When many people think of the best surf destinations in the world, they likely think of locations such as Hawaii, California, Indonesia, Australia, and so on. It would suffice to say that very few would consider any surfing spots in African nations (aside from perhaps, South Africa, which is a firm favourite of surfers around the world). This is a shame, as Africa – being the second-largest continent in the world – has some of the best surf spots in the world, some only known to a few enthusiastic and professional surfers. Africa has an amazing variety of surfing locations no matter the level of your experience. From the package deals that offer combined Surfing/Yoga retreats in the likes of Morocco and Mozambique, to the relatively unheard of and untapped locations in Senegal and the Ivory Coast, and the pro surfers paradise in South Africa. Africa really offers something for every surfer, whether they are beginners, experienced, or professionals.
Morocco is easily accessible from Europe, a short ferry ride from Southern Spain, or from numerous budget airlines operating throughout Europe. For many Europeans, these surfing spots in Africa are their first taste of the continent; though many would say Morocco is more like the Middle-East than Sub-Saharan Africa. The food here is delicious, with tasty Tajines being the country’s national dish with dozens of variations, and the Sahara is easily accessible on tours where you can spend the night amongst the sand dunes starring up at the Milky Way with local Berbers. Aside from all of this, there are some fantastic and well-established surfing spots and packages located south in the Agadir area, suitable for all levels of surfer, from beginner all the way up to professional level. The country is also very affordable with a low cost of living and pretty much all the activities and tours are very good value for tourists and surfers alike.
Perhaps the exception to the fact many of Africa’s surf spots are virtually unknown, Taghazout – Anchor Point and Boilers has been attracting surfers since the 1960’s. Easily accessible near the tourist hotspot of Agadir (especially for Europeans), and known for its right-hand rides, it is easy to see why this is still a popular surfing spot in Africa today. Anchor Point has waves that can range from 3 to 15 feet and 300 to 500 metres long. It’s known for its consistency at all tides which makes it good for both beginners and experienced surfers.
A number of interesting packages are offered in Taghazout – in particular the Surf Maroc Company (http://surfmaroc.com/en – even if you aren’t interested in packages, this site is still worth a look for its spectacular film footage of the Moroccan coast and surf) offer a combined yoga/surfing retreat, including healthy vegetarian meals. The prices are very reasonable – especially for couples – so combined with the numerous cheap airlines flying to Marrakesh and Agadir from Europe, so this is one of the best and most affordable surfing spots in Africa if you are European. The best time to surf in Morocco is from September to April; which is an added bonus as most of Europe is in the grips of winter during this period!
Senegal has a rich cultural history, and darker history of colonial occupation from first, the Portugese, and then later on, the Dutch and finally the French. It was used as a stopover on the way to the Spice Islands, but then also as a main part of the lucrative slave trade. European powers would instigate rivalries and conflict between the small kingdoms and tribes to ensure a steady supply of slaves were captured and sold to the colonies in the Americas. The nation was finally granted independence in 1960, and ever since has been praised for its multicultural, ethnic and religious society living in relative peace and harmony when compared to other African nations (though today the nation is predmoinantly muslim). And indeed, this multiculturalism, rich history, and welcoming culture is another aspect of Senegal that is appealing to would-be tourists. And finally, another overlooked fact is that Senegal is actually quite accessible through flights from North America: Roughly 8 hours from Atlanta, and 7 hours from New York. This makes it surprising that not more North American tourists and surfers alike come to enjoy this colourful country on the west tip of Africa. For a place which has world-class waves, it is little known.
Surfing Spots in Africa: The Almadies Peninsular, Senegal
The Almadies Peninsular one of the best surfing spots in Africa and in Senegal located just outside Dakar on the westernmost point of the continent. As such, it offers some of the best and consistent swells in the world that come in from every direction. The waves consist mostly of reef breaks and are most suited to experienced and pro surfers.
N’gor Island is one of the sweet surfing spots in Africa. This very small island off the coast of Dakarand despite only being only 500 metres long, offers a famous right-hander wave: The N’Gor Right. Today, N’gor Island is quite well known, due in part to it being featured in the 1964 surfing movie ‘Endless Summer’. It’s a trendy and pretty place with cobbled streets, restaurants, and bars. However, it is far from being overcrowded or overdeveloped. Senegal is a great surf location – especially for pros – because the infrastructure is good, there are plenty of quiet, hidden spots that are easily accessible, and there are no shark attacks to worry about. The best time to surf in Senegal is from November to March for those looking for big waves, and August to September smaller, consistent waves (3 to 6 feet) that would be more suitable for beginners.
Unlike Senegal, the transition to independence was not as peaceful for the Ivory Coast. Up until 2011, the country suffered from several civil wars and internal conflicts, however the situation is now much more stable as numerous UN and French Peacekeepers oversee the transition to a stable democracy. The country is unfortunately difficult to access for North Americans, as the only direct flights originate in South Africa and a handful of European and North African nations. However, on the plus side, the country’s roads are some of the best in Africa, and getting around the country once you manage to get in is quick and efficient for Africa (though the occasional police or military checkpoint will ask for small bribes, like much of Africa). The food is great too, with delicious fried chicken, fish and plantains. Other activities other than catching the surf is hiking and climbing Mount Nienokoue, 250 metres tall, through the rainforest with a plethora of exotic animals to view. It is said on a clear day you can see all the way to Liberia. So, despite the difficulty in accessibility, minor problems typical of Sub-Saharan Africa (petty bribes, petty crime etc.), The Cote d’Ivoire will reward you for your efforts; Surfing the spectacular and largely unknown (to Westerners) waves of Assini.
Assini – a beautiful beach with a lagoon on one side, and on the other side of the ocean. Getting here involves a drive through the rainforest until you get to the lagoon, then you have to take a boat to the beach. So it’s not easily accessible and getting here is a bit of an adventure in itself! However, it is more than worth it as it is one of the best surfing spots in Africa for experienced surfers and pros, because there are some great waves here. The two sub-cultures you’ll find here are Rastafarians and a very St. Trope z-esque crowd. There is an area around here called the Assini Mafia; However this is where all the rich people come from the capital to build beach houses and chalets. The other side of the beach is much less developed and unspoilt, with lots of quaint local fishing villages.
Mozambique was a Portugese territory up until the 20th century. The transition to independence was sketchy, with a Communist insurgency lasting up until 1992. However, peace accords held in Rome brought the civil war to an end and brought in a new era of democracy and peace that happily lasts to the present day. Getting here involves an inevitable connection in a wide choice of African nations, but is not a major problem. And Mozambique is often cited as an African favourite by tourists for its 1000kms of coastline, with wonderful beaches, world-class scuba diving and snorkelling, and one of the few African nations that still has traditional Indigenous beliefs as its majority religion, though large minorities of Muslims and Christians are added to the mix. And, of course, surfing is fantastic for all skill levels. There really isn’t much to not like about Mozambique!
Surfing Spots in Africa: Tofinho Point at Tofo, Mozambique
Tofinho Point at Tofo is located near the town of Inhambane, known for beautiful reefs and is considered by locals one of the best surfing spots in Africa and in the country. It has a variety of waves suitable for beginners and pros alike, the waters are constantly warm, the locals are friendly and it’s a fairly cheap destination.
Surfing Spots in Africa: Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique
Ponta do Ouro is also worth a mention, just north of the South African border, has long breaking waves and the best right-hand breaks in Mozambique. It is easily accessible from South Africa or via Maputo. Like in Morocco, some interesting companies are popping up offering the surf/yoga retreat type packages for all levels from beginner to pro. One worth looking at if you are a female surfer is the women-only East Coast Girls Surf Company (http://eastcoastsurftrips.com/wp/), located on Tofo beach. It offers small groups of no more than 4 surfers to 1 instructor, for very affordable prices, and also offers packages that include snorkelling the reefs.
And finally we have one of the world’s prime surfing destinations, with 3000 kilometres of coastline it really is a surfers paradise that is easily accessible. So much so that it hosts numerous pro surfing championships every year. But, of course, South Africa offers so much more: it is affordable (especially for backpackers who flock from around the world), accessible from most continents by air travel, with some great dining in the cities and reasonably priced safaris into Krueger National Park. South Africa has come a long way since the dark days of apartheid. The only thing to look out for is the crime in the major cities, but with some common sense this is easily avoidable.
Jeffery’s Bay is one of the most famous surfing spots in Africa as well as in the whole world, up there with the likes of Oahu, Hawaii. Every year it hosts the Billabong pro surfing challenge in July. It is located in the Eastern Cape, about an hour away from Port Elizabeth. ‘Supertubes’ in this bay are said to be some of the most perfectly formed waves in the world. The waves are best from June to August.
Dungeons (Hout Bay, Cape Town) is another one of the best surfing spots in Africa for the pros, with a leg of the red bull big wave competition held here annually. This is really one for the brave, even if you are experienced or a pro, as during winter storms, the swells can reach 15 to 30 feet which break over a shallow reef. It is only accessible by boat, and is located on the ocean side of Hout Bay.
Long Beach (Kommetjie, Cape Town) is known for its consistency making it one of the most popular beaches and surfing spots in Africa. It is located about 45 minutes from Cape Town. The waves break both to the left and the right. It is best for intermediate to experienced/pro surfers due to its medium-sized but well-formed waves that beginners will likely find too challenging. The spot is best in the summer months for surfing.
Elands Bay (West Coast) located on the West Coast, a three-hour drive from Cape Town, it has what is described as a ‘perfect’ left point break, perfect for experienced and pro surfers. The best time to surf here are the summer months.
Wild Coast, Ntlonyane (Breezy Point) has an exposed break with consistent, reliable surf. It is a regional favourite for the long, tubing, right-hand breakers that is even compared to Jeffrey’s Bay. The only pitfall is that sharks are a risk here. Best surfed when the winds are from the west or southwest.
Durban, The Bay of Plenty is one of the surfing spots in Africa said to have the most consistent waves in South Africa, with constant swells and ideal wind conditions creating reliable, good quality surf. The swells generally get bigger the further north you head up from Durban but the world-class waves around the Durban area are suitable for all levels of experience. The sea here is also warmer than most other spots in South Africa, being located in the Indian Ocean, and the climate here is warmer too. This makes the whole surfing experience more pleasurable and comfortable, and you can stay in the water and enjoy surfing for longer.