The History Of Skeleton Bay

We all dream of discovering a world-class surf spot in the middle of nowhere. Skeleton Bay is exactly this – one of the greatest surfing discoveries of modern times. This mysterious desert break is no typical surf destination. It’s barren, isolated, and besides the seals, there is nothing else around. Except for a seemingly endless stretch of perfect barrels.

Skeleton Bay is recognized as being the world’s best left-handed point break. This elusive wave in the Namibian desert produces some of the longest and most ideal rides that we have ever seen – where six tubes on a single wave is not uncommon at all. But how did Skeleton Bay become the destination that it is? And who discovered this incredible break, way off the beaten track?

koa smith skeleton bay

How To Get To Skeleton Bay?

Getting to Skeleton Bay is no easy feat. This wave really is in the middle of nowhere, hidden in an empty stretch of the Namibian coastline. The break is about 6 hours away from Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, on the outskirts of Walvis Bay. Getting to the wave will require a 4×4, and possibly a guide. 

You can either drive up from Cape Town, which takes around 24 hours one way. The other option is to fly into Walvis Bay, Namibia, and take an hour-long drive to Skeleton Bay.

 It is important to understand that this wave breaks in the middle of the desert, so there really isn’t much (well, anything) around. Most surfers bring along their tents to pitch on the desert sands alongside the coast. Otherwise, you can stay at a basic guesthouse or a local’s home. The only real drawcard in this area is the truly incredible wave. 

Who Discovered Skeleton Bay?

Like any surf spot, it’s tricky to trace the place back to the first wave ridden. Skeleton Bay has only recently become a well-known surfing destination, and thanks to its remote location, it remains fairly uncrowded.

In 2008, Surfer Magazine hosted a Google Earth challenge to encourage participants to find the next perfect wave. A software engineer from California called Brian Gable submitted the Namibian location. This lead to a group of pro surfers and photographers heading out into the desert in search of barrels.

Well, it turned out to be successful – with footage from the trip making a huge impact all over the internet. Since a certain video of Corey Lopez surfing at Skeleton Bay was released, keen surfers have been rushing out to find this insanely long wave. 

It may have been the trip resulting from the Surfer Magazine competition that made the world turn towards Namibia as a surfing hotspot. However, this isn’t to say that the wave has never been surfed before. 

There are stories of brave locals that have been riding Skeleton Bay since the late nineties. The wave was mostly attempted by bodyboarders due to its harsh, and seriously fast conditions. The local surfers struggled to conquer the wave though. 

Cape Town surfers soon started to head up into the Namibian desert chasing these swells and to ride the Donkey, as the wave is often called. These Cape Town surfers started sharing footage of the wave and inviting friends. This has lead to a gradual increase in crowds heading out to find this legendary wave. The locals are happy about this as it has caused a new market for tourism and visitors to the area. 

It was the Corey Lopez video that grabbed the world’s attention, although Skeleton Bay has certainly seen a number of riders before this. Being a sand-spit wave, Skeleton Bay may have only really formed pretty recently. Experts believe that this wave was formed sometime around the late 70s when Namibia’s winds altered by 20 degrees.

What’s The Wave Like?

Skeleton Bay produces a wave unlike anywhere else in the world. Being located in the middle of the desert, this wave is formed by a sandbar. It is a rare sand-bottomed left-hand point break that runs for ages. In fact, it is considered the longest sand-bottomed left-hand point break in the world. 

When we say the wave lasts ages, we really mean it. A solid ride on the Donkey will make anyone’s knees start to ache. This wave can reach about 3kms in length – making it one of the longest waves in the world. Until recently, there were vehicles running up and down the beach ferrying surfers between rides. 

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Skeleton Bay breaks hard and fast, and it is all about the tube.  You can get multiple barrels on these seemingly endless waves (6 – 8 is not uncommon). This is definitely not a wave for beginners though, as there are some mean rips and serious power in the sea here. Surfers come here to experience the longest rides of their lives – something that can definitely be expected.

The wave can work all year round but is at its best when the big swells hit around May to July. The wave also works on all tides. Bring along your thick wetsuit though, as the water here can get pretty chilly!

While some waves are about fun turns and big maneuvers, the Donkey is all about unbelievably long rides and thick sand dredging tubes. This point provides a totally unique experience and has become a real bucket list item for surfers around the globe. 

Conclusion

Skeleton Bay is one of the most intense waves on the planet. This place is completely bare and remote, with nothing but sand and seals around the point. Sure, Skeleton Bay is not the typical idea of a dream surf destination. However, the waves that you can get here are like nowhere else.

Inconceivably long rides, unlimited barrels, and you don’t have to fight your way through thick crowds. Skeleton Bay is still a fairly recent surfing discovery, and it has got to be one of the most exciting waves on earth. If you are interested in surfing some of the great waves of the world, then a trip to Namibia should definitely be on the table! 

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