What comes to mind when you think of surfing in Senegal? You might picture sub-tropical beach breaks lined with palm trees. And you’d be wrong. Instead imagine powerful reefs and points that greedily suck in all the power of the North Atlantic. Imagine crisp shallow barrels, long walls and big surf.
Imagine an arid, dusty, gritty, bustling, thriving, growing city. Imagine smiling, happy, welcoming people who endure poverty through simple enjoyment. Senegal has its world class days but it’s no Indonesia. Instead it offers a genuine welcome, consistent uncrowded surf, and a friendly atmosphere. It will surprise you both in and out of the water.
In winter the surf is powerful. Dakar sticks out into the Atlantic like an island and is surrounded by very deep water so swells arrive kicking like a mule. There are few beach breaks in the main surf zone of Dakar. Instead the left and right points of N’gor Island work day after day in the winter, hardly ever dropping below head high. North trade winds can make December and January tricky in smaller swells, limiting you to surfing N’gor Right, but really the name of the game here is consistency. If you come for two weeks in winter you will surf 13 days out of 14.
Meanwhile the surf spots of the Almadies Peninsular – the westernmost point of Africa – are exposed to any south swells and also work in big northwest swells. Here the barrelling waves at Ouakam and Club Med test your commitment to the take-off over urchin encrusted rocks. The rewards are great, but sometimes you have to pay the price.
Bring a step-up board or a gun. N’Gor Right can break like Sunset Beach in Hawaii. It is much more fun on a big board that can handle the power and give you the confidence to charge. You could be riding waves double to triple overhead in big swells. Also bring a slightly wider or fuller shortboard for smaller days or Almadies waves. The water is colder than you might think so a wetsuit is needed from December. By February you might even want a 4/3 if you feel the cold.
The waves in Senegal are not very busy except for a few of the Almadies spots. Even here the locals will greet you with a smile and a “Ca va?”. The vibe in the water is friendly, especially when the surf camp crew are out as everyone is of different abilities and from different countries and the local surf guides will call you into waves. Out of the water Dakar is the safest city in Africa, and has some of the best seafood. It’s a relaxed Muslim country so you can drink beer, women aren’t hassled and you will make some good friends.
N’Gor Island Surf Camp is the most convenient place to stay for a Senegalese surf trip. You can walk to the right and left points and guests can take a boat to several other breaks. A five minute pirogue journey will put you on the mainland in Dakar, and then you can walk or take a taxi to the Almadies waves. After a day in the friendly chaos of Dakar, the charming and relaxed N’gor Island is a welcome return for the weary surfer.