The surfEXPLORE group, in association with battleface Travel Medical insurance, recently completed a project in the West African country of Sierra Leone. A former British colony between Guinea and Liberia on the Atlantic Ocean, Sierra Leone suffered a devastating civil war which finally ended in 2002. It was also the fictionalized setting for the Leonardo di Caprio film Blood Diamonds, about the brutal trade in rough diamonds in the eastern part of the country during the war.
The formerly healthy tourism sector was destroyed in the fighting, and although Sierra Leone had travelling foreign surfers as far back as the 1970s, there was no one surfing again until the early 2000s. When international airlines began flying to Freetown after 2002, several crew members brought boards and began exploring the coast for waves on weekends and holidays, along with some of the large influx of staff from the many non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) present in Sierra Leone, some of whom were surfers as well.
In 2014, there is a thriving surf scene in Bureh Beach. The Bureh Beach Surf Club (BBSC) has an operation offering food, drink and simple accommodations for visiting surfers in front of a consistent sandbar left point. They share a communal collection of twenty or so boards, and with their positive vibes and surf stoke, the BBSC members are some of the most welcoming local surfers anywhere on the planet.
Our goal on this project was to try to get to the Turtle Islands, a group of sand keys in the southern part of the country. These are some of the most isolated islands in West Africa, where the residents live a traditional lifestyle of fishing and farming with fewer than fifty foreign visitors to the islands in a calendar year.
The islands have good exposure to seasonal southwest groundswell and the dry season northwest wind blows offshore – but would there be any rideable surf?
Take a look at the image and captions above. Seek and ye shall find, sometimes!
See more from John and the surfEXPLORE crew on their website, or Facebook, and follow them on Instagram @surfexplore and Twitter. surfEXPLORE relies on battleface Travel Medical insurance for all their projects. Check out their policies for surf travelers at Battleface.com