Surfing: The New African Wave

Let’s get the controversy out of the way at the outset: we may never know which country, which region of the world is the true cradle of surfing. Hawaii has long been considered the place of origin in Polynesia. But American history professor Kevin Dawson confirms that it was on the coast of present-day Ghana, West Africa, that this discipline was first described from the 17th century.e century.

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“Surfing has probably been practiced in one form or another by coastal communities around the world for centuries.”slice Andy Davies, co-founder of surf label Mami Wata, who created a reference work on board sports culture in Africa, Afrosurfingpublished in 2021. “What is certain is that Africa offers incomparable places. There is a huge potential that remains unexplored and also an African surfing culture that asserts itself according to a very personal paradigm.continues South Africa. This is not some cool subculture promoted by brands and magazines. » But rather, he sees it as a sport that young people use through community initiatives that contribute to the well-being, development and even emancipation of girls.

Senegalese Oumar Sèye, who was elected in April as head of the African Surfing Confederation, which was formed in 2017, agrees with this observation. According to a pioneer of the discipline, surfing can act as an engine of economic growth by boosting the continent’s tourism. development: “It worked in Hawaii, Fiji and Indonesia. Why not Africa, where we are full of pristine beaches and have good weather almost all year round? »

Black icons

On the world surfing stage, only three African countries – South Africa, Morocco and Senegal – enjoy true fame today. But the practice continues to spread from Liberia to Mozambique via Ghana and Congo-Brazzaville. New competitions appear under the auspices of the confederation. Moreover, although surfing has long been considered a white sport, icons such as South African Mike February, the first black African to compete in the World Championships in 2018, or Senegalese Sherif Fall inspire young people. followers across the continent.

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However, not all African coastal countries will become new surfing hotspots overnight. Tourism infrastructures there are often established, sponsors are rare, and equipment is out of reach for most budgets. Champions can still be counted on the fingers of one hand: only two Africans, Jordie Smith and Sarah Baum, both from South Africa, have qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics, where surfing is now an official discipline. “But we are going to train coaches and multiply in competitions to professionalize ourselves. In this way, we will attract more and more brands and allow athletes to earn a living from their sport without leaving the continent.want to believe Oumar Seye.

Despite the obstacles, Afrosurf is already attracting interest around the world. This is evidenced by the success of the anthology of the same name: the work, launched thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, was finally published by the great British house Penguin Books and is highly recommended reading New York Times. Mami Wata is now in talks with a major American audiovisual platform to turn the collection into a television series. “Surfing allows us to talk about Africa in a different way than we are used to hearing on the major global news channels”points out Andy Davies.

Africa of the world presents a series of five messages to tell fragments of this story of experimentation, creativity and new ambition.

A recap of our ‘Surf, the New African Wave’ series

Georgie Collins

"Falls down a lot. Writer. Passionate alcohol maven. Future teen idol. Hardcore music practitioner. Food fanatic. Devoted travel fan."