A post-war browsing renaissance is underway in Africa’s oldest republic

(CNN) — Nestled between Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Liberia is the oldest republic in Africa. However regardless of its historic legacy, within the minds of many outsiders the West African nation remains to be extra generally related to civil warfare and convicted warfare prison Charles Taylor.

However on the finish of the second civil warfare in 2003, as Liberia was on the cusp of democratically electing the continent’s first feminine head of state, a unique narrative was rising within the fishing village of Robertsport; one that may in the end change the tradition of this tiny seaside group on the border of Sierra Leone.

“After the warfare in 2003, some Individuals got here to Robertsport, the place they began browsing our waves,” remembers native surfer Philip Banini. “(They) got here throughout a Black man, Alfred Lomax, who was the primary Liberian surfer, they usually taught him the game. And that was how he too began sharing it with the locals round right here.”

Lomax, now the nation’s most acknowledged and embellished surfer, taught Banini, who in flip has taught numerous others, rising the group from one into many.

In the present day, inside Banini’s guesthouse hangs an indication that reads “When nothing goes proper, surf a left” — a reference to the left break for which Robertsport is known. The village is now one in every of Liberia’s three essential browsing locations, the others being the capital Monrovia and Harper on the border with Ivory Coast. Between the palm timber and lengthy stretches of sandy seaside which hug the Atlantic Ocean, each day the water is dotted with surfers.

To borrow a browsing expression, “the stoke is actual.”

A rising group

Surfers at sunset look out to sea from Robertsport's beach.

Surfers at sundown look out to sea from Robertsport’s seaside.

Jo Munnik for CNN

Browsing has an extended historical past in Africa. The earliest account, from Ghana in the 1640s, even predates the earliest file from browsing’s non secular dwelling of Hawaii. The parallel growth and historical past of African browsing is much less well-known, and the game stays much less established than different elements of the world. However a renaissance is underway.

In the present day, Robertsport is a world aside from when Canadians Kent Bubbs and Landis Wyatt first set foot on its seaside. Since relocating to Liberia 15 years in the past, Bubbs has witnessed how the group of roughly 4,000 individuals has grown to incorporate over 60 native surfers. “There are an increasing number of surfers yearly,” Bubbs tells CNN. “The children who used to surf initially are actually having children, and people children are browsing — it’s turning into generational. We regularly see a number of members of the family out browsing collectively.”

Amongst them are the previous males’s nationwide surf champion Oscar Comney and his youthful brother, Massalley “Samon” Comney, whom Oscar taught the way to surf.

Via their NGO Common Outreach Basis, Bubbs and Wyatt have performed an lively function in serving to to develop the Liberian surf group by way of surf tourism initiatives. In addition they discover sponsors for the nation’s solely nationwide surf competitors, which they run in collaboration with Robertsport’s Surf Membership.

“The thought behind (the competitors) was merely to present the youth and children of Robertsport one thing to look ahead to,” Bubbs explains. “Browsing has develop into a spot the place the younger individuals can go and benefit from the firm of their pals, compete in opposition to one another and be in an atmosphere the place they’ll express themselves and work by way of a number of the challenges of life with like-minded individuals.”

Massalley just lately gained the Robertsport beneath 18s competitors and plans to problem his brother for the grownup title sooner or later. One in all eight kids, the 17-year-old juggles working at Banini’s visitor home and promoting handmade bracelets to vacationers to assist his highschool tuition.

“I actually love browsing as a result of I really feel like I am one of the best man on planet Earth,” says the younger up-and-comer.

He is additionally not the one one making a splash; Irene George is the one native feminine surfer from Robertsport and present ladies’s competitors champion.

Her abilities have earned her the nickname “Butterfly,” as a result of she strikes by way of the waves like she is flying. After a break from browsing to pursue learning hospitality in Monrovia, she is now again within the water and wanting to show herself.

She hopes to encourage extra Liberian ladies to take up browsing however acknowledges there are some challenges. “When (I) go round saying, ‘I need to educate you the way to surf,’ they are saying, ‘I do not know the way to swim.’ As soon as you possibly can swim you possibly can surf, so we have to educate (individuals) the way to swim first,” she says. It is George’s plan to sometime open a swim and surf faculty of her personal known as Liberian Future Surf Faculty.

Irene George is the only female surfer in Robertsport and current women's champion.

Irene George is the one feminine surfer in Robertsport and present ladies’s champion.

Jason Boswell for CNN

Surf tourism

Status and infrastructure might pave the way in which for Liberia to affix South Africa and Morocco as key African browsing locations.

Robertsport is seeking to faucet into a global browsing market anticipated to be price greater than $4.8 billion by 2027, and using its waves are vacationers from everywhere in the world. Regardless of tourism setbacks — first, from a two-year Ebola outbreak that started in 2014, adopted by the Covid-19 pandemic — Banini says issues are wanting up. These vacationers convey with them abilities to share together with surf boards, wax and {dollars} to contribute to the rising surf tourism financial system.
Some vacationers donate boards to locals earlier than flying dwelling, whereas others are offered by Swiss NGO Provide the Slide, which collects outdated boards and ships them to international locations throughout West Africa. However with just one restore store in all of Liberia, run by Bubbs, it is common to see native surfers fortunately sharing damaged and battered boards.

Canadians Kent Bubbs (left) and Landis Wyatt (right) relocated to Liberia 15 years ago and have become integral to Robertsport's surf community.

Canadians Kent Bubbs (left) and Landis Wyatt (proper) relocated to Liberia 15 years in the past and have develop into integral to Robertsport’s surf group.

courtesy Landis Wyatt/Kent Bubbs

Bubbs remembers a time when the one customer lodging in Robertsport was tenting on the seaside, however that has modified as extra visitor homes have opened. Quickly the Robertsport Surf Membership could have its personal property, which might be used to run surf classes, fishing journeys and finally provide lodging too, diversifying alternatives in what remains to be a fishing-dependent native financial system.

In only a matter of years, browsing has develop into the center of this group. “It is about time that the nation sees the significance of specializing in the surfers in Robertsport,” says Banini. “I would like them to know that there is a sport known as browsing in Liberia, and there are a whole lot of Liberians concerned in it.”


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