Land of the Teranga
a surfing story
The beat of the djemba drums fills the air with a cadence, syncopating with the pulsing waves crashing against the seawall. There is not a ticking watch in sight. Instead rhythm pulses the pace of life. Time is a fixture of the beat.
A ripple forms as the early morning call to prayer rings faintly in the distance where lights flicker in nearby Dakar, and the faint shadow of dusk splices the air. Prayergoers wake up and begin their day in the capital city and smells of the sea permeate while Lebou fisherman set off into the distance to reel in their daily catch. Some of it makes its way to the market, the rest set aside to the community to ensure everyone is fed.
The pace is slow here on N'gor Island, a small island a short ferry ride away from the vibrant West African city.
For Cherif Fall and the surfers of Dakar, the day has yet to start, but one thing is clear: there will be surf. Dakar and N'gor Island are located on the tip of the Cap-Vert peninsula, the westernmost point of the African continent. Currents from the north and south make their way through the peninsula, positioning itself as a swell haven jetting out into the pulse of the Atlantic.
The strategic typography of the area caught the eye of filmmaker Bruce Brown and surfers Robert August and Mike Hynson when they packed their bags and set off to film what would become the 1964 cult classic film Endless Summer. The first stop on their journey was N'gor Island's right hand wave. To their knowledge, no one had surfed it before.
Over 50 years later, Dakar is emerging as the heartbeat of surfing in West Africa, and N'gor Island's right hand wave has become a hotspot for young Senegalese surfers.
This is the ripple effect.
What began with the aftermath of tourists' broken boards has spread into widespread industry. Now into the 3rd and 4th generation of surfing, surf infrastructure is growing in the city. More than 8 surf schools exist, and surf tourism has become a boost to the local economy.
If the litmus test of an influential film is measured by the scope of how it transforms an audience, Bruce Brown's work spans much further than most. The buzz of the Endless Summer, an escapist foray into surf culture that riveted audiences from Kansas to Hong Kong, pushed global surf tourism into new domains by enlivening eager frolickers in search of empty waves. Like many others, I followed the wake of the Endless Summer. Here I stood in its ripple, watching a new generation of Senegalese surfers from the cliff overhanging N'gor Island looking 2,500 miles into the Atlantic.
With increased tourism and visibility, Senegalese surfing has entered new territory. Cheriff Fall and Babou Reynolds lead the charge for West African surfing prominence. Fall recently won the the Africa Tour, becoming the first Senegalese surfer to do so when he edged out the best competition in West Africa, marking a new chapter in the short history of Senegalese Surfing.