WHAT IS A SURFSKI?
A surf ski is a long, narrow and lightweight craft similar to a kayak but with an open "sit on top" cockpit and a self-bailer to eliminate water instead of the enclosed kayak-style cockpit which can be sealed against the elements with a sprayskirt or tuliq.
Surfskis are primarily designed for speed and stability to enable a paddler to catch fast wind or ocean swells "runs" on the open seas. They have a powerful pedal operated rudder to control the boat while surfing on wave fronts.
WHAT IS OCEAN PADDLE RACING?
Canoe Ocean Racing consists of long distance surfski, sea kayak and sea touring races. A surfski is the fastest boat over long distances on ocean swells, with the only flatwater boat able to go faster being an Olympic standard canoe sprint boat.
The challenges canoe ocean racing can face include large waves driven by the wind, hurricane generated ground swells and paddling in wind speeds of more than 20 knots.
THE FAMOUS MILLER'S RUN
The Miller’s Run in False Bay, South Africa, has long since been a part of surfski folklore. The mere mention of the name sends chills down ones spine and the heart rate begins to climb. Images of the infamous Roman Rock lighthouse enters your mind, then the feeling of cresting a swell mid-ocean and surfing down it as you get showered by sea spray, with eyes burning and yet yelling with delight.
For many, the Miller’s Run remains a far off dream. Feeling intimidated at first by the conditions and the unknown, soon it is placed front and center of your bucket list.
It is most often paddled in howling southeast winds that are prevalent during the summer. The route is also paddled on the northwest gales that arrive with the winter cold fronts but is then referred to as a Reverse Millers.
Conditions vary enormously and can be huge and messy with the ocean like a giant washing machine, but sometimes the wind and swell line up together and create the perfect platform for a record run.The current record is 36 minutes and 36 seconds, set in 2016, which is held by Jasper Mocke.
Best conditions are from Spring to late Autumn (September to March).
South Easterly winds batter the Cape Peninsula as the South Atlantic High pressure systems moves south and joins up with the South Indian Highs. At the same time, a low-pressure trough hangs over the interior and the strength of the wind that moves between them is directly proportional to the difference in pressure gradient.
The most common wind to do the Miller’s Run in, is a South-Easterly. The run also handles variations of this direction very well. When it is blowing more from an easterly direction the ground swell tends to be bigger and harder to catch. When it is blowing more from the south, and very strong, there is a downdraft from Simonstown mountain causing huge gusts that seem to be blowing you out into the middle of the bay. Do not stress, just go with it. After two kilometers, the wind will be right behind you.
The size of the swells is most dependent on the strength of the wind. 10 – 15 knots is perfect for the weekend warrior who wants to surf runs without worry. When the wind reaches 20 knots and above, it is for the seasoned downwind paddler.
False Bay fills up with white caps and swells, all pushing their way directly to Fish Hoek beach. On a typical Miller’s Run you will have smaller runs or ‘wind chop’ that move slow and are easier to catch. These are the bread and butter of your downwind. Then among these, bigger swells that have travelled further and move faster. These are commonly referred to as ground swell. In your downwind you ride a combination using the speed of the ‘wind chop’ to get you onto the ‘ground swell’.
When the SE starts blowing it stays consistent and commonly lasts a week without abating. Within the first few hours of wind there are smaller runs, perfect for anyone, especially those starting out. If you are after the big stuff, hang tight for a few hours and allow the runs to build.
What makes the Miller’s Run even better is that it works on the opposite wind direction too. When Cape Town winter arrives, cold fronts batter the West coast all powered by blustery north westerly winds. To do the reverse Miller’s a NW or NNW is best. On this route, there will be no ground swell, only wind chop that grows and speeds up as you go.
Route & Distance:
Miller’s Point to Fish Hoek Beach is 11.7km.
There are two slipways to launch from at Miller’s. An easy protected option on the western side closest to the caravan park or an exposed option on the eastern side at the boat club. If you are going for an official time you need to launch on the exposed slipway and paddle around “the rock” which is where the clock starts. You stop your watch when your feet touch the sand on Fish Hoek beach.
The primary landmark is the Roman Rock lighthouse. The ideal direction is to aim just to the left of the lighthouse keeping it about 50 meters to 100 meters on your right as you pass by. After that, look for “the quarry”, an old stone mine visible in the mountain. Fish Hoek beach is just to the right of that. You finish the run on Fish Hoek beach.
Paddlers use the lifesaving club or the sailing club as their base where you can park, rinse your ski and have a shower.
MILLER'S RUN OPTIONS
Mocke Paddling has everything you need, from gear to logistics, just arrive. You can even do it on a double surfski with a world champion if that will settle your nerves!
Find them at:
For a week of intense downwind coaching sign up for the Downwind Camps.
The Miller’s Taxi is a shuttle service that transports paddlers and their surfskis between Fish Hoek and Miller’s Point.
Park your car at Fish Hoek and hop on the shuttle.
Contact Vinnie on:
+27 (0) 83 500 5194.
They publish their shuttle times daily via whatsapp or on their Facebook page, Millers Taxi.
You will need 100 South African Rand cash (About $10 USD) and your own tie downs.