Big game, elephants, at the Zambezi River, Zimbabwe and Zambia

3 top surfers challenge the mighty Zambezi

Back to one of my favourite places in the world – the Zambezi River. Who would ever have thought this could end up being the venue for some of the world’s top surfers? But sure enough, I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone looked at Rapid #11, one of the most legendary river waves around, and thought … yes, that’s the one for me!

The Zambezi has several good standing waves, some of the best in the world, which provide everyone with fantastic surfing. Rapid 11 is the big one which starts working at less than 1m/3ft and holds up to 2m+, that’s  over 6 ft. It is hollow, fast, powerful and fun but, unfortunately there is a but, it is not a year round wave – it works for about two weeks when the water level in Zambezi is dropping naturally. Depending on the season this will be somewhere around mid- January and early July. There are other waves below Victoria Falls but they too are dependent on the time of year – Rapid 24 is a great one for both beginner and expert surfers.

To get down to the surf waves you need to River Board – an experience which is guaranteed to be one of your best ever adrenaline rushes.

River Boarding has been a favourite pastime on the Zambezi for some time now. The first commercial river boarding operation in the world was established in Queenstown, New Zealand by Jon Imhoof in 1989. Jon joined the team at Safari Par Excellence to pioneer Zambezi Riverboarding in 1996. White Water Rafting is fabulous, but river boarding gives you control of your own ‘vessel’ and the freedom to tackle the powerful river on your own, having no-one else to blame for the decisions made but yourself.

All you will need is a body board, a wetsuit, a life jacket, a helmet and fins and you’re almost ready to tackle the flow. Instructors will give you a quick safety and river talk before some practical experiments –  a chance to practice the basic manoeuvres and positions required to river surf, but in the end it’s you who is taking on the rapids.

You don’t need any previous body boarding experience and anyone who is over 13 (and fits the equipment adequately), has basic swimming skills, reasonable fitness and most importantly is confident and relaxed in water, will love it.

The great thing about river surfing is being able to play in the dynamic currents that rafts can’t. A good example of this is Whirlie Riding – dropping into the zone where the main flow meets an opposite moving current, you drop your board into a vertical position, spinning inside the whirlpool. You will have seen an example of this in the first video and might have wondered what on earth was going on – now you know.

Then there’s something called Squirts which is only for the most adventurous. It can most closely be described as flying under water. You place your board under the boil currents, and let the power of the water take you down. Through controlling your board angle, you can maintain your depth and cruise under water! It’s quite something…

You’ve missed the January date, but early July will be upon us before you’ve even realised it. Time for an extreme adventure perhaps… throw in the magnificent bungee jumping off Vic Falls Bridge , the fabulous game parks all around, and you will be about to book the holiday of a lifetime and a surf experience never to be forgotten.

Big game, elephants, at the Zambezi River, Zimbabwe and Zambia

A Close Encounter

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  1. Surfing the Urubumba River, Peru | Xtremesport - 2011 | 4 March

    […] not so long ago that I did an article about surfing the mighty Zambezi below Victoria Falls, but today it’s a different river, different continent – The […]

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