JBay Winterfest
Jeffreys Bay has come a long way

 For many years winter was a time of survival for locals.  Visitors to Jeffreys Bay were rare and the only positive aspect for tourism in winter was the international surfers who flocked to Jeffreys Bay to surf the perfect wave.

Supertubes  delivered during the '14 JBay Winterfest. Photo: Roy Harley

Supertubes delivered during the ’14 JBay Winterfest. Photo: Roy Harley

In the 1960’s and 1970’s surfers were not that affluent and the history of surfing in the town began with the wave riders camping in the sand dunes overlooking Supertubes and Point, where multi million rand houses stand today.

These JBay surf pioneers lived hard.  There were no jobs and little accommodation available.  In fact the Wavecrest area was connected to the town itself by a gravel road.   Cold winter nights were spend around fires on the beach.  Days were spend surfing the waves that in the 1960’s (and even today) were regarded as some of the finest on the planet.

From those humble beginnings, a surf culture was born.  Ant Van Der Heuwel, one of the best surfers in South Africa at the time, started making sandals for a living.  He was followed by fellow surfers like Andy Thuysman, who is still involved in shoe making today and others like Larry Levin who began to build surfboards to cater for an ever increasing demand.

Ugg boots from Instep Leather are synonymous with Jeffreys Bay

Ugg boots from Instep Leather are synonymous with Jeffreys Bay

Shortly afterwards, Cheron Kraak started making clothes for the surfers, little realizing that years later she would be the biggest employee in town and that Jeffreys Bay would be home to Billabong in Africa.

By the 1980’s the town was already in a major development phase.  The now defunct Trust Bank (currently part of the Absa brand) had started marketing plots in Wavecrest in earnest and more and more people were moving into town to live.

Estate agencies were established and by 1987 there were three Banks in town as opposed to a few short years before, when small one man agencies were manned for a few hours a couple of days a week.

December holiday periods started booming and by the 1990’s, JeffreysBay had become a prime holiday destination for South Africans.  By this stage the town had earned the title of the fastest growing coastal town in South Africa.

Marina Martinique is one of the top open water swim venues in the world

Marina Martinique is one of the top open water swim venues in the world

The dawn of democracy in the land saw a corresponding growth in tourism.  Backpackers opened doors to cater for the young people of the world that were beginning to flow up and down the coastlines of Southern Africa.

Many entrepreneurs saw opportunity and guest houses began opening and in the early 1990’s, construction began on Marina Martinique.  The Marina weathered many initial storms as the mouth to the sea had to be closed due to sand deposits and the holding company went into liquidation.  It is now the home of open water swimming in South Africa and a number of Olympians have raced and trained in the canals.

But by the end of the twentieth century, Jeffreys Bay was ideally positioned to explode.

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Nowadays, winter is no longer a time to be feared by local business people.  Many South African and international tourists have bought property in town and spend as much time as they can here.  Tourists are traveling to South Africa all year round and Jeffreys Bay is attracting more and more of these visitors.

The JBay Winterfest has become one of the major festivals in South Africa and attracts thousands of  people to town every July. The JBay Open of Surfing is the only world championship tour event that takes place on the African continent and brings the top surfers on the planet to our small coastal village.

This can only have a positive spin off for the economy of the town.  The days of quiet winter months finally seem to be a phenomenon of the past.

The tower at the JBay Open

The tower at the JBay Open. Photo: Robbie Irlam

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