Surf’s Up in Senegal
Damn, and here I am sans wetsuit and surfboard
Back in 1966 a surf movie premiered in Iowa. Deep in winter, Iowans were treated to the ultimate surf film ever, the one that is the model for every surf, ski, or skate flick since then, Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer. In that film, two surfers travel around the globe looking for waves while California is deep in is doldrums. The first stop for these world-wanderers: Dakar.
In the movie, they surf some crap beach break, which made me think that I shouldn’t expect much from Senegal, even if I was staying a stone’s throw from the western-most point of Africa. In my morning runs around Dakar from the Sofitel, I could only agree. With tiny swells breaking on miniscule beaches, I wasn’t impressed enough to even get my toe wet in the ocean.
This afternoon, I switched hotels, moving to the Hotel Ngor/Diorama in Ngor, Senegal, about 10 minutes north of Dakar, next to the airport. At first, hearing it was near the airport; I looked longingly at the Sofitel’s beach and wished I’d taken a dip. Then, when I opened the French doors (of course!) to my balcony(!) and looked out, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
There, just in front of the hotel was a little bay formed in the shadow of the small island Ngor. A small island with the most amazing and heart-stopping long waves breaking around it on both sides. Like a pear wrapped in gold, or a diamond incrusted with emeralds, the view stopped me speechless and dumbstruck. For a full minute I just stared, slack-jawed at the most perfect point breaks I’d ever seen.
Then I broke into a sprint. Down the stairs, out the door and right into the hotel taxi-mafia. With pen, paper, scribbles and too-excited gibberish, I tried to explain to them where I wanted to go; Ngor. Ten minutes and two dollars later, I was way off course and swearing at the Club Med Amandine. Another $2 later I was at the right beach, running towards the water taxi, and at the bow, watching this little Belle Ile Ngor come into focus.
Off the boat, up the beach and through oddly narrow back alleys I scrambled till I came around a corner and saw this dream now a horrible nightmare reality. There in front of my was a perfect right. Straight from a dream, it peaked, broke, and then ran down the line to my left. Unhurried, unchanging and unridden, it crashed again and again against the rocky shore. Dream turned to nightmare as I watched, because all I could do was watch.
There without a surfboard, there without a wetsuit (the water is cold!), there, stuck on shore with tears in my eyes I watched perfection. Again. Again. Again. Like a machine stuck on a dream, Ngor crashed in front of me. A dream I could only watch as the sharp rocks, sucking current, and my lack of board and suit, taunted me.
With a heavy heart I turned my back on this apparition. I know its there, has been there, will be there, longer than man can count, and I will not be part of it. Such is the choice I made exactly a decade ago. Then I left the beach, Vero’s Beach, for the prosperity, adventure, and energy of capitol cities. And it’s only faced with such perfection that I remember this choice. Its only days like this I wonder what could’ve been. Its only now that I am thankful that I took this road.
See, had I stayed the beach-bum, happy with waves, not tasked with 9-5, I would’ve never seen Ngor, or Ngorongoro Crater, Novosibirsk, Nizhniy Novgorod, Novgorod, or even Nairobbery. And what would my life be without a Mad House?