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Tag: Atlantic Ocean

A Senegalese Surf Story

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Surfing seems to encompass many of life’s most important feelings and states; you can find yourself being thrashed around, not quite sure where you’ll end up, or on the crest of a wave, perfectly in-sync with the sea. Then there is the downtime of waiting, almost meditatively, for the next wave to come. A delicate balancing act in which you can feel elated or defeated from one fleeting moment to the next.

One of the most surprising things I found when I moved to Dakar was that there was an active local surfing community – local, foreign, male, female, young and old – regularly out riding the crashing waves of the Atlantic, which hugs the city on all sides.

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I have friends who’ve become devotees of the sport, coming back from their mornings or afternoons at the beach sandy, sun-kissed and thoroughly blissed-out at having spent a couple of hours being tossed around by the sea. This made me curious to discover more about this unlikely community, and how the sport has come to find a home in Senegal.

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Jesper Mouritzen has done much to put Senegal on the map as one of the world’s most unique surfing destinations. Jesper, originally from Denmark, first came here on a trip with some friends in 2006. He fell in love with the country, and the surfer’s ‘holy trinity’ of warm water, consistent waves and empty line-ups.

Seven years ago he came back and opened a surf camp on the tiny Island of Ngor, where he lives with his wife and young daughter. I spoke with him about what makes surfing in Senegal special, and about life on Ngor, which only has 25 full-time residents.

Jesper Mouritzen with his family

“I guess the biggest difference here is the local surfers” says Jesper. “They’re open, welcoming and very friendly to foreigners. This can be the dark side of surfing in most places; an aggressive local surf scene trying to scare tourists away so they can have the waves to themselves. The thing that’s most positive about surfing in Senegal are the amazing locals giving everyone a good experience. ”

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Another distinctive feature about surfing here is that the waves come in from the North Atlantic swell in winter, and the South Atlantic swell in the summer, making Senegal one of the only year-round surfing destinations in the world.

Ngor Island, five minutes by Pirogue from Dakar’s mainland, is home to Senegal’s most famous wave, Ngor Right, which was featured in the classic 1960’s surf movie The Endless Summer.

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There are no cars on the Island, just some beach restaurants, narrow cobbled streets, sandy pathways and, at almost every turn, stunning views back to the mainland.

The air is clean and pollution free, everything runs on solar power, and the waters are some of the cleanest you’ll find in Dakar. It’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and the ideal place to unwind after a long day out in the surf.

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Despite the welcoming locals and consistent, high-quality waves, Senegal remains an up-and-coming surf destination, rather than an established one. This is due in large part, explains Jesper, to preconceptions and unfounded fears about travelling in Africa.

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But as evidenced by the high return visitor rate at Jesper’s surf camp, those who do make it here are quick to fall in love with the laidback lifestyle of Ngor Island, and the magic of a never-ending surf season in this off-the-beaten-track surfer’s paradise.

 

To find out more about Ngor Island Surf Camp see their website here.

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Design Inspiration:Ngor Lounge

The Ngor Lounge is  currently my favourite spot along the Petite Corniche in Almadies. It manages the tricky combination of being both stylish and upmarket, yet casual and unpretentious at the same time. The food is fantastic, the music is great, and the service is friendly and prompt.

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You are welcomed by this rotund pair

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It’s the type of place that caters to everyone. When I last went there, I saw a group of teenage boys who had dropped by on their bikes for a burger and fries, families with toddlers and children taking a dip in the pool, and suited and booted businessmen on a working lunch.

Pool area with a view to the Mamelles hills
Pool area with a view to the Mamelles hills
One of the outdoor seating areas
One of the outdoor seating areas

Wax print cushions in-keeping with the grey and yellow colour scheme

There are an assortment of different seating areas: the sea view deck for fine dining, casual tables around the pool area for a snack or a drink, and an indoor and outdoor lounge area with comfy sofas and cushions.

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And down a stone staircase from the main eating area on it’s own ledge overlooking the Atlantic you have this intimate little spot, which has to be one of the most perfect tables in Dakar.

The Ngor Lounge is located towards the end of the Corniche Des Almadies. It’s open everyday except Monday. For a review of the food, head over to Dakar Eats

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Snapshots of Saint-Louis

Often described as one of the most intensely atmospheric places in West Africa, The tiny city-island of Saint-Louis sits in the middle of the Senegal River near it’s opening to the Atlantic.

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Ornate bougainvillea-clad balconies, crumbling ochre-hued buildings, and a myriad of little passages and beautiful secret courtyards are packed into a miniscule 2 kilometre long, 400 metre wide space.

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It has a fascinating history as the capital of French West Africa, a title it held until 1902. These days, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to one of the best jazz festivals in Africa.

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10 Reasons Why I Love Dakar

1.The Atlantic. Dakar’s stunning location on a plateau above the Atlantic Ocean means a variety of great city beaches to choose from, and some very welcoming sea breezes when things heat up. The sunsets are incredible.

Photo by Jeff Attaway
Photo by Jeff Attaway

2.Style. The Dakarois take their personal style very seriously. Many people have their outfits handmade and there is a tailor on almost on every street corner. The stunning array of Boubous – always perfectly starched and worn with pointy Moroccan leather slippers – Taille Basse with matching headgear and Tunics in vibrant colours are a feast for the eyes.

3.Teranga. If there is one word that sums Senegal up it’s probably Teranga, the custom of hospitality. The Senegalese are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet and will generally make a huge effort to welcome visitors into their homes and introduce them to their language and culture.

4.Music. The music scene in Dakar is buzzing with talent and you can go out every night of the week to hear both established and up-and-coming musicians. You wouldn’t expect any less from a country that has given the world the likes of Youssou N’dour, Baba Maal and Ismaël Lô.

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5.Culture and Creativity. Dakar plays host to an internationally renowned Art Biennale and is a hub for fast-developing media arts. It has recently been recognised by UNESCO as part of its Creative Cities Network .

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6.Weather. On average, Dakar gets about a gazillion hours of sunshine every year. Enough said.

7.Car Rapides. Dakar has the most charmingly and colourfully decorated public transport you will ever see, called the Car Rapide (literally, fast car). They are fun to look at and fun to take around the city (although not at rush hour, when the fast cars can slow down to a very slow crawl).

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8.The Mix. Dakar is a regional hub. There are people here from all over Africa, a huge Lebanese community, substantial numbers of French as well as expatriates from all over the world. This makes for a wonderfully cosmopolitan and international atmosphere.

9.The Food. Highlights include the ubiquitous Thiéboudienne (Senegal’s national dish of rice, fish and vegetables), juicy Brochettes de Lotte (monkfish kebabs), fancy French cuisine, amazing local teas and exotic juices like Bissap (Hibiscus flower), Baobab and Tamarind.

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10.Peace. Last but definitely not least, Dakar is located in one of the most stable and democratic countries in Africa. The population is mainly Muslim but there are also Christians and those of other faiths. Tolerance of all religions is paramount here, and as a result everyone rubs along together very nicely.

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