island was amazing and I can’t recommend it enough. There are only a few places in Namibia where you can fall asleep to the sound of the ocean. It also offers an outstanding position to watch the sunrise as shown in the picture below.
„Climbing“ the hill to visit the church was a perfect decision. Once you’ve reached the church, you will have the possibility to climb a few rocks and get even higher above Lüderitz. It’s a perfect location to settle your day and enjoy the sunset while overlooking the whole Lüderitz Bay. See the view in the picture.
As mentioned in the „Where to Surf“ section the Lüderitz peninsula is awesome for spotting wildlife. Flamingos, dolphins, seals and pelicans are only a few to be found here. If you’re lucky to be here during the right season, you might even catch a glimpse of whales. The pinnacle of the Penisula is marked and called „Diaz point“. A Portuguese captain landed here and erected a cross. You have to get across a small bridge (that isn’t a bridge anymore) and take some stairs to the top. It offers sensational views of the open ocean. This is also where we saw dolphins playing in the waves and seals hunting for fish.
If you want to enjoy a lazy afternoon you should go into the Harbour. There’s wooden benches and tables around and different choices of restaurants. We decided to visit a small Café called Garden Café. They had amazing hand baked goods and one beautiful garden area to sit in. unfortualety it was already closing time when we arrived, so we got our cake and coffe to go. The female owner of the place was so friendly though as to show us the garden and let us take a few pictures.
We took our coffee and sat in the Harbour. There’s worse things than enjoying a piece of cake while watching ships roll in and out of the harbour. It almost made me forget that I came here to be surfing in Namibia.
My favorite sight in Lüderitz was definetly Kolmanskop. This used to be a town that only came into existence because of diamond mining. Like the American Gold rush, it caused many settlers to venture to Namibia and seek their fortune in diamond mining. The city was abandoned when the diamonds went out in the area and the hardships of living in the desert grew on the folks.
Left to the desert it’s amazing to see how Mother Nature retakes its place bit by bit. Theres houses almost completely filled with sand. Others are gone entirely. The former hospital is still in good shape comparably and walking through it gave me some chills. The authorities did a great job keeping some of the houses intact, like a german „Kegelbahn“ and the „gymnasium/town hall“. The contrast betweent early 1900 architecture, well kept wooden floors and sand filled houses is truly amazing to look at.
Kolmanskop as a tourist sight closes early in the day to keep it from interfering with diamond mining. I advice you to check the seasonal opening hours to make sure you get in. Paying the entrance fee is done at the gate, controversial to what is said in the „Lonely PLanet Namibia/Bitswana Guide“. My information is from July/2018 and as mentioned we paid the whole entrance fee at the gate.
Included with the fee is a tour that leaves at specific hours. You’re also free to venture the place by yourself, if you don’t feel like a tour. In case you join the tour, you will be able to keep exploring alone after it has finished.
And all that is the amazing part about surfing in Namibia. Even if you can’t find surf, there are tons of amazing things to do.
Now Swakopmund is where things get really interesting as it basically serves as the capital of surfing in Namibia. But first a little bit more on the city itself. Swakopmund is a coastal city and another one with a german name. It translates to „mouth of the Swakop“ which is a river. It was founded to serve as the main Harbour for german south west Africa in 1892. Today it’s the fourth largest population centre in Namibia and situated within the Namib desert. Swakopmund is 352km west of the Namibian Capital Windhoek via the b2 main road. Thanks to that road it is one of the surf destinations you can reach without a 4×4 vehicle and the only location on this list I would go to by regular car, without breaking a sweat. According to multiple resources Swakopmund is said „to be an outstanding example of german colonial architecture“. However, I found Lüderitz to be much more fitting to that description. Don’t get me wrong on this, the City of Swakopmund does have prime examples of German Colonial Architecture including the „Altes Gefängnis“ prison, the „Altes Amtsgericht“ court and the „Hohenzollern“ building. Being in Swakopmund you will definetly feel the present time though. And while that offers options in the realms of hip Cafés, beach resort hotels and shopping malls, it rips away the nostalgic and historical feeling that Lüderitz induces.
Swakopmund is served by its own Airport. You can also get there by the Trans-Namib Railway from Windhoek.
Where We Stayed
Driving into Swakopmund we were trying to find a hostel that was recommended by the „Lonely Planet Namibia/Bostwana“ but in its place all we found was a high end luxury hotel. This was actually the second time the Lonely Planet let us down with false or rather outdated information.
Driving slowly through the streets we were able to find the Desert Sky Backpacker Lodge. The owner was extremely helpful and friendly with directions, where to go and settling us in. They have spaces for camping with a tent, with a truck, dorms and private bedrooms available as well as a fully equipped kitchen. There’s strong WiFi unlike many other places in Namibia and a tv room with couch to hang out.
From the Lodge it‘s a short 3 minute walk to the beach.
Just across the street is a surf hostel called Salty Jackal Backpackers. I never set foot in there, but it’s the place to go for guided surfing, surf lessons and further information if needed. I had a friendly WhatsApp talk with one of their guides to help me find a spot. (Several years later now, I know that Ollie, the owner, is a powerhouse when it comes to surfing in Namibia) this should really be the place where you’re staying at as a surfer.
Where To Surf
The Stormrider Africa guide has 9 spots located around Swakopmund, and I don’t think there’s a point in me stating them all. Let me instead point out my favorite ones plus another one that isn’t listed in the Stormrider at all. Let me also point out here already that the Stormrider Guide isn’t all that helpful when it comes to surfing in Namibia.
The main Surf spot of Swakopmund, that isn’t actually in Swakopmund, is called Guns. You can find it 20 miles south from the city driving towards Walvis Bay. It is a powerful reefbreak and produces quality, long left walls on a moderate W or SW swell. Just look for the dolphin park Chalets driving down the road and you won’t miss it. Unfortunatley the swell and wind didn’t quite line up during my few days in Swakopmund.
The one that isn’t listed in the Stormrider guide at all is called „Wreck“ any description you’ll find online says to drive „Strand Street“ up north and look for a sewage pipe. However, I did never find that sewage pipe. So if you drive „strand street“ towards the north you will eventually hit a roundabout where the „M. Garoeb Street“ hits the „Strand Street“ and that’s the spot. The small roundabout exits straight into a parking spot, where you can park and hop into the water. 100m up the „M. Garoeb Street“ from the beach is the Skeleton Beach Backpackers if you like to walk to your sessions. I didn’t know about that back then, so I hope you’ll make better use of this information.
Wreck is a left point reefbreak with quality, medium length rides. Surf here past high tide or the current will get too strong to paddle against. Its the most common place to meet some local surfers, so be respectful in your approach and everything will be alright.
The final surfspot I want to point out is „Fiji“ and its another one I wasnt able to find without a bit of a struggle. The only explanation I found said to find it towards the northern end of the city. Going here actually feels like leaving the city, and that’s the moment where you, unlike me, do not want to turn back because you think the city is already ending. Just head for the Seaside Hotel and Spa Swakopmund and park in the parking lot. You could also aim for the „Mile 4 Fishing Area“ as it is the same place. Follow whatever sign shows up first. You can also stay in the „Mile 4 Caravan Park“. And again, make good use of the information I didn’t have back then, in case you like walking a few meters only. „Fiji“ is another lefthand reefbreak but is said to be a lot easier to surf than all other Swakopmund spots. When I arrived here the sun was already setting so I didn’t jump in. But I do have to admit that it looked quite nice and a few guys from the „Salty jackal“ just came out of the water claiming a good session.
Where I Went Into The Water
I ended up getting wet only at „wreck“. The conditions during my days in Swakopmund weren’t really that great unfortunatley, but it‘s the challenges you face when setting out on „the search“. We still had a great time in Swakopmund as it was probably the only place all over Namibia to enjoy touristy Cafés and handicraft shops conveniently lined up in one street.
„Wreck“ did really live up to its name as it totally wrecked my arm and back muscles fighting the current. I was a little late on the tides and everybody (2 locals) was leaving the water as I was hopping in. Should have been a hint to me but it wasn‘t.
What To Do Whent It‘s Flat
Swakopmund is filled with options and things to do when there’s no waves to surf. Just hanging out, drinking coffee in the sun isn’t whe worst idea. Visit the german colonial sights, the aquarium or one of the museums. Sort yourself through the bookshops or the famous german Antiquariat and pay all the handicraft shops a visit. I’m pretty sure you’ll find something that Suits you.
All I want to say – Swakopmund is a big city for Namibian measures and there is plenty to do and visit. But most importantly there’s better guides to read or websites to look at for that kind of information.
2.3. Cape Cross
Where We Stayed
As there’s not a lot of interest in staying at Cape Cross, there’s also not a lot of options. Cape Cross Lodge offers a variety of private rooms as well as a camping space. We stayed with our truck in the camping area and had everything we needed. Electricity, the usual Namibian Brai/Fireplace and exceptional clean sanitary blocks. The hygiene and cleanliness of the toilets and showers was exceptional.
The Lodge has its own beachfront with a little wall to sit on if you’re a camper and lack the oceanview balcony. We had our morning coffee here as we watched the sunrise and waited for the Fur Seal Reserve to open its gates.
Conveniently the Hotel also has its own restaurant serving a dinner menu. It is advised to let them know beforehand that you’re planning to take part in that, otherwise you might be stuck to the „A La Carte“ menu that’s a tiny bit pricier. The dishes were all nicely prepared and great in taste, the entry soup being the highlight. It was a real treat, especially for us, usually cooking with a camping gas cooker. They had a fireplace at the entrance of the dining room and we enjoyed sitting there after the meal a lot.
Where To Surf
This is where it gets a bit tricky, trickier than the Stromrider Guide would suggest. According to it there’s 3 spots at Cape Cross „Main break“, „Graveyards“ and „Factory Point“.
First of all you do have to stick to the opening hours of the Fur Seal Reserve. Those can be looked up online and are subject to seasonal changes. Once you’re in the Reserve you can explore you’re options.
The description of the Stormrider says that the Mainbreak is a supreme left point break with long walls for hundreds of meters and I do agree that it is one beautiful wave. BUT – The takeoff area is supposed to be at the point where a wall divides the car park from the 100.000 seals. Problem is – there’s already well over 250.000 seals and they have expanded their territory quite a bit as apparently nobody told them about the purpose of the wall. The „Main break“ is crowded with seals hunting for fish. Just looking out to the ocean you‘ll notice something like a black cloud within the takeoff area.
„Factory Point“ is said to be a spot in front of a slaughter house which doesn’t exist anymore. So my guess is, it was taken down. Fortunately for all surfers that also erases the described old german man who used to enforce his „No Surfing“ rule by shooting with a shotgun at surfers. It was one of the few times I was happy that the Stormirders description didn’t match the actual states of affair. What I think used to be that spot though is still around. More on that in the next section.
Cape Cross is as good a wave as it gets on its day and has everything it needs to qualify as the best rippable wave for surfing in Namibia. It literally runs for days.
Where I Went Into The Water
So spending a great deal of time looking at the seals it was obvious that the „Main break“ couldn’t be surfed. We sat in the truck and drove further down the point. You will come across a beach and a space that seems like it either used to be a camping site or is going to be one. (Probably is one right now, which you should definetly look into, as it would give you the possibility to stay within the reserve over night and go surfing first thing in the morning) On google maps, as you can see in the marked picture below, this beach has a Picknick Area and it is where the huge tourist buses stop for lunch after their visit to the seal reserve.
It’s quite easy to park your car/truck here, get changed and jump into the water. The Waves are still of good quality depending on the winds and there’s only a few stray away seals around. They didn’t mind me at all. The wind picked up quite a bit in the late morning hours so the pictures aren’t doing justice to the place.
The beachfront of the Cape Cross Lodge is a punchy little beachbreak and after I asked at the desk I had the permission to go into the water. It’s definitely not the surfspot you want to come to Namibia for, but it does offer a lot of fun when everything else is falling apart.
What To Do When It‘s Flat
As already mentioned there isn’t a lot do to up here, but visiting the Seals really is a joy. There’s just so many and we could’ve spent all day watching them. There is a wooden and fenced „bridge“ you can walk while being closed off from the seals and it’s the perfect platform to get super close to them. We’re talking less than half a meter here. You could touch them if you wanted. It‘s such a hectic place. Seals sleeping, playing, hunting, sun bathing and fighting over a spot in the sun, or fighting just for the sake of fighting.
Staying at cape cross gives you the prime possibility to be the first one at the reserve sharing it only with a few other travelers that you will probably already know from dinner the night before. Around 2 hours into your joy – two or more huge tourist busses will arrive and unload their hundreds of people. That was also the moment the moment for us to move on and I recommend you do the same. The place went straight into a zoo-like atmosphere.
On your way to Cape Cross, if you’re coming from Swakopmund, is a shipwreck to be seen just off the beach. I think it‘s a rare possibility to see a shipwreck this well preserved and you should definitely take a look at it. It is a quite interesting and mysterious sight as it is often foggy in this area lending a certain atmosphere to the scene. The shipwreck is called Zeila and is geotagged in Google Maps so you can’t miss it. There’s also a wooden sign at the side of the road just outside Swakopmund.
2.4. Skeleton Coast
The Skeleton Coast is a super far stretch of nothing but desert, gravel road and coast. I don’t even know how many good waves are to be found in this area. It has the potential of revealing some of the best spots for surfing in Namibia that just haven’t been discovered yet. It is also one big ship graveyard. Due to its climate the Skeleton Coast is pretty foggy, making navigation tough. The sandbanks off the coast are more often than not very shallow, so judging the tides and running aground is a real danger. Numerous ships and captains have fallen victim to these treacherous circumstances and their remnants stay behind to name the area – The Skeleton Coast.
With admission times changing through the season, you can only enter the gates of the Sekelton Coast National Park from a certain time and you also have to leave the park before sunset, unless you have a reservation way up north with one of the NWR Camps/Lodges and proof of it. So make sure you check your times ahead and don‘t stay too long in the water either. Take a watch with you if you want to be super safe.
Where To Surf
To spread awareness that even being on „The Search“ you can‘t go wrecklessly explore with your 4×4 truck every single dune and cove. I think the „Stormrider Africa Guide“ got it down pretty well, so I will quote it.
„North of Cape Cross, into the Skeleton Coast National Park, coastal access again becomes very difficult. This fragile ecosystem is characterized by flat gravel plains and patches of low dunes and though it might look uninhabited, wildlife flourishes here. This northern part of the Namib Desert can surprise the visitor with Oryx, springbok, hyenas, jackals and even elephants and lions strolling down the beach to check the surf – some indication of the true wildness of this region. There are definetly a few spots hidden away in coves and around headlands. However, visitors cannot just go off-road in a 4×4 to check the waves. This is a very fragile ecosystem and a simple footprint really can last for years. The plant life, which forms the basis of the food chain, takes decades to grow and is easily destroyed by human interference. Under no circumstances are tourists allowed to leave the marked trails.“
Where I Went Into The Water
I decided to surf the beach break pinpointed by a shipwreck called the S.W. Seal, a fishing vessel that ran aground in the mid ‘70s. It is said to be a very consistent break and we didn’t want to pay the hefty overnight prices to stay within the park and go further north. Although up in the north is a break called „Ovahimba“ and by the descriptions it might be worth the hassle.
The currents were strong and the shore dump was gnarly but I managed to get in a fun little session. Also surfing by a shipwreck was a somehow mysterious and also extraordinary experience. I recommend you to come here and surf this beachbreak, if you planned to visit The Skeleton Coast Park anyways. A little sign at the road proclaiming „wreck“ will let you know that you’re arrived. Entering through the southern gates it is around the 17mile so keep a look at your counter if you don’t want to miss it.
What To Do When It‘s Flat
The Skeleton Coast is unlike any other stretch of coast I‘ve ever seen in my entire life. There‘s also very few places in the world, where we have travelled and were absolutely alone for hours with no single other human soul around.
Even if you don’t want tio surf the S.W.Seal beachbreak, you should still go there and take a look at the wreck. We also found a huge spinal bone from what was probably a whale once, showing that not only ships have problems navigating the Skeleton Coast.
Further up north you will find an abandoned Oil Rig that was left to the desert and its future in slowly rusting away. Man made „super machines“ being eaten away by time, desert and nature. All going back to dust. Those two sights alone really do Ofer some perspective on our hectic nowaday lifestyles.
There‘s plenty more desert, dunes and wrecks to be explored and I encourage you to make it an adventure of exploring.
As you have learned by now – Surfing in Namibia is so much more, than just surfing. I can’t recommend it enough. Go on a Surfari, have an adventure and get to know this beautiful gem of a country.
Going surfing in Namibia will forever be one of my most precious memories.
Medical Student future Psychiatrist, Semiprofessional American Football Player and Surfer.
Did you know, that if you improved 1% every day for a year, you would end up 37 times better than you have been, when you started. I truly believe we can all be a better version or ourselves tomorrow than we have been today and getting there together is more efficient and a lot more fun.