Route Notes: the Millers Run ** videos **

Sunday, 25 July 2010 21:34 | Written by 
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Gale Force Millers Run! Gale Force Millers Run! Credits:

[Editor: This is the first of what will become a regular feature; Route Notes that describe a favourite paddle.] For those downwind paddling addicts living in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, the Millers Run is the default route in summer when the southeaster blows.  Here are some notes on how and when to do it.

The Route

Launch at the ramp of the Cape Boat and Ski Boat Club at Millers Point, paddle about 800m due east to Bakoven Rock, turn left and head towards Fish Hoek, leaving the Roman Rock lighthouse to your right.  Simple!  The distance to Fish Hoek from Bakoven Rock is about 11.75km.


The Millers Run - 11.7km of unadulterated pleasure...

An alternative launching spot that I use when conditions are really hectic is the north launch ramp.  It’s totally protected from the swell, so you can turn right and paddle east as far as you can in the shelter of the rocks until you hit the wind and swell – turn left and head towards Fish Hoek.  (This is known as the Millers “Chicken Run”.  Don’t be ashamed of taking this option – I did five of them last season!)

How to find Millers Point

From Fish Hoek, head south along Main Road through Simonstown.  About 3km from the last houses in Simonstown (Murdoch Valley), you’ll see a sign on the left of the road that reads “Millers Point Recreation Area”.  Drive on for another 700m to another sign that reads, “Welcome to Cape Boat and Ski-Boat Club”.  Turn left, drive down the road and turn right through a sliding gate.  Drive down through a large parking area down to the ramp.

Cape Boat and Ski-boat Club

Be aware that fishing boats use the ramp and we’re there on sufferance.  Be nice to the fishing people even if they think you’re insane to be paddling out there and in those conditions – and whatever you do, don’t leave your vehicle parked in their way.  They have big 4x4s and trailers with metal protrusions that will spoil your car’s day.

The Millers Run – what’s it like?

It's fantastic fun!  

The section from the ramp out to Bakoven Rock can be intimidating – especially if the open ocean swell is coming into the bay.  You can tell when this happens because a shore break makes launching off the ramp interesting and the boulders on the beach rumble as they’re tossed in the surf (hence the name, Rumbly Bay).  To leeward, the swells smash against Millers Point itself – you don’t want to go there!

Millers Point

Millers Point - Detail

After rounding Bakoven Rock, the runs are typically quite small and hard work to catch. A couple of kilometres later however, as you approach the Roman Rock lighthouse, they really start jacking up.  Quite often there are small diagonal runs pushing from left to right, and you can link between them and the bigger swells heading towards Fish Hoek.

(Inside or outside the lighthouse?

Talk to the old men of the sea and they’ll tell you that there’s no need to go outside the lighthouse – the shortest route is usually the quickest  and the straight line between Bakoven Rock and Fish Hoek takes a couple of hundred metres inside the lighthouse.)

Roman Rock Lighthouse

Passing the lighthouse (Pic: Steve Benjamin)

As you pass Roman Rock, the reflected swells hit from the right – and often the constructive interference between wavefronts create superb steep drops...   After another kilometre or so the sea settles down, but there are usually good runs all the way to the Fish Hoek bay entrance.

As you approach Fish Hoek, the waves reflect off the shore in front of you, and the sea becomes confused, and your ski ramps over the swells coming towards you...  A last big run over the reef at Sunny Cove and it’s into the bay proper and the sprint to the beach.

The thing that makes the Millers Run so special for me is that it’s almost always challenging – the runs are very seldom regular and you have to be alert constantly, always looking for the next dip to charge.  But there’s no doubt that it’s one of the most fun paddles around – sheer exhilaration for fifty minutes...  (well, 45:54 to be precise on one awesome occasion last season!)

It’s also reasonably safe.  For one thing it’s on the warm water side of the peninsula.  For another the wind is blowing onshore – you will eventually reach Fish Hoek or somewhere close to it.

At the same time, don’t underestimate the run – for inexperienced paddlers it can be daunting.

When to do it

Virtually any time the wind is blowing from the SE – which is about 75% of the time in summer.  (You can also do it in reverse when the wind is blowing from the NW... but that’s the topic of another Route Notes story.)

Who to do it with

Unless you’re an experienced downwind paddler, you probably want to do your first Millers Run with some guys who have done it before.  In summer there’s usually a gang leaving Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club just after work.  The Varsity College Surfskischool guys often run “first time Millers Run” trips.  Contact them at the Mocke’s Paddling Centre on Main Road, Fish Hoek (0217824311).

It’s a good plan too to agree to regroup at the lighthouse and make sure everyone is still on track.  Paddle with a buddy and watch out for each other.  But be sure that everyone in your group understands what you’re going to do – before you launch.

Things to watch out for

  • Sunset!  Don’t leave it too late before you start – it’s far more difficult for rescuers to find someone in the dark.  (I’ve had personal experience of this.)
  • Swell coming into False Bay.  The waves normally hit the Cape Peninsula from the SW, but on occasion swing around to the SE.  A big SE swell can make the launch at Rumbly Bay interesting –on occasion the sets shut out right across the mouth of the bay – and beach rumbles as the boulders tumble back and forth in the surf (giving Rumbly Bay its name).
  • The wind direction: SSE is best; ESE often makes for a messy sea.  The first day after the SE starts blowing is usually the cleanest; each day that the SE blows seems to make the bay messier – it’s still fun, but the runs become more technical and less easy to link together.
  • The reefs and rocks around Roman Rock lighthouse.  In milder conditions, it’s tempting to shoot the gap under the lighthouse gantry.  Just be aware that there’s a reef to the north-east of the lighthouse – and several rocks at the base of the gantry.  I still have a scar on my stomach courtesy of the reef and was recently left high and dry on one of the rocks!
  • Glen Cairn!  The classic beginner’s mistake is to head too far to the left, thinking that you’re headed towards Fish Hoek when you’re actually aiming at Glen Cairn.  The peak to the left of Fish Hoek is distinctive – just be aware of where you’re paddling!
  • The reef at Sunny Cove – you can recognise Sunny Cove by the pedestrian bridge that crosses the railway line.  Don’t go too close to the reef – but you can catch a great run on the shoulder, to shoot past your buddy who’s taken a deeper line!


Always use basic safety gear:

  • Use a PFD.  The water is cold and if you start cramping, a PFD will help you stay afloat.
  • Use a leash.  If you don’t have a leash, use a tie-down.  You should NEVER be in a position to lose your ski.  The ski is much, much easier to find than a swimmer.
  • Take a means of communication.  A VHF radio or cellphone in a waterproof pouch is best, flares are good, a mirror (like an old CD) is good.  A radio is excellent.
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be out of the water.  NSRI Station 10 (who are the guys who’ll come looking for you if get into trouble) welcome a heads-up SMS on 0829905965.  Just a simple “3 skis, Millers Pt to Fish Hoek ETA 14h30” gives them situational awareness that could save your life.  Don’t forget the follow up email “all in ok” to let them know you’ve arrived.
  • Know your own limitations.  If your gut is telling you that the conditions are beyond your capability, listen to it.  Either can the paddle or go from the north ramp.  There’s no shame in backing off.


Been there, done that, got the shirt

The Paddling Centre have some really cool Millers Run T-shirts – but you can only buy one after you’ve done the run!


Mild Millers

Here's a relatively mild Millers Run...


Millers Run from Rob Mousley on Vimeo.

Chicken Run in the Red7

The wind was blowing about 40kts on this day... We chickened out and paddled from the north ramp.  As we left the ramp we were doing 12kph without paddling...  The conditions were fantastic - long smooth swell...

Doubles Ride

Here's a run in a double...  When we submerged I was laughing so hard I nearly fell off...

Millers Run 2010 - in High Definition!

I've been playing with some hi-def GoPro cameras...  This is a classic Millers Run in a 30kt southeaster, run about two weeks ago.  (A southeaster is very unusual in Cape Town in mid-winter.)  The boat is the new Kayak Center EOS 665 - designed for novice paddlers...  It made a great camera platform!

Midwinter Millers HD from Rob Mousley on Vimeo.

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