Sierra Leone is still emerging from years of brutal civil war. Although it ended early in the 2000s, the war left long-lasting scars on a country already damaged. It is not a place one thinks of when they’re planning a surf trip. Sierra Leone, though, begs to differ. The country just became the 98th member nation of the International Surfing Association.
The ISA is pretty bent on getting surfing into the Olympics. They’re recognized by the International Olympic Committee as “the World Governing Authority for Surfing, StandUp Paddle (SUP) Surfing and Racing, and all other wave riding activities,” according to their website, so they might actually make it happen. As they add more and more countries to their list of member nations, the chances get better and better. And with wave pool technology rapidly changing the game, there is a good chance that we might see it included in the Games. It’s on the short-list, anyway.
There is a surfing hub of sorts in Sierra Leone, and the waves there can get really good. Sitting on the west coast of Sierra Leone, the Bureh Beach Surf Club is a different sort of set up. All of the proceeds from surf lessons and board rentals go towards developing the local community, and all of the staff is hired from the area. The ISA put their fingers in the pot and added a Junior Surfers Program that helps aspiring local surfers with both surfing and schooling.
“It’s exciting to see Sierra Leone become a Member of the ISA,” said Barbara Kendall, the ISA’s vice-president. “Full membership brings so many opportunities to countries like Sierra Leone and their young athletes – particularly if surfing becomes part of the Olympic Program in 2020.”