With its long sand beaches and many offshore islands, the coastline of Mozambique in East Africa has long been something of a mystery to surfers. With a history of war dating from the independence conflict with Portugal in the 1960’s to the civil war that followed the departure of the Portuguese from all their African colonies in 1975, most of the country was inaccessible until a peace agreement was signed in 1992.
With the end of the fighting and a liberal visa policy for South Africans, many wave discoveries have since been made. Most have been in the southern half of the country by South African surfers driving north from the border on large winter groundswells moving up the coast and filling in to many right points between the border and Maputo, the capital.
Less well-known are the many offshore islands. Actually, really anything at all is well-known about the northern part of the country. It is a long drive from the South African border, and who wants to drive past perfect waves to see what might be there?
Our project focused on the historic Ilha de Moçambique, a fascinating destination and a UNESCO World Heritage site in the province of Nampula. There are several offshore islands in front of the Ilha, open to long-period winter groundswell and numerous right point setups on the mainland to the north and the south.
With the Mozambique Channel nearby, we learned quickly that tides are a big factor in this area. With a daily swing of up to four meters between high and low tides, a good right point at peak low tide would cease to exist at peak high tide, so a good tide chart and timing were critical. The beachbreaks were much better on an incoming tidal push, so the plan was to hit the points at peak low and then move to one of the beachbreaks as the tide pushed in.
As there are no local surfers at all, we had to write our script as we went along, checking out several of the offshore islands and points to the north and south of the Ilha. Local muslim villagers gathered in numbers at one right point and cheered wildly as first Emiliano, then Marco and finally Taylor caught their first waves. They said they have never seen surfers before in their lives, so we knew we were in the right place to score some new waves.