Consistent wind all year, turns False Bay into a downwind paradise (Photo: Alan van Gysen)
White caps fill False Bay (photo: John Hishin)
Surfing onto a big swell (photo: Matt Moon)
Do it with a pro (photo: John Hishin)
The Miller's taxi dropping off another crew (photo: John Hishin)
Jasper Mocke chasing the record (photo: Alan van Gysen)
A safe launch on the Western slipway (photo: Matt Moon)
Start the clock behind the rock (photo: Matt Moon)
Lighthouse and the quarry. The two landmarks (photo: Matt Moon)
Coffee, before & after!
Fuel up again for another Miller's Run!
Jasper Mocke's Millers Run
THE MILLER'S RUN
LEGENDARY DOWNWIND FUN
A Distant Dream
The Miller’s Run has long since been a part of surfski folklore. The mere mention of the name sends spine chilling tingles running, heart rates climbing and palms sweating. Images of the infamous Roman Rock lighthouse flood your thoughts, then the feeling of cresting a swell mid-ocean and surfing down as salt and spray shower you, eyes burning yet yelling with delight.
For many, the Miller’s Run remains a distant dream. Intimidated by the conditions, by the unknown, they box some of their deepest desires. A subconscious peek inside gives a hint of satisfaction, but it’s never enough. A pattern develops. They continue to ponder the possibility of fulfilling their dream & as time passes the box becomes withered, the flaps, all curled and creased, clutter their minds until it’s time to drive the box to the dump. Almost. Then, a resurgence. With a glimpse of mortality and desires unrealized, driven by the conviction of exploration, a last hope rises. From the top shelf, dust floats, illuminated by a ray of light, the box is opened for the last time and tossed aside. Finally, the contents are dusted off, reread and pondered. They place it front and center of things to accomplish. It's deeper though. This is crucial. For their sake, for sanity, peace, contentment. They need to do this. They need to do a Miller's Run!
From Spring to late Autumn, September to March, South Easterly winds batter the Cape Peninsula as the SAH (South Atlantic High) pressure system moves South and joins up with the SIH (South Indian High). At the same time, a low-pressure trough hangs over the interior and the strength of the wind that moves between them is directly proportional to the difference in pressure gradient.
The most common wind to do the Miller’s Run in, is a South-Easterly (SE). The run also handles variations of this direction very well. When it is blowing more from an easterly direction the ground swell tends to be bigger and harder to catch. When it is blowing more from the south, and very strong, there is a downdraft from Simonstown mountain causing huge gusts that seem to be blowing you out into the middle of the bay. Don’t stress, just go with it. After two kilometers, the wind will be right behind you.
The size of the swells is most dependent on the strength of the wind. 10 – 15 knots is perfect for the weekend warrior who wants to surf runs without worry. When the wind reaches 20 knots and above, it’s for the seasoned downwind hunter. False Bay fills up with white caps and swells, all pushing their way directly to Fish Hoek beach. On a typical Miller’s Run you will have smaller runs or ‘wind chop’ that move slow and are easier to catch. These are the bread and butter of your downwind.
Then among these, bigger swells that have travelled further and move faster, march through. These are commonly referred to as ground swell. In your downwind you ride a combination using the speed of the ‘wind chop’ to get you onto the ‘ground swell’. When the SE starts blowing it stays consistent and commonly lasts a week without abating. Within the first few hours of wind there are beautiful smaller runs that I like to call ‘fresh runs’, perfect for anyone, especially those starting out. If you’re after the big stuff, hang tight for a few hours and allow the runs to build.
What makes the Miller’s Run even better is that it works on the opposite wind direction too. When Cape Town winter arrives, cold fronts batter the West coast all powered by blustery north westerly (NW) winds. To do the reverse Miller’s a NW or NNW is best. On this route, there will be no ground swell, only wind chop that grows and speeds up as you go.
Route & Distance
Miller’s Point to Fish Hoek Beach, 11.7km.
There are two slipways to launch from at Miller’s. An easy protected option on the western side closest to the caravan park or an exposed option on the eastern side at the boat club. If you are going for an official time you need to launch on the exposed slipway and paddle around “the rock” which is where the clock starts. You stop your watch when your feet touch the sand on Fish Hoek beach.
The primary landmark is the Roman Rock lighthouse. The ideal direction is to aim just to the left of the lighthouse keeping it about 50 meters to 100 meters on your right as you pass by. After that look for “the quarry”, an old stone mine visible in the mountain. Fish Hoek beach is just to the right of that. You finish the run on Fish Hoek beach. Paddlers use the lifesaving club or the sailing club as their base where you can park, rinse your ski and have a shower.
If you’re from out of town it can seem a bit daunting. Why not connect with locals? Here are your options:
Mocke Paddling has everything you need, from gear to logistics, just arrive. You can even do it on a double surfski with a world champion if that will settle your nerves! Find them at www.mockepaddling.com. For a week of intense downwind coaching sign up for the Downwind Camps.
The Miller’s Taxi is a shuttle service that transports paddlers and their surfskis between Fish Hoek and Miller’s Point. Park your car at Fish Hoek and hop on the shuttle. Contact Vinnie on +27 (0) 83 500 5194. They publish their shuttle times daily via whatsapp or on their Facebook page, Millers Taxi. You will need 60 South African Rand cash (About $5 USD) and your own tie downs.
This is a big priority for the Millers Run community. No ‘heroes’. You have to be competent on your craft and ultimately you are responsible for your own safety. Here is a checklist:
• A stable surfski
• Certified, high visibility PFD
• High visibility clothing
• Leash (Body to surfski)
• Communication device
• Tracking device. Download the NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) SafeTrx app or use a SpotMe™ (www.findmespot.com) device.
Elite paddlers have been timing their downwind runs from the 80’s. Early paddler’s like Peter Creese paved the way for Fish Hoek legends like Paul Marais and Peter Cole and more recently the Mocke brothers to turn this stretch of ocean into a race track.
The current record of 36:36 was set in January 2016 by Jasper Mocke on a V14 Ultra with our mid wing paddle on possibly the most perfect afternoon for a Miller’s Run ever. If you have not seen it, the video is attached at the bottom of this article.
The benchmark for elite Miller’s Run status is a time under 40 minutes or a ‘sub 40’. Be sure to have your GPS as proof and show your track. You have to start your watch behind the rock at Millers Point and stop it as your feet touch the sand on Fish Hoek beach.
Endorphins and adrenalin form a lethal cocktail and it is not uncommon for the Miller’s rookie to be contentedly exhausted after a run. These moments are also when one tends to ponder the meaning of existence and delve into the depths of philosophy, hence your setting is paramount! We absolutely love Ces’t la Vie, an artisanal bakery serving Illy coffee, on Recreation Road just before the entry to Fish Hoek Beach. If you’re heading out of Fish Hoek stop off at Olympia Café for a full meal at the restaurant or grab a take-away at the Deli. They serve Truth coffee and fantastic locally brewed beers.
If you’re traveling with a companion or family, the villages of Kalk Bay and Simonstown are laid back villages tucked away beneath mountains either side of the Fish Hoek valley. They offer a welcome alternative to the hustle of the city slickers. Use the South peninsula as your base where you will have easy access to paddling downwind and explore the city and sights from there.