Words by Alexei Obolensky | Photography by Thomas Lodin, Nil Puissant & Alan Van Gysen
This article was originally published in Volume XI, August 2022.
The last stop in Africa before Antarctica and what a fabulous stop it is!
Where to begin! Effortlessly stylish. The most glorious of settings. An Atlantic coast for swell and wind and an Indian ocean to sedate it. The most friendly of locals, all the conveniences of a capital city with the greenery and situation of the Garden of Africa. Incredibly multicultural, with a plethora of people, food, drinks, art and all the good times that that brings. The beaches, the waterfront, the gardens, the mountain and the centre. Penguins, whales, baboons. A very questionable bar called Van Hunks. Oh Cape Town, how you have it all…and me. In terms of cities, I can’t think of a better one.
We rolled into Cape Town fresh outta J-Bay and ready for the bright lights. Perfectly timed with the Vans Duct Tape, far and away our favourite surf event. Positive vibes only. No egos. No bullshit. No live-streaming interrupted by another tasteless cringe ad. No pretentious VIP access. Joel Tudor calling the shots. Joel Tudor telling me how he loves to ‘poke the angry bear’ of the WSL. What a guy. It’s a pure celebration of the core values of surfing, and when the rain sets in and the onshore blows, Vans—out of the kindness of their heart—took us to a Winery. That sort of thing doesn’t get forgotten.
The light shines on none other than the hometown hero of Cape Town and wunder talent of the Vans stable, Mikey Feb, the man who over the past years has stolen surfing’s collective heart. Equally stylish in and out of the water, M Feb as he is affectionately known, has long been a friend of WT. After the Duct Tape tapered off, and before chasing our next swell across the border to Namibia, we decided to spend a day with the man himself. We cruised around his hometown for a more in depth look at what makes Cape Town the incredibly special place that it is, plus we got know more about the amazing work of Juju Surf Club in the process.
WT: So Mikey: Cape Town, a city we simply adore. What makes it so special for you?
MF: We have such a variety of cultures and people within one city, and I think with that comes such an amazing blend of music, food, and people! The community is so open to different views, it’s such a melting pot. It’s a beautiful city, it’s all so close by—the city, the beaches and wine country.
Spending as much time on the road as you do, how does it feel coming back?
It’s always the best coming home, you know how it works—you don’t have to think, it’s all just natural. A full comfort zone. Friends, family. There’s other places with warmer water and better waves but Cape Town really ticks all the boxes for me!
Run us through a few neighbourhoods that you like…
Well the city right at the foot of Table Mountain is where it goes down, the centre is the hub—there’s a lot going on and that’s where everyone hangs out and most things take place in terms of shows, bars, and the nocturnal activities I know you boys are into…
The closest beaches to there would be Camps Bay and Llandudno; that’s the more upper-class area of Cape Town with all the big houses etc, but it’s a really beautiful area with some fun waves.
The main surfing hub would have to be Kommetjie, it’s a small town about an hour from the centre with a variety of waves. A lot of surfers come from there: BG, Matt Bromley, myself…
Then you have Muizenberg—that’s where everyone learns to surf, there is an amazing community there in front of a really user-friendly, fun wave. It’s where they hosted the Duct Tape which was such a great event. Then you have the Winelands such as Constantia which are beautiful, nestled into the mountains and serving amazing food and wine, all super accessible from the city and the beaches.
Any specific bars, stores, or places to check out?
Music-wise, Athletic Club and Social is a bar and restaurant that belongs to a friend of mine and he brings in a lot of amazing African music so you can catch some great shows there on a weekly basis. It’s a really beautifully curated venue.
Roasting Records is a cool place, it’s a little coffee shop and record store. They always have some good stuff, especially South African-based music. Definitely my go-to for a rainy day in the city.
The Commons in Muizenberg has a great music scene and has become a real cultural hub for the local community. Lifestyle surf shop will be your best bet for any surf-related gear you need; they have a really good range of stuff and are located right by the beach there in Muizenberg.
What advice would you give to people that haven’t been to Cape Town before?
Don’t be afraid to drive. There is so much to see and the driving is pretty mellow, easy and the traffic is fine. Everything is really only an hour away so you’ll be stoked to get out there and explore. You could have a totally different day every day, going to the beach, the city, hiking the nature reserves, hitting up the Winelands—it’s totally unique.
How was it having the Duct Tape in Cape Town?
It was so rad having everyone here. I learnt to surf in Muizenberg and that’s where I spent so many of my early surfing days. It’s also now where I live so there is a really strong connection for me there. It was such an incredible moment to see everyone there and getting to see our zone. We don’t really have many events for the alternative surfing side of things so it was really an eye opener for people to see an event like the Duct Tape where it’s so inclusive and stimulating for our community. It’s been crazy these past weeks since seeing everyone jump on longboards and taking a different approach, so great to see. What a great injection of culture into the surf community.
Tell us a little more about Juju?
We aim to highlight and support different surf-related organisations in Africa, as a platform. There’s different ways that we work, through collaborations where all the proceeds go to different charities or straight-up fundraising and donations, as well as hopefully providing a platform to share, help and support positive change and good vibes!
Why did you want to start it?
My wife Zelti and I have always wanted to start something that enabled us to give back in a sustainable way that reflected our lifestyle and passion. Zelti has worked for a few non-profits before but during lockdown we really had some time to think about something more concrete, and given that so many people were (and still are) struggling, it seemed like the right time to get it going.
Is there a particular charity or community that you are deeply tied with?
Yes, before Juju we were involved with Waves for Change who do amazing work throughout all of Africa using surf therapy for at-risk children to build better relationships, self empowerment and improve their mental health. Above all, it’s about building a much more positive image of their future which is so important.
There’s also Sentinel Ocean Alliance who have operations in Cape Town and J-Bay as well, they do an amazing job at providing ocean-based education and opportunities for the youth of South Africa.
What are the barriers of entry for young people from townships in Cape Town and beyond to get in the water?
The living conditions are just so harsh, and the last thing on people’s minds is to do a recreational activity. There’s too many social factors at play and sadly just surviving is a full time reality. That’s why these organisations are so amazing as they really instil a lot of basic life skills from surfing that translate into day to day life—it’s a real fun and effective method of giving people the tools to empower themselves. It’s not just surfing as a hobby, it makes a real difference. It’s also an amazing escape and breathing space, being in the ocean.
And have you seen the effects of this work firsthand?
Absolutely. I’ve seen a lot of instructors and coaches that have come up through these programmes and become leaders, pillars and role models in their communities where positive role models are sometimes hard to come across. These people live just down the road from the kids in the programme so it’s not like they are just random surf instructors from a different walk of life. Also of course, for themselves, they’ve come from incredibly difficult backgrounds and have overcome such major issues to get where they are now, so it’s inspiring. We’re so fortunate to surf every day and live that lifestyle and to be able see the positive affect that can provide. Being able to share that with people is really empowering and to try and give back the most we can is what motivates us.
What’s in the pipeline for Juju?
We’ve got some positive vibe warriors soft tops in the works, they’ll be sold and the all proceeds will be given to amazing charities via Juju. The recent Vans collab has been huge for us; it’s really exciting that such a big brand took notice of what we are trying to do.
What do you feel makes African surf culture so unique, inspiring such amazing charities and organisations?
I think it’s so unique because it takes the culture that surrounds it and it draws so much influence from that. The way that African people do music, art and in turn surfing is so unique and they really take ownership over that. It’s uniquely theirs. It’s also so new and fresh on the scene, it hasn’t had too much light shed on it and it’s been allowed to carve its own path and create its own existence. The people from all the different countries are all such amazing characters and they are really leaving their mark on the whole scene and making something amazing, all whilst improving the communities that surround that. It’s so untouched and pure, so new—it’s a really exciting time for Africa.
What have been some key moments in Juju’s journey thus far?
We didn’t really expect much. We of course wanted to make an impact, but even for example being able to do this recent Vans collaboration is huge for us. It’s also amazing to meet all these fantastic people who head up all these organisations and devote every hour of every day to help elevate their community. Last year for Vans Checkerboard day, we were given a grant to help whoever we wanted and we chose Surf Ghana. We flew out there and had this big day to celebrate surf culture in Ghana, they brought in everyone from all the different regions, there was such an amazing crew there. That was my proudest moment thus far, for sure.
And where do you want to go with it?
We’re super excited to support new and upcoming organisations and also keep supporting in a sustainable way the existing organisations we are already working with. We’ve been blown away by the support we’ve had and we really want to see this through, help them succeed and support the most we can, however that may be.
How can people get involved?
I would say the best way is to check the part of our website called Surf Club. Listed there are all the organisations and you can see what their needs are and how they can be best supported!