Some are calling it one of the most powerful swells to hit The Cape Peninsula in decades. Maybe not the biggest waves ever seen, but certainly one of the most powerful.
If the waves seen battering the outer reefs last week on Wednesday, and again on Friday, were not enough evidence, surely the relocation of a shipwreck is? So powerful were the waves they lifted an old shipwreck from the ocean’s floor and washed it ashore near Oudekraal (12 Apostles).
The oil tanker, Antipolis, ran aground off Oudekraal during a July storm in 1977 and had been sitting on the ocean floor since then. The wreck is around 25m long and stands four metres high.
Being in the direct firing-line of the Roaring 40's, Cape Town often gets massive surf coupled with severe weather, which doesn't often translate to great, paddleable surf.
In fact it's more a rarity to get waves this big with clean weather. This is where the ski and the rope have came to be relied on since the inception of tow-surfing back in the day with South Africans Glen Bee and Pierre du Plessis starting with a rubber duck at the same time as Laird Hamilton and co started over in Hawaii.
Without the power of the engine, surfers just wouldn't be able to ride these massive rolling mountains that hit the deep water reefs of Cape Town.
About the swell, MSW forecaster Tony Butt said: "The huge swell that hit the Southwest Peninsula last Wednesday 19th January originated from a low pressure system that began to develop just east of the Falkland Islands on Friday 14th. The storm steadily deepened as it moved east, reaching peak intensity on Monday 17th, about 1200 miles southwest of Cape Town. A relatively tight area of storm-force winds on its northern flank generated a short-lived pulse of large, long-period swell, enhanced by the easterly movement of the windfield itself.
"The swell arrived in Cape Town early Wednesday, with initial peak periods of around 20 secs, before filling in and seeing offshore wave heights increase to almost 20 feet. This translated into much bigger breaking wave heights at swell-magnets such as Sunset Reef, plus enormous amounts of water moving.
"In addition to the large offshore wave heights coupled with unusually long periods, the swell came from a more westerly direction than normal, due to the storm tracking further north than usual. At some spots, but at Sunset much more than anywhere else, the focusing effect of the reef really comes into its own with west swells, particularly long-period ones. This swell was no exception, with A-frame peaks at Sunset more than doubling the wave height just offshore.
"Local wind conditions were also good, with moderate southerlies due to fairly weak pressure gradients over the coast. This is unusual for this time of year, when you would normally expect strong southeast trades off the northeast flank of a high pressure that sits just off the coast.
"In summary, the swell was exceptional, and even more so considering it arrived in the middle of summer. The storm wasn’t as huge as you would typically get in the winter, but it tracked more north than usual and deepened just in the right place to generate a large, long-period west swell."
Cover shot by deanbannerss.