Surfing is not like riding a bike! Catching waves in Senegal

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I’m a very recent convert to surfing following a stay at a surf camp in Bali almost exactly a year ago. It’s fair to say that I’ve developed an addiction, although I should qualify that as, so far, I’ve very much been a fair weather surfer.

During the course of my travels, I’ve been fortunate to surf in Margaret River, Western Australia, Buzios and Ilha Grande in Brazil as well as Taghazout, Morocco.

So, when some annual leave presented itself, I settled on visiting another new destination and (attempting) to rip some waves. I wanted to go outside of Europe but keep things relatively affordable. In the end, I narrowed it down to Ghana and Senegal. Cheap flights to Dakar made it an easy decision.

Now, I must remind you that I’ve only been surfing a year and very sporadically when I’m somewhere hot with decent waves, so that my total time in the water equates to about two weeks. I.e. I’m still very much a novice. I am very much not an archetypal surfer dude with long hair, perennial tan and permanent vacant look.

So my first day today back in the water after six months was very much a slap across the face. If any of you have ever tried surfing, battling out past white wash will be something you remember vividly. There’s no mistaking the thud of waves hitting you in the face, salt-water being flushed through your sinuses and your board becoming your worst enemy – when thrown about by the waves, it can become a dangerous implement. Many Emergency Departments in surf spots are full of lacerations and concussions from inexperienced (and experienced) surfers getting nailed by their boards.

The only saving grace about surfing in Dakar is that it’s still a relatively untouched stretch of coastline with amazing beach breaks. Head further up to Morocco and the waves are packed full with surfers from Europe who arrive by the plane-load on budget airlines. So my feeble, tentative rides of the white wash and embarrassing wipe-outs were only shared with a handful of surfers. Though I’m sure the hundreds of locals on Yoff Beach found it very entertaining.

To easy myself back into what is a very physically demanding sport, I elected to surf just the morning and acquired the tour guide services of a French girl living at the surf camp to show me around Ile de N’gor. This girl has lived in Dakar for 2 years and can speak Wolof so was a great person to have around. The sincerely astounded faces of the locals when she gave them some witty retorts in their own tongue was priceless and inspiring. It reminded me how one of the items on my bucket list is to speak a foreign language fluently. I can understand French, a small amount of Spanish, Italian and Russian but lack the ability to converse confidently with locals past simple pleasantries.

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Dakar, being the multinational centre that it is, meant that I also met a UN employee, a pilot and many ‘International Studies’ graduates in various stages of working for NGOs.

One thing I have found interesting after only 24 hours in Dakar is how locals are obviously used to foreigners. In my travels in Asia, the Middle East and South America, tourists would always get stares, a few comments and maybe the odd stalker. Here, on a beach full of Senegalese, you will see random foreigners just chilling amongst them. Walk past a big group of Senegalese guys and nine times out of ten they won’t even bat an eyelid. It’s refreshing and makes for a much more pleasant experience.

This being Africa, I have a lot of downtime when not surfing so plan on seeing more of Dakar and putting more thoughts down in this blog.

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