Remember the “Kony 2012” campaign? That San Diego filmmaker who made the viral video in an attempt to convince the US government to “save the day” and capture Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord? And remember the Sudanese genocide? Remember blood diamonds? Remember AIDS?
Aside from the occasional safari gone right, it seems that all the news that comes out of the 54 countries that constitute Africa is about war, famine, poverty and corruption. It is painted as “The Dark Continent.” It is, as far as we know, the scariest place on earth.
I almost moved there a few years ago. I was at the tail end of a six-month trip through the continent, staying on South Africa’s east coast and feeling quite at home. I’d found friends, a girl, a million waves and a handful of lions. Africa was paradise. But I was out of money, so I flew home with intentions to work, save and return indefinitely. Then I met a better girl and started work at this fine publication.
But to this day, I remember Africa fondly. I remember empty, white-sand beachbreaks. Penguins swimming through Cape Town lineups. Five-second tubes at Jeffrey’s that carry you for 75 yards, offshores howling. And the non-surf stuff that makes Africa, Africa. Water buckets carried on heads, hips swaying. The waiting for buses; an unhurried pace of life. Elephants. Thatched roofs, beads and baobab trees.
Despite all the shit that you hear in the media — a lot of which, sadly, is true — Africa is the best place in the world to be a surfer. Looking only at South Africa, you’ve got two coasts that face two different oceans that constantly usher swell toward the Rainbow Nation. Outside of the cities, there are almost no crowds. I asked Saffa Damien Fahrenfort what he thought to be South Africa’s surfing population. “I’d be surprised if there were 10,000,” he said. Back here in California there’s about a million, and fewer waves to support ‘em. And if Jeffrey’s Bay, Cave Rock and Elands aren’t enough to make you believers, rewatch the Africa section in Dane Reynolds’ First Chapter. South Coast perfection.
And that’s just one nation on a continent that has more than 20 countries that cop swell — only a third of which have been decently explored. What other gems are hidden along the coasts of Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Mauritania and Nigeria? Few trickle into our collective consciousness, but Craig Anderson enjoyed one during the month he spent in Africa this summer (see “Abalone Romance,” pg. 66). A summer spent exploring. Visiting family. Going right at J-Bay and left in a more uncharted region of the continent. Going left forever. Compiling minutes of barrel time each session. Dancing on a desert mirage. I’ve stared at these waves enough this month that, even though I’ve never been there, they’ve begun to seep into my African flashbacks. Or perhaps, with any luck, African flashforwards. –Taylor Paul