When you purchase gear through links on our site, we may earn a small commission. Here’s why you can trust our tests and our affiliate partner.

TKM54 Mission Strike Grant Scholes Joshua Emanuel and Lorenzo Valenti CORE 7 1200x800 - Strike Mission

Strike Mission

Skeleton Bay [or Donkey Bay], near Walvis Bay in Namibia, has unique waves with long barrels that go on forever at incredible speeds. But it only works in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter and needs a big, long-period groundswell to wrap in at just the right angle or it doesn’t break. And even when the conditions are perfect the wave usually only lasts for a couple of days at a time. It hadn’t really worked for over two years and surfers were worried it might not work again, so when Joshua Emanuel heard that the forecast looked promising, he hightailed it up there to take advantage of the short-lived conditions.

PHOTOS: Grant Scholes, Joshua Emanuel and Lorenzo Valenti

With little warning I heard a rumor that Skeleton Bay was due back-to-back three-meter swells with an 18-second period – I knew it was going to be solid. I was checking every forecasting platform for wind and swell. Wind forecasts for the period weren’t looking too bad with 20 knot winds forecast most afternoons, but in terms of waves it was looking great. For a six-day period it was forecast to come in at the right angle, so it was definitely a green light. Adrenalin racing with such short notice, next came figuring out who was coming with me and how to get to the other side of the African coastline. I was quick to call Lorenzo Valenti to join me on this one as he’s been to Skeleton Bay before, so I knew he’d be frothing. I called a few of the boys but with the short notice of three days they were out.

So it was Lorenzo and I. Would we drive the 2400 kilometers or fly? Flights were not the cheapest option but time was limited and the long drive really takes it out of you. So flights booked, we packed kites, boards and thick wetsuits to handle the cold water on the west coast. Just when we thought we were all good and on our way, Lorenzo was delayed at Johannesburg airport customs – he has a foreign passport and needs a residence permit which should be in his passport, but of course was not; he travels a lot and has never been asked before. We had 15 minutes to board and customs was not letting him through. I decided to head for the boarding gate as it was pointless both of us missing the flight. I started to run, scenarios racing through my head like, if he doesn’t get through, his bags won’t be on the plane, meaning half my gear won’t arrive… no team mate and no camera operator… Trying to call Lorenzo as I am about to get on the plane, there is no answer. But as I am handing my ticket over I see him coming down the escalators. Ah, relief for both of us that’s for sure.

We arrived in Walvis Bay around midday, and were collected by Photo Ventures who hosted us for the week. The wind was up and once we had unpacked we headed straight for the beach in the hopes of catching a late arvo kite session. On the drive over it was clear there was no shortage of wind but we may have packed a bit wrong. The swell was small and messy, definitely not worth jumping in for, so we decided to keep the wetsuits dry and prepare our gear for a long session at the beach the following day…

It was an early start the next morning with waves and wind in the forecast. Not long after getting to the beach, the first solid pulse of swell came though. The energy in and out of the water completely changed. We had a bit of a reality check – it was not even 11am and there were already broken boards floating past and guys walking up the beach with their snapped sticks… The donkey had started to kick from fun playful waves to absolute bone crushes on the bank. I spent a bit of time filming with the drone before I headed out for my first paddle at the spot.

With our boards waxed and ready for action we headed up the point to attempt our first drift down the bay. This wave literally mutates and grows the further it breaks. I managed to catch a couple of smaller waves and was rewarded with a few beatings onto the bank. I was about halfway down which is where the wave becomes even heavier than the top section. I saw Lorenzo stuck on the bank catching a beating of a lifetime. I chuckled for a moment before realizing he was barely compos mentis… he was looking at me but not actually looking at me, instantly I started to paddle to him to see if he was ok. His board had knocked him on the head and to top it off he was held down in the same place by the wave. To explain this wave a bit more, it’s unlike any break you will experience elsewhere – normally when you fall a wave drags you in or away from the impact zone but this wave does neither – it pins you in the same place while the set just holds you down. The current on the inside is doing around eight to 10 knots so it’s an incredible amount of water moving around.

Lorenzo caught his breath, and with the surf session done it was time to get some food and wait for the wind to kick in. Just after 1pm the wind was up, so we both headed out for a kite to get that froth out of us. It was a GoPro session just doing some POV and getting ourselves dialed into the wave. Our smallest kites were an 8m and 9m as the forecast wasn’t very strong, but it turned out the forecast often undercooks the wind. It was such a good first day on the water with plenty of waves ridden. On getting back to the house in the dark, after a long day on the beach, first things first: download the footage and see what we had. Well, just my luck – I saw the first video and new instantly I had messed up – the GoPro was recording in linear and not super view so pretty much everything went to waste… On top of that, Lorenzo’s SD card was faulty so the first day’s footage was in the trash.

Day two was the only no-wind day in the forecast. We got to the spot around 9am, or in other words way too late! With super clean conditions and zero wind, all the surfers were already out. We watched for a couple of minutes, got suited up, and joined the fun. We got a couple of waves but nothing compared to the long barrels others were getting. Conditions started to change and the waves were getting worse, so we headed back to the house to recharge drones and cameras. With a kind of lay day ahead we ventured out to explore the dunes and for some fun off-roading. The dunes are incredible and massive with a vastness of rolling mounds of sand you could easily get lost in. It’s hard to believe anything survives out here but the wildlife and sea life is incredible. You can be lucky enough to spot jackals roaming the shoreline and seals wallowing in the sunshine. Back in town we headed out for dinner and drinks with a bunch of the surfers at a local bar and, well, the rest of that night is history.

We had a cold early start down to the beach the next day – it was dark and an eerie mist was hanging about so you could barely see 50 meters ahead of you. The surfers were already out in the water, and it was forecast to be even bigger than the first day. I decided to do some drone flying as the tide was low and it was a bit heavy for backhand. Also the main reason for this trip was to kite this wave and surf when we could. Around lunchtime the wind started to come up so I headed out first with Lorenzo on the cam. I was out for about an hour and, man, it was the most frustrating session I have had – being a Sunday meant the surfers were out in numbers. The wave is over a kilometer long and you had surfers from top to bottom. On the first day we were giving surfers waves as there weren’t so many of them, we would just straighten out and let them have it. This session just wasn’t the same.

I got out after an hour having managed to get only one average wave. I switched out with Lorenzo and we moved a bit further down, to where the wave had a section the surfers couldn’t get past. I decided to give it one more go as it was still firing, and I got onto a bomb – this wave is literally like a never-ending steam train waiting to destroy you. A normal wave ends quite quickly, barrel and done. This wave is just barrel and if you’re not quick enough you’re done. So in this barrel, I look up to see my kite is falling and as I try to push away to catch my kite it hits the water… My first thought was to get rid of the kite and with no leash on it would be an easy release, my next thought is if I don’t release it then there’s a good chance your kite can drown you… I came out the back and my kite just made it over the wave. I started paddling as hard as I could to try and reach my bar, after a few minutes of this I managed to get about two meters away from it before it went off again. I ended up collecting it way down the beach and somehow still in one piece. We managed to get a few more waves before the tide started to flatten out the wave. Lorenzo headed out for a sunset session and at this point the tide had drained enough again for it to start getting good. The sun had set and he was having the time of his life out there.

The final day of wind and the third swell – it was another early start in the dark, but we were treated with an incredible sunrise. On our arrival we were greeted with a solid set, and there is nothing better than seeing top surfers get barreled from top to bottom. I managed to jump in the water for a surf and scored one wave that I got quite far down the point. The wind started to pick up a bit earlier, and with fewer surfers around I took this opportunity to get out there. The tide was still quite low and I pumped up the 12m and got straight on it. The session was off to a great start getting a couple of barrels, but I was still on the hunt for a bomb. I could see a set arriving and not many guys in the way of it so I took the opportunity and off the bat this wave was heaving. The first section I was barely in it but it was definitely the biggest one I had been on. I straightened out a bit to get my kite back into position for the next section and this one I got deeper, watching my lines clipping the top of the wave – I knew if my lines got it I was in trouble. I came out that section, pulled my kite back for one last dip, at this point convinced I was pushing my luck. With the kite falling out of the sky I straightened out completely, catching the kite, and the wave exploded behind me. It was honestly the wave of my life: just raw power and energy. It is those few moments that always make missions like this worth it.

Want More?

You can get the latest goodness from the world of kiteboarding by subscribing to our print edition. You'll get 5 packed issues, plus a free tee and free digital access. And you'll be directly helping with our sustainability efforts too!

Check it out now
Subscribe Today