The Crossing: 46km Downwind in Cape Town

Tuesday, 12 February 2008 08:37 | Written by  Murray Williams
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False Bay, Cape Town: February 8, 2008.

[Editor: Murray Williams sent us this account of a classic downwind run across False Bay here in Cape Town...]

False Bay Surf Ski Crossing
The squad at Pringle Bay - 7am (Pic: Dawid Mocke)

An epic downwind blast across the Bay

The Nature:

  • Route: Maanskynbaai (Cape Hangklip) - Fish Hoek
  • Distance: straight line (GPS): 45.5km
  • Actual paddle distance: 46.7km
  • Launch time: 7am, Saturday
  • Swell size and description: ocean swell of +- 4m, at 8 second intervals, up to 3-foot-high breaking foam tops on top of the swells
  • Wind speed: Average of 25 knots, gusting up into the red zone, dropping to near-calm at Whittle Rock

False Bay Surfski Crossing
The Route: Pringle Bay to Fish Hoek


The Team:

  • Dawid Mocke: Fenn Mako Elite (11kg)
  • Peter Cole Fenn Mako 6: (carbon)
  • Christie Augustyn: Fenn Millennium (glass)
  • Ernest van Riet: Fenn Mako 6 (carbon)
  • Jamii Hamlin: Red 7 Surf 70 Pro (glass, 15.5kg)
  • Nils von Delft: Fenn Millennium (carbon)
  • Murray Williams: Honcho Guevara

The Safety:

GME's 410 Series PLB, by Avnic Trading:

  • A most outstanding little device. A piece of high-tech you hope you'll never use, but will save your life if you have to. See below for full details:


  • Motorola, supplied by Omnipage, radio comms experts - 021 852 4391
  • Icom M71



  • Pencil flares


  • Yep 

The Action:

Dawid Mocke:

Q: Why do it?

A: "I'm training for the Molokai in Hawaii, and it suited the conditions well. It's a similar distance, over open ocean

"Second, False Bay is quite a daunting place. Lots of noonoos (Men in Grey Suits) around. The place is notorious for ocean-going craft, so t's a challenge, and not many people have done it.

Q: The Start:

A: "Brilliant. Catching runs straight off the beach.

"My first 1hour 50 was some of the best downwinds of my life. One run - a 300 piece - was probably the best single run of my life. My top speed was 30km/h.

"You'd be racing down a run towards the right, almost do a little off-the-lip and then go to the left. I'm not sure what it was all about, but it was fun.

"One big breaker hit me from the right and I had to put my legs out to prevent myself from capsizing."

Q: The wind:

A: "East-South-East, after three days of brutal, gale-force South-Easters - which normally means it's about to start dropping.

"When you leave the beach it seems like it's pushing you straight to Cape Point, but I think it's an optical illusion, it actually pushes you straight to Fish Hoek."

Q: Obstacles?

A: "At the back of my mind I was thinking about Whittle Rock. Underneath Whittle Rock, on my marine charts it says "Breaks occasionally"! So I was very relieved to see the buoy, which is to the right of the rock, which means no breaking waves.

"I also paddled past a massive pod of dolphins. They gave me a bit of a fright at first. I immediately whipped out my video camera - I thought I was going to be filming the first shark attack filmed on a surfski. I thought if I could film a shark biting the nose of my ski off then I could make a lot of money ... if I survived ... before I realised what they were."

Q: The last quarter:

A: Still great runs, straight into Fish Hoek.

Q: Time?

A: 3h20

Q: Summary:

A: "Definitely needs to be on your to-do list. Will definitely be doing it again at the first available opportunity."

Q: Learned?

A: "The safety gear is absolutely essential. You have to leash yourself into your boat. You definitely need to be in pairs, and definitely need to be a minimum of four paddlers."

Q: Skill level?

A: "You need to have done a Miller's Run in under 50 minutes. The old adage remains true: "Don't look behind you." You've going to realise very quickly that you're very far from terra firma. Being land-based beings our minds start playing tricks on us. So, to keep your head, look ahead, and just catch the runs straight in front of you."

False Bay Surfski Crossing - Whittle Rock
Dawid Mocke at the Whittle Rock buoy - mid-bay (Pic: Dawid Mocke)

Check out Dawid's GPS record on

Click here for The Crossing on



Peter Cole:

"It was a bit intimidating for the first hour-and-a-half - the speed of the wind and the size of the runs! Then it became a different kind of intimidating when the wind died in the second half and it became a long haul!

"Being 25km from anywhere at a point - all you've got with you is your ski and your paddle and the ocean  ... is quite intimidating.

"Every time you've done it is different. The colour-line we hit just off the lighthouse was awesome - it turned form dark blue to very light pale blue. It was like a line on map that you'd crossed."

"There's an old pic in the Fish Hoek club house - four of them that went across in skis without any rudders, etc. I think that was in 1969 - and they were probably the first.

"But today it's just as good - it's still putting yourself under pressure and it's a great crossing."

Jamii Hamlin:

"It's a milestone paddle! You really are paddling in deep water, and not just nicely wind-swept coastal waves. It's a little like over-coming a mini-Everest as a paddler."

("Just on the safety aspect, I carried a bazooka sized smoke flare as well as a pencil flare. And despite carrying my cell phone in a waterproof bag it was dead when I finished! I thought there was sufficient charge in it but the slight moisture in the waterproof bag most have clonked it out...a way to remedy this is to include a moisture absorbent bag one gets with medication or new shoes! 

Added to the safety aspect is to ensure that your choice of craft is suitable for the conditions and that your are 110% comfortable in it...the Red7 I borrowed was great except for the rubber butt pad that stopped me from rotating in my seat to correctly paddle and adjusting my hips placement in controlling runs. Small oversight but a hindrance in tricky conditions that I would want to avoid next time. Also, paddling in pairs is probably better than paddling in 3s, because it's more difficult to keep three together.")

Nils von Delft:

"It was awesome! Long and hard. But awesome paddling in the open ocean. Big waves, strong wind and open ocean swell in the beginning. The last hour-and-a-half was probably the toughest of my life - I wasn't mentally prepared for such a long paddle."

Worth doing? "Definitely. Towards the end I was thinking about whether I could still say I had ‘crossed the Bay' if I got a rescue boat to come and pick me up! I thought that when I got to the end I'd be dead, but as soon as I hit the beach I was stoked."

Murray Williams:

...Been staring out over False Bay since a young boy.

... Cape Hangklip, far off in the distance to the left, Cape Point and the Peninsula, on the horizon to the right.

What a paddle it would be.

Saturday Feb 8, 2008: Done!

False Bay Surfski Crossing
The elated crew, 46.7km later (Pic: Dawid Mocke)


Photos by Dawid


The Life-Saver:

Jan 2008

Avnic Trading obtains first ICASA PLB approval for GME device.

Avnic Trading have been lobbying the Government for the last three years to approve Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) for registration and use by South African citizens as we believe that the carrying of these devices in remote areas (Land and Sea) adds the ultimate dimension to personal safety and insurance. This legislation has now been passed and the GME PLB is officially ICASA approved.

By setting off a GME 410GPS PLB in a remote area a worldwide distress will be transmitted pinpointing the search area to a radius within 45 meters and identifying the person involved. (Activation of beacon should only be in cases of life threatening emergency)

GME's 410 Series PLB is available with or without an integrated GPS option and are leading the world with feature innovation and user benefits.
Not only is the 410 Series the smallest and lightest PLB on the market, both models offer a massive 7 year battery replacement life, an ‘industry first' 7 year warranty, a high intensity LED strobe and a ‘Non Hazmat' battery pack for simple and cost effective transportation, all contributing to the unique AccuSat advantage.

GME's engineers are able to provide the outdoor adventurer with a 406 MHz PLB solution that is not only affordable, but provides enhanced peace of mind for surf skiers, bush walkers, 4 x 4 enthusiasts and aviators should they ever require emergency assistance anywhere in the world.

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  • Typical accuracy
    MT410G: <45m
    MT410: <5km
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GME's 410 Series PLB

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