Forget Hawaï, California, Western France and even Australia. Today’s best surf spots are in Senegal!
Jérémy Billot holds his surfboard under his arm, watching the waves form in the distance as the ocean wind blows across his face, muffling the sound of the city traffic beyond. He’s been surf-mad for as long as he can remember. After moving to Dakar with his family when he was 7 years old, he took lessons at the city’s Tribal Surf school from the age of 11, then gained his qualifications near Bordeaux in France, before spending several seasons sliding breakers in Indonesia and Guadeloupe. After moving back to Senegal in 2010, he took over his beloved Tribal Surf (and opened a surfboard repair shop) to perpetuate the sport back home.
“Dakar is a great surfing destination,” he says with a smile. “Our peninsula and our varied coastline provide good waves every single day. They’re usually 1.5- to 2-metres high, sometimes 4. We have beaches for beginners, and spots for more experienced surfers, where you have to keep away from the rocks.”
Surfing is on the up in Senegal. The national federation counts 400 members, but the actual number of surfers is estimated to be between 1,000 and 1,500. And over the last few years, tour operators have been convincing travellers (from countries like Holland, Scandinavia and Italy) to test the West African spray on week-long surf camps.
A world-famous wave
Jérémy’s school offers 60- and 90-minute lessons at prices Europeans can only dream of, and draws an increasingly African clientele, hoping curious to experience the continent’s waves. Group sizes never exceed 10 people, and experienced surfers can book an excursion to Toubab Dialo, a fishing village south of Dakar with great, rolling breakers.
Back in the capital, the Ouakam wave (on a Ouakam commune beach) is the one everyone wants to ride. “You can only catch it 20 or so times a year, but when you do, it’s an exceptional experience,” Jérémy says with a twinkle in his eye. “It’s a very hollow, difficult and intense barrel, like those you find in certain parts of Indonesia. It’s famed throughout the world.” Other great Dakarois surf spots have evocative names like Secret, No Return, Speed Point, Club Med, Ngor left and right, Le Virage (the turn) and Yoff. “There aren’t many cities in the world where you can surf,” says Jérémy. Sydney or Cape Town are just two others. “Here, you drive for just ten minutes and you’re on the sand. It’s bliss!” What are you waiting for?