Heading south

02 January 2020 | Travel Stories

Logbook

I've been in the south of the Sahara for 15 days. I met few surfers. Many waves. Meetings often mark a surftrip. That's how the surftrip becomes an adventure in its own right.

After having crossed kilometers of desert coast where I had few exchanges with "the outside". Only a few fishermen with a lot of energy. There are several types of fishermen here in the Sahara, in some of the most fishy waters in the world. Some have made a greater impression on me than others. The first fishermen fish with very long rods. Either from the top of the cliffs of 5, 10, 20 m sometimes more. Or at the foot of them. In this case, tiny and steep paths go down to the ocean. Amazing! The fishermen live in makeshift habitats, sometimes within the cliffs themselves. Others fish from the edge of the beaches.

I also remember a tiny fishing village where a beautiful right hand side of the road runs. This village is lost in the desert between high cliffs. A small beach is discovered when we approach the edge. One discovers a marvellous human broom. It looks like an orchestra where everything comes to life with precision. People are moving everywhere. Each one has his task and does it wisely. These fishermen fish with boats. They are not very big, often blue and are pulled up on the beach by tractors. I came across several fishing villages in this way, the best known of which is called Lassarga.

With other surfers, we have come to the conclusion that the ones who impress us the most are the ones who go out and get the nets in buoys. Finally in huge inner tubes. We see these fishermen early in the morning in the thick and cold mist sitting in the hole of their "buoy". They are equipped with a wetsuit and flippers. They sit in vertical movements along the cliffs, sometimes out to sea. They go out to set nets and retrieve their catch. This can take a long time and is clearly exhausting. They come back out of breath.

One day, the swell was big, we looked at them and we all said to ourselves: "The guys are crazy". I saw one of them once get caught in a big set at a point. He had to dive under the wave leaving his buoy several hundred meters away from him. He had to swim back to get it all and come back to shore as if everything was normal. In fact, he offered us some fish to eat for lunch. It's like that here, the atmosphere is peaceful and we let ourselves be carried by this nonchalance and kindness. We share his food, a tea, a surf session. The atmosphere even at the line-up is pleasant, joyful. That's how I met Greg and Cécile. Two Frenchmen coming from Dakar. Greg has been surfing for a long time and he surfs well. Very good. We shared our first sessions here together. I think we'll share some more. This is the meeting that will have marked the south of the Sahara without forgetting the countless exchanges with the local population. Welcoming, warm.

These first two weeks allowed me to surf a lot of waves on the south side of the Sahara. I strongly hesitated to go further south. Senegal... Guinea... It was finally not the right time. Later on. That moment when many things say no and you have to listen. So I stay here to take the time to surf as much as possible and discover the north and the center of the Sahara. If I stay it's also because we found waves... And what a wave!

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See you at the line-up

After a few days of waiting, the swell was there. If the maps announced a nice swell, we didn't expect this quality. We were ready to surf. The water and food supplies were done. We had a lot of information about the spots to surf. Some are known here, others not at all. Moreover we did not meet any surfer there. On the most known spots, we were not very numerous in the line-up. There were a lot of one, two or three person sessions.

The first wave we surfed was right in front of our "sleeping spot". Too easy. When Greg caught the first wave, I watched him surf until I almost couldn't find him with my eyes. I finally saw him a few minutes later walking back along the bay to the line-up. Amazing!

The waves were almost perfect. It lacked a bit of size sometimes and the orientation was sometimes limited. But in the end, the swell kept offering us longer and longer waves until our legs hurt. A fast and hollow start which becomes flatter in the second section then goes full throttle to finish in a bowl in the third section. We couldn't believe it. We had to do a lot of cutbacks to follow the wave. There were a lot of maneuvers to be done.

It was the second day and the conditions were perfect. If Greg, happy to the ears, found a way to say with a little disappointment: "Not much missing to get a good square tube. I think I want a good barrel too much" we were happy. It was crazy and I couldn't take many pictures because of the time spent in the water.

By the end of the session, the swell had grown a bit and increasingly hollow sections were forming. It didn't take much more for Greg. I was paddling back up to the peak when I saw him roll and then brake. I immediately thought to myself, "That's it". I saw him go deep into a nice tube only to come out in a bit of a rush as he ended up closing in slipper mode. We just sent out a good cry of joy that felt good. Perfect!

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Even if this spot is well known, the few locals are very welcoming. Here we share the good waves. There is a lot of waves and we are maximum 10 in the water when it is full. So inevitably the atmosphere is cool. So when there are two of us!

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Alone in the desert

The first sessions alone arrived just after Greg's departure. A new swell came to hit the coast. A little less big but very clean. There are a lot of beach breaks here. These waves require more commitment. They are shorter, deeper, faster. But we are alone. The most fun wave is located near a grounded boat. There is no one there but the wave rolls perfectly. It is fast and can be scary to take off. There is a way to lock two or three maneuvers in a fast trough or to get a nice barrel when the conditions are right. Like on a lot of waves here in the end.

But in the end, the big hit came from a wave located a little further north. At the beginning of our ascent in the desert we crossed the road of a first point. Here a long wave breaks in a kind of bay. Accessible by a steep path in the cliffs we end up on the beach to walk to the peak. This wave is deserted. A long right with a lot of current to stay in the right place. The end of the wave is easy to surf while the take-off and the first meters can be more technical.

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Mechanics of a wave

While the swell was supposed to disappear for a few days, I could see on the charts that a new swell was going to arrive again at the end of the week with a big period which shapes the waves here perfectly.

I still went to check out a better known spot in the morning where a perfect right hander runs. We often talk about wave mechanics. But the mechanics of this one are incredible. There is nobody in the water when I arrive. The waves don't seem to be as big as they were the last few days when they could sometimes give us quite a bit of feeling in the line-up.

In the end, once in the water, the best sets could be "head high". This wave was more than enough to provide an incredible surf. The wave runs for hundreds of meters in a protected and still wild area. The length of the wave is such that it sometimes takes more than 5 minutes to walk along the wave until the beginning of the pointbreak... I didn't dare to imagine this over head wave with a bigger period, I prefer to plan to go back there to feel it live.

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The wave unwinds in a straight line starting from a point and unwinding along a circular beach. This morning I surfed endless waves by myself. Sometimes I had the impression that it would never end.

After several maneuvers, it keeps opening again and again. The eyes riveted on the majestic lip that never stops filling with happiness. The image of the perfect surf that makes a lot of kids dream. That wave that you doubted existed. I remember one wave where I ended up with a sore leg and had time to say to myself "it doesn't stop" in the middle of the wave. I had a while to go and several more turns before I finished that wave. It was the kind of perfection I hadn't seen in surfing for a long time. Even after 24 years in the water and years of traveling the world. We're talking minutes of surfing sometimes on this wave, that's for sure!

On the road again

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In the end, after two weeks in the South Sahara, there is only one thing you want to do: not to leave. I think I'll come back here to surf with a team this time and explore other areas further south. We missed a few big swells but in the end we had a lot of fun. Then for my part for the resumption it was perfect.

Now the problem is that I don't have any gas to cook with. It's stupid but in the Sahara, it's not the same bottles. We'll do raw food and fruit juice in the morning for the rest of the trip. Well, the truck is still running, we won't complain even if an auxiliary battery seems to be dead.

Thanks to Greg and Cecile, we found a few addresses of very good mechanics apparently. The truck will probably go there to do some repairs. They really needed it with their 4x4 (equipped with tent on the roof please!). Good wind to them and see you soon on the waves!

I don't know my next destinations yet. When will they reveal themselves. But coming back here to follow the African coastline inspires me a lot. Especially now that I know how to cross the borders to Senegal and go even further south. But who knows? This next adventure will certainly not be without two or three fellow surfers.

For the moment I still have a long way to go. Adventures to live. Encounters to make. Waves to surf. I'm currently in Dahkla to stock up on supplies. I'm heading north along the Sahara coast in search of harder and wilder waves.

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