The Cape Verde islands lie about 1,500km south-west of the Canaries, 500km west of Senegal. Out in the middle of the Atlantic, they became a key port for ships bound for the Americas. Initially they carried slaves, whose offspring mixed with the ...
It’s pretty plain that conditions are going to vary hugely across a continent stretching over 8,000km from 37° North to 35° South. Northern Africa is located where the trade wind originates, torn between a Mediterranean climate and the adjacent dry trade wind zone to the south. In summer from April to November a solid N to NE wind arises between Azores high pressure and a heat induced low over the Sahara, which supplies the coast of Morocco as well as the Canary Islands 100km away with wind. Boosted by local topography in Northern Morocco , Essaouira, and some spots in Southern Morocco , the ambient Force 3-4 airflow can easily become Force 6-8. And it’s usually sunny and dry too – although the relatively cool 18-22°C Canary Current prevents the coast from heating up much beyond 24-28°C, the still backcountry can see up to 40°C. In winter when the Azores high weakens and NE trades tussle with westerly low pressure winds, wind and weather will be much more variable. While windswell dominates the summertime, the north-west catches some nice groundswell from the stormy North Atlantic Ocean in winter. Even the transitional months offer decent wave conditions.
At the same latitude, Egypt and it's regions of the Red Sea West Coast and Sinai also benefit from winds flowing south from the subtropical high pressure zone, induced by heat lows over Africa and Saudi Arabia in a slightly warmer climate than the west. Blessed by the venturi effect of the Red Sea and Gulf of Akaba, it’s also more often windy here in wintertime. As for real swell though, you’ll have to live without in these enclosed waters. Happily, tides aren’t an issue either. Summertime conditions remain particularly tame on the Tunisian island Djerba with easterly thermal fair weather winds blowing on the rim of Mediterranean high pressure. It only gets more variable when low pressure systems sweep through in winter. Even then, waves only very rarely find their way into the protected Gulf of Gabès.
The Cape Verde islands remain largely unaffected by the Moroccan climate’s moods. They’re under the influence of NE trades year-round, which blow pretty consistently down below the Tropic of Cancer, especially in winter. Lacking any topographical boost, it’s unfortunately a bit lighter than the Canaries. Both island chains share the same winter Atlantic swell, summer can even bring some southern hemisphere groundswell to Cape Verde – although Sal is shielded by its sister island Boa Vista. In 23-27°C water Cape Verde can be ridden year-round in a shorty, more often just boardshorts in the particularly sunny windy season.
Across the equator, not only do pressure systems rotate in the opposite direction, but the seasons are also transposed. In the southern hemisphere, high summer starts around New Year’s Eve and the cooler winter is at its worst in July. The climate on the SW coast of Africa is significantly cooler than the east. The chilly Benguela Current from the Antarctic prevents even summer water temperatures rising beyond 15°C from the Cape of Good Hope north to Namibia, ensuring relatively moderate air temperatures along the coast despite intense sunshine. This is compensated in Oct-Mar by stable high pressure systems south-west of the continent that supply the region with its awesome high-wind yield. The south-easterly (affectionately called ‘Cape Doctor’) nukes in The Cape Region, it’s pulled south and inland along South Africa's West Coast by the rising summer heat, until it finally blows SW in Namibia. The wave supply is also nothing to scoff at, as proximity to storms in the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties is palpable. They produce year-round quality swell from the Antarctic, mostly SW – perfect for the coastline’s orientation. Wintertime brings the biggest waves, but low pressure systems introduce cloudy, moist and significantly cooler weather (8-18°C) so the locals generally get the place to themselves.
East of the Cape, the Agulhas Current from the tropics warms the water temperatures to over 20°C. The adjacent Overberg region also gets supplied with SE wind by high pressure systems. Further north the same highs create NE wind around Durban, most reliably Aug-Jan when they stay a bit further north. Punctuating the highs, cold fronts continually move north from Cape Town up the coast bringing some SW wind. The wind in Durban’s generally more moderate than the Cape, the waves are also a bit smaller but you’ll be able to find 3m+ year-round. Most of the time you can rip them up in a shorty or boardshorts, since water and climate get ever warmer further north. Neighbouring Mozambique's summers are consistently warm at 30°C and water temperatures also rise to 21-27°C. Conditions near the border are similar to Durban, the only difference being that southerlies mostly blow SE. Over 1,500km further north, the region around Pemba is closer to tropical East Africa so has more in common with Kenya. While the west coast near the equator is known as windless doldrums, the east coast is ventilated by two kinds of trade wind: Dec-Mar the NE Kaskasi dominates at around Force 5, from mid-June until September (a bit earlier in Mozambique) the Kusi southerlies start. They tend to blow stronger but also gustier. In the tropics, with relatively constant year-round temperatures of 28-30°C it’s not so much about summer and winter, more about rainy and dry seasons. The good news is that the windy seasons are generally also the drier. The waves along the east coast of Africa near the equator seldom get really big. The best windswell’s created during Kusi, Jan-Mar there’s also occasional groundswell from cyclones over the Indian Ocean.
The tidal ranges are all surprisingly similar for such a vast continent. Along the west and east coasts they’re generally between 1m and 2m, only Morocco and the Mozambique Channel experience larger fluctuations.
Since the ’90s, Cape Town has steadily developed into the preferred winter escape for European windsurfers and kiters. Despite certain spots having lost some of their charm to unbridled real estate development, there‘s still no end in sight to ...