culture

A Sierra Leone Surf Club

Meet the new Bureh Beach Surf Club, the first of its kind in Sierra Leone

| posted on January 22, 2014
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That right there is the universal arm signal for stoke. Photo: BBSC

Sierra Leone. For many, the country’s name still evokes images of blood diamonds, a desperate civil war, and enslaved child soldiers. Though the diamond-fueled violence ended well over a decade ago, deep scars remain. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries on earth, unemployment is rampant, and the majority of its population lives on less than a buck-fifty a day. Big parts of the country aren’t served by electricity, and clean water isn’t always available. But things are improving. The government is stable, the violence has subsided, and international investors are beginning to pour money into the resource-rich nation.

One of those resources is a beautiful and consistent left-hander that wraps into Bureh Beach, at the tip of Freetown Peninsula, a 90-minute drive from the capital city, Freetown. Bureh is a picturesque tropical village that now proudly boasts Sierra Leone’s first surf club. The club was founded a couple years back by Shane O’Connor, an expat Irishman who works in financial services who’d been living and surfing in Sierra Leone since 2009. He’d befriended a few of the Bureh locals over the years, and with their help, he convinced village elders that a surf club would be a positive economic benefit to the community.

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Yep. That’s the perfect tropical left of your dreams. Photo: BBSC

Once the village elders set aside some land for the club, O’Connor immediately began a small fundraising campaign and started looking for equipment donations. Friends in Ireland sent used boards, a German NGO helped build the clubhouse, and the UK-based surf forecasting service Magic Seaweed sent over a handful of soft-top beginner boards. One of O’Connor’s buddies had ties to Pioneer Surf Shop in New Hampshire, and convinced the shop to ship out much needed supplies. Freshly stocked with boards, and styled out with a new clubhouse, the Bureh Beach Surf Club launched in 2012.

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Here’s the view from the clubhouse. Perfect left after perfect left. Photo: BBSC

Sierra Leone has very, very few native surfers—O’Connor estimated that there were fewer than ten surfers in the entire country when he first visited in 2006—all of whom are concentrated in Bureh. The number of local surfers grows with each new member to the club; once there they get surf lessons, first aid and lifeguard training, and home cooked meals. There are even funds available to help the younger members pay for school and transportation. Though O’Connor got the surf club up and running, the local members of the community have since taken on the lion’s share of work. Any money generated by the surf club goes right back into the local economy.

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Locals rule. Photo: BBSC

Despite the Bureh Beach Surf Club, the surf potential in Sierra Leone remains mostly untapped. O’Connor and his students have occasionally tackled big pointbreak surf at Bureh, and he maintains that there are a handful of great, but unsurfed, waves nearby. Malaria, oppressive humidity, and inaccessibility are likely to keep it that way. Sierra Leone’s surf possibilities have been known, but largely ignored, since American surfer John Ford first sent word home in the early ’80s that the Freetown area was littered with good breaks. Expats and the international business community in Freetown are starting to take notice, however, and the surf club is primed for a growing role in Sierra Leone’s rebuilding tourist economy.

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Who doesn’t like Coconuts? Photo: BBSC

More photos from the Bureh Beach Surf Club.

  • pioneers

    Stoked to be part of such a rad project and glad to see all the boys and girls of Bureh Beach are scoring!!! The Pioneers Board Shop Crew

    • Manja

      didn’t know ‘rad’ was a word outside the 80′s. lol

      • BlackSails

        Where do you live? It’s been common forever in my world

  • KauaiDKer

    Put a big smile on my face to see all those grinning fellow surfers. And that left, looks like a lot of fun.

    • Pete Kahapea

      The Genesis of Surfing, yet again, starts with another Country thousands of miles away from the origin, of surfing, Hawaii. With a world class looking Left, breaking wave, the surfers will come, adventurous as always, trying to see around the next point, wondering if, there are waves to be ridden. Good luck to all of them, Keep the smiles and spread the spirit of Aloha, and you’ll be inundated soon enough with visitors, from around, the world!!

  • Eesha Williams

    Great article. Thank you for posting this.

  • André Rober Beriau

    Awesome Article! So stoked to see Shane and the boys getting attention for the work they’ve put in. Amazing to see a person do this for FREE outside of their 45+ hour a week job. To think of the meetings with village elders, the time it took to construct the club house, and coordinate all the donations, it’s incredible to see a person work so hard for the benefit of others.

  • http://www.theoneafricagroup.com Ryan Mcskimming

    I will be moving to Freetown at the end of the month so looking forward to getting some of those running left handers. See you soon Team! Ryan

  • http://www.theoneafricagroup.com Ryan Mcskimming

    I use RAD everyday!! Moving to SL end of the month so see you all soon!!

  • Ric Peek

    I want a t shirt how much ric.liai65@gmail .com Hawaii Kai shout out!