Chlorine and chaos in deepest Africa
Steven Michelsen walks us through his wild trip from way back when with Mikey February and crew to South Africa’s only wave pool…
South African Steven Michelsen is a skilled videographer with stacks of urls in his portfolio. He’s worked for Bong, Quik, Monster Energy, Red Bull and all the brands that tend to pay their invoices on time. His clips can be found on the front pages of salted surf media like Stab, Surfline, Surfer as well as South Africa’s favourite digital hub, ZigZag.
But years ago, before Mikey February was the next big thing, and before the corporate clients started paying the bills, he took off north toward the Botswana border. Sun City lies 1000 miles from the sea (yes, we forget just how big South Africa is) and buts up against the Pilanesberg wildlife park. A little ways away is Botswana, a country made almost entirely out of the Kalahari Desert.
It was an innovative trip at a time with wave pools were still complete, utter novelty. And still fun.
It’s deep in Northern South Africa near Botswana, how was the drive up there? How far was it and what about wildlife or military?
The whole process of getting this project done is radical, you literally fly into Johannesburg airport 1000 miles from the nearest sea and then head about another 200km toward the Botswana boarder till you get to the Northern cape. Once ya get there is pretty much how you would picture a fake resort in Dubai to look, fake elephant statues you name it. The funny this is the resort boarders the Pillansburg nature reserve with heaps of elephants and rhinos so its a bit of a “where the fuck are we really” kinda feeling!
Sun City isn’t really geared toward the surf set, how did the session come about?
You know when you shoot surfing, no matter how good the waves are, its kinda ground hog day, So we had seen a few photos from the late 90’s of a surf event from Sun City that Jason Ribbink won & the light bulb went off. I mean we knew the wave was shit, and the technology was fucking older than a hipsters bike, but it was full blown novelty.
It’s a Murphy’s wave system, like in Dubai and Florida’s Typhoon Lagoon, how did the lads go – I mean they were groms, did that help in the soft conditions?
I mean like I said it’s shit, theres not denying it, but Mikey February and Slade were actually giving it a good go. I don’t quite understand the dynamic of how it actually functions, but from what I understand it’s like a bunch of toilets that flush in sync and create the wave. It takes exactly 2.5 min for all the lion fountainheads to spit water, then finally there a few cracks in the wall, then they start spitting and it’s like a giant flushing sound and you know the wave is 5 seconds from coming out.
Is there anything difficult about shooting a wave pool?
It’s got its own challenges. I mean in terms of setting up a section and bang every time the guys will hit the spot. That’s kinda like shooting fish in a barrel, but in its own right that kind of makes it repetitive and almost monotonous, kinda like Kelly’s pool you get angle A from the land B from the drone C from the GoPro, so its got a creative cap if that makes sense?
Valley of the Waves, Sun City South Africa
The Lowdown: The famous Sun City resort in South Africa also hosts a chlorinated wave pool in the center of their waterpark. Built for
WavePool Construction Progress: Completed
Accessibility: Open to the public, All-ages, Beginning surfer, Intermediate surfer, Advanced surfer
Type of wave(s): Combination
Wave Generating Technology: Murphy’s Waves
Wave’s Technical Information: Wave height: 2-4 ft, Both Left and Right Breaks,
Length of Wave: under 30 yards/meters
Hours of operation/Seasonal Hours: Summer: 09h00 – 18h00 Summer (September to April) Gates open at 09h00 and close at 17h00. Water features shut down at 17h30. Winter: 10h00 – 17h00 Winter (May to August) Gates open at 10h00 and close at 16h00. Water features shut down at 16h30. The Valley of Waves closes for a month between May and July for annual maintenance. The Valley of Waves may be closed or close early due to private functions on an ad-hoc basis.
Price Breakdown: Sun City Resort residents: Free
OFF-PEAK RATES PEAK RATES Adults R120 R160
Children (Ages 4–12 yrs) R70 R85
Senior Citizens R60 R65
Pool Structure: Industrial Park
Waves per hour: hydraulic mechanisms that generate waves of nearly 2
Atmosphere: Family environment
Apparel: Spring suit, Bikini, Boardshorts
Check here for more details on surfing at Sun City
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