“Démal, démal, démal !” This is what you will often hear sitting on your board out in a line-up around the Dakar-peninsula in Senegal.
“Démal” means “go for it” in ‘Wolof’, the local language, and these cries of encouragement towards others to take the bomb of the set is a testament to the ‘Land of Teranga’ (hospitality) and a striking contrast to the localism reputed in other surf capitals around the world.
Senegal: infinite possibility
Surfing in Senegal shares its fame with the iconic 1966 film by Bruce Brown, “The Endless Summer”.
But since then, its reputation has seen injections of fresh energy thanks to multiple generations of Senegalese surfers who have exponentially promoted the importance of the sport in their country, blessed with an abundance of densely concentrated point-breaks breaking primarily over reef.
In Dakar, the swell never stops; the peninsula that shapes the capital is exposed to 270° of Atlantic Ocean and represents the western-most point on the African continent.
This geography translates into a spot which is extremely sensitive to swell, whether it comes from the north, west or south. The peninsula is also only 4km wide at its narrowest point, meaning that it is always offshore somewhere.
“To really sum it up, you can surf 365 days a year in Dakar!” states Pierre-Louis Denaro, the owner of Ngor Island Surfcamp, located on the tropical paradise island of Ngor, sitting on the doorstep of the legendary wave, the ‘Ngor Right’.
“To me, I characterise this place as a hidden gem because I don’t know any other place around the world where you are gifted with world class waves all year round, spread over 20 different spots all within a 15 minute driving radius.
You surf in boardshorts for half the year and a 3/2 wetsuit during the other half. You can wake up late and you’ve still got a chance of being the first in the water; here when we talk about a crowd, we’re referring to 15-20 people. We are really spoilt and sometimes it makes us wave-snobs haha! On top of that, we lack any shark threats and have a strong solidarity amongst the Dakar surf community.
Dakar really is a surf utopia.”
Despite the optimal conditions, Senegal has yet to match the African surfing powerhouses of South Africa and Morocco. “Sure, but it’s only a matter of time! I suspect we’ll be feeling pretty nostalgic when we’ll find ourselves with 40 rippers on the peak at Ouakam (well-known spot to get barrelled!) but a boost to the Senegalese surf business is exactly what the locals deserve. People here work so hard to allow visitors to benefit from their waves, and they do it with pride and always with a smile.”
A potential to be developed: from tourism to equipment.
Photo: Julien Bana
As well as his surfcamp, Pierre-Louis is part of the Senegalese Federation of Surfing, diligently assisting to the development of the sport in the country.
“Surfing is the only sport in Senegal which brings in tourism!
Europeans don’t come here to play football or go climbing. They buy their flights to come surf turquoise blue waves with 5 other people out!
That’s why the government should be providing us with even more support because tourism is a very important development pathway for Senegal.
In a surfing context, the stakeholders of surfing in Dakar still have trouble accessing equipment and this limits us in what we can offer to travellers as well as to ourselves. That’s why having the presence of Saint Jacques in Senegal is bonus for everyone because it increases our range of equipment choice, and of course, I doubt I am the only one in Dakar who prefers an alternative to the traditional black-on-black wetsuit!”
And you, what are your “discreet jewelry” spots?
Tell us in the comments
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