EXCLUSIVE: Watch Matt Bromley Slay Durban's Swell of the Decade -- Oh My

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Surf edits are so serious these days. I mean make no mistake, a 9ft@21secs swell for Durban is no joke -- but that doesn't mean you can't poke a little fun at the absurdity of it all. Luckily, Matt Bromley's latest edit, exclusively here for you on MSW, throws away the constraints of seriousness in favour of something stunningly juxtaposed to the situation on hand.

Here, Bromdog and a hardy crew of Durban locals, huck into the swell of the season, perhaps the decade, over 8 minutes of gloriously robust tubes and dazzling near makes, all flecked with a cheeky soundtrack to make you giddy throughout. Just what 2020 needs.

But, we should add, Durban was not Matt's first choice for this swell. COVID had grounded his Dungeons-bound flight for what could have been the biggest, rawest day of the winter.

But who cares, because this is epic. “It looked very heavy, and there’s a big rock shelf just in front of where Matt was taking off, which made things even more intimidating,” says filmer Calvin Thompson about these days back in July. “No one was really going for that section except Matt, so I was stoked to be filming him. Helps to have a Cape Town big wave charger in the mix when Durban gets that heavy!”

Once you've hit play on this outrageous edit above, check out some insight from both Bromdog and Calvin below. A few minutes of film you do not want to miss. Interview by MSW's Matt Rode.

You guys had a pretty good run of swell this winter during the COVID-19 lockdown. Run us through the season in general.
Matt: In Cape Town there have been some very strange weather conditions. The forecasts have been showing incredible readings over and over again, but then not delivering. We've been seeing a pattern where this unusual high pressure system is sitting off the west coast and pushing the storms south, sending the energy away from Dungeons, but then wrapping up into J-Bay and Durban.

Calvin: It’s safe to say this has turned out to be one of the best winters the Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) coastline has seen in a good few years. There have been so many good back-to-back swells lighting up spots up and down the east coast of SA since the start of lockdown at the end of March. Things reached their peak around the middle of July, which is when we documented the ‘Monday Mayhem’ swell in this edit.

Tell us about that swell. The numbers looked pretty apocalyptic, with 3 meters at 21 seconds. We saw the barrels you ended up scoring. How heavy was it on that sand bar? And how big did it get elsewhere?
Matt: All the local boys were calling it too good to be true, and were saying that 21 seconds is unheard of for Durban. I actually got stuck in Durban after a smaller swell chase two days before—Alan van Gysen and I were trying to get back for a 6m @ 18 sec swell hitting Dungeons the following day, but due to there being limited flights because of lockdown we were left stranded in Durban, which turned out to be a mighty fine alternative. 

That sand bar was really sketchy! The lines were rolling in from the back and then standing up into a super shallow inside section. Most of the waves were closing out as they bottomed out and freight trained down the end bowl, but some held up and were incredible. If you didn't make the pit, the current sent you straight into the detonation section further down the sand bar, which was unsurfable because of it being pretty much dry.

I had so many crazy beat downs, getting drilled into the sand with long, swirling hold downs and multiple set waves on the head, all the while treading water to stay away from the rocks just inside of the bar. A lot of locals were a bit shocked by the numbers because no one had ever really seen a period that big

Calvin: Ya, the forecast was crazy. A lot of locals were a bit shocked by the numbers because no one had ever really seen a period that big. Coupled with the swell size and direction that was predicted, owes were on their toes! From land angle the end section on morning had everyone on the beach pretty well entertained. It looked very heavy, and there’s a big rock shelf just in front of where Matt was taking off, which made things even more intimidating. No one was really going for that section except Matt, so I was stoked to be filming him. Helps to have a Cape Town big wave charger in the mix when Durban gets that heavy!

The conditions looked pretty challenging, but there were a few mental ones that were made. Who was killing it the most out there?
Calvin: In this edit there were three spots documented, each of which had their own standouts. Matt Bromley, Davey Van Zyl, Chad du Toit, Josh Redman, Ricky Basnett and Andre Botha come to mind. Unfortunately, a few of the best/gnarliest ones went unridden because of the crazy conditions. With the amount of water moving I think it was really hard to line things up for some of the bigger bombs.

Matt: Yeah we should have ventured to The Bluff, where Andre and Ricky got those two. That part of the coastline seemed to be handling the swell the best. I surfed with Davey van Zyl, who is always a standout in big barrels. However, just down the way, Josh and Chad scored the absolute gold!

On those crispy winter mornings, you have until around 10am before the wind switches onshore—and with so many options and sand bar points, you have to just pick one and send it!

It looks like the fun continued after the swell, as you made the edit. How'd you come up with the concept?
Matt: Calvin has such a quirky personality, so I was super stoked that he put some of that into this edit, alongside his professional approach. Plus, we both thought the early days of Loose Change, Campaign 1&2, and even Fair Bits were hilarious and so entertaining! I grew up on those videos, and it's so good to bring back some humour.

Calvin: [laughs] Yeah definitely. I think it’s good to experiment and have fun with filmmaking.

Matt and I just decided to cruise together for a few mornings because he’d flown in for the swell and I was already in Durban anyway, escaping the Cape winter! There was no real plan to begin with. Once we got all the footage, I got into the edit, which is where I made all the ‘creative decisions.’ I love how old school surf videos mixed in some humour and silliness back in the days of VHS—some of them were so out there!

You’ll notice there’s obviously some quirky additions to the film, like the stock footage of space and voiceover artist (thanks Nash). I think I just felt like doing something different and mixing it up from the usual style. I love how old school surf videos mixed in some humour and silliness back in the days of VHS—some of them were so out there! They definitely weren’t taking themselves too seriously or trying to be too cool or polished, and I dig that. Could do with a bit more of that these days I think.

Jazz hands!

Jazz hands!

Yeah, seems like there’s more than enough seriousness to go around at the moment, and a bit of humour is just what the world needs in the midst of the pandemic and everything. At the beginning of the lockdown a lot of the beaches in South Africa were shut down. Did you guys miss any notable swells? Was anybody sneaking out and surfing despite the beach closures?
Matt: Yeah it was so interesting to see everyone's moral codes. Some who I thought were badass were holding to the laws, while others who held high moral standards were sussing out patterns in the police drive-by's and surfing in between. 

I only started surfing after around eight weeks or more, using the down time to just reflect on life a little, spend time with the wifey, reignite the passion for big wave chasing and give some attention to my public speaking gigs. I also didn't want a criminal record for a little surf, and then be stuck trying to get a visa when travel bans are lifted. Fortunately the swell only really marched in after the worst of the lockdown.

Calvin: In Cape Town, as lockdown started the weather got so good. There was hardly any wind, and to make things worse, footage started circling from a few spots that were cooking some days with no one on it. Fortunately, I think we still got the best of it after restrictions cooled down. Some guys were definitely hitting a few sneaky sessions over lockdown. It would be interesting to know who broke the drydock first [laughs].

I reckon at least one die-hard ballie must have lasted only a day or two. I heard stories of guys cutting little crook paths in the bush in KZN, running over train tracks down the south coast and having close encounters with the police. Most got lucky, but a few unfortunate frothers found themselves in the back of a police van

Some guys had quick sneaky surfs before first light. I heard of one secret spot which got the most crowded it's ever been because it was one of the only spots the cops weren't checking.

Most got lucky, but a few unfortunate frothers found themselves in the back of a police van. For the most part, the majority of the SA surf community stayed dry for the first four to five weeks or so. Or maybe it was just me? Week five I decided to jump on the illegal bandwagon and began sneaking out for surfs at one of the harder-to-reach spots on the Atlantic side. The first dip back in the water is something I won't soon forget! 

What's the situation looking like there now? Are lineups pretty empty, since no one can travel into the country to surf? Or is it busier because there is less work and more people surfing?
Calvin: When the surf’s good, I often wonder if anyone works in Cape Town! But what we’ve lost in tourists, we’ve made up for in post-lockdown froth! So I think crowds are back to normal.

Matt: The amount of surfers has skyrocketed in Cape Town and Jeffrey's Bay (I did a swell chase there last week)! I think being stuck indoors has helped people to realise how special the outdoors are, and now that they're "free" again the lineups are packed! There was also this crazy wetsuit sale here in Muizenberg, where a friend of mine bought up 5,000 wetsuits which were sent in from Europe as old stock, and sold for super cheap! People who had never surfed before were suddenly buying suits and getting in the water.

Your winter is starting to wind down, so I imagine you must be getting antsy to travel elsewhere. What's the situation for South Africans, as far as being allowed into other countries? And are you able to get back home if you leave to chase swells elsewhere?
Matt: Ah man, I am absolutely frothing to chase some swell! Dungeons has been terrible this year, and although we've had some fun days at Sunset, there's been nothing over 15ft.

I'm also really trying to get one more section for my film Over the Edge, which we're releasing early next year. Unfortunately it looks like we aren't going to be traveling anytime soon. The last time I spoke to my travel agent, she mentioned the bans lifting in February next year for SA.

Heavy! Fortunately you guys seems to have a ton of amazing waves there at home.
Matt: Everyone knows about the raw outer reefs in Cape Town, but not as many are aware of the incredible sand bars up in Durban. South Africa has such a diverse coastline, and it was really cool to jump on a two-hour flight from freezing Cape Town over to tropical Durbs and score something totally different.

Calvin: Yeah, we want to give a big shout out to the contributors who captured the other two spots that Monday: Bluff hometown hero and my new best friend Chad Schwab, all-around legend and expert water lensman Alan Van Gysen, and the up and coming 14-year-old Caleb Rogers (Josh Redman’s younger cousin) who did an epic job capturing the main owes at the main break.

Cover shot by Alan Van Gysen