Surfing in Africa is about venturing to the last frontier. The waves of Morocco and South Africa are well known – and legendary. But what about Namibia, Ghana, and beyond?
The surf in Africa at a glance
- South Africa – J-Bay pros eat your hearts out
- Some entirely undiscovered sections of coastline with untouched waves
- Tiny lineups
- Dirty water and pollution issues
- Hard to get to
- Lack of surf shops and surf infrastructure
What will I find in this guide to surfing in Africa?
An introduction to surfing in Africa
Make no bones about it: Africa is one colossal destination for surfers. Nearly 40 countries boast sections of coastline on the continent, totalling shores that run for nearly 19,000 miles in all. Oodles of that is reserved for the dive meccas of the Red Sea and the Med-side beach resorts of Tunisia. But there are also long (seriously long) swathes of Atlantic-facing territory in these parts. On that western haunch of the landmass, you’re looking at mainstay favourites and more. They include upcoming Morocco next to totally untraversed surf land like Mauritania and Gabon. Tempted yet?
South Africa remains the jewel in the crown. That’s natural, what with the swirl of reliable currents that stir up between the Southern, Atlantic, and Indian oceans to give glassy barrels at J-Bay and all the pristine swells of the Western Cape. But it would be a real shame to finish your surfing in Africa there. The tropical reefs of Mozambique, the untrodden spots of Liberia, and the waves of Madagascar are also on the menu. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Downsides of planning an African surf adventure include lack of infrastructure and some difficult-to-reach spots. That’s not totally down to simple building issues like a dearth of roads, but also unstable political situations and whatnot. Still, we think this one’s an upcoming surf region that’s set to do some seriously big things.
The top destinations for surfing in Africa
Animal safaris aren’t the only sort that South Africa has up its sleeve. Surfing has been nothing short of ritual in these parts for decades. A whopping 2,500 miles of coastline over three ocean bodies sees to that. From cape to cape, you’ll find world-class spots around every bend in the breathtaking roadway. From J-Bay near Port Elizabeth to Elands Bay out west. Pros will be licking their lips at that, but there’s also plenty for kooks, like the relaxed cruisers of Muizenberg and the Indian Ocean spray along the KwaZulu-Natal.
Morocco is probably the fastest rising star on the African surf scene. That’s been true ever since the first board-toting travelers set their bags down in the dusty Atlantic fishing village of Taghazout. Sadly, we hesitate to recommend good old Tag these days on account of pretty hefty pollution problems. However, that’s not to discount Morocco as a whole. Hidden spots like Sidi Kaouki and that awesome right-hand point break at Imsouane cannot be ignored. Oh, and you can bolster a surf trip with hiking in the Atlas and haggling in the medinas of Marrakesh if you like!
Read our full guide to surfing Morocco
Ghana is a relative newcomer but still a tempting prospect for surfers adverse to lineups period. Over 500 clicks of coastline mean there should be plenty to get through, even in a country that’s relatively small for West Africa. South-facing shores mean there’s good shape to a lot of the waves as they turn around the panhandle and off the main Atlantic currents. That’s given the town of Busua in particular something to south about. It’s become the Ghanaian surf capital and even sports bona fide surf camps and surf schools.
Senegal might be better known for its high-octane rallies than its waves, but it’s on the rise as one of the hotspots of surfing in Africa. A glimpse at the map of the country will show just how much the capital of Dakar juts out into the ocean. That blesses it with the best of northerly and southerly swells, keeping boards waxed from December to December. The southern shores around Les Almadies are known for reef breaks, while the northern part hits a zenith with the reliable rollers of Ngor Island.
Catch the April to October window in Mozambique and you might just be rewarded with empty lineups and glassy walls of Indian Ocean swell. Yes, it might be tricky to get to. Yes, it might not be the most stable of countries in this corner of Africa. But just check out the peeling points of Ponta d’Ouro and the 25-degree sets of Imhambane and you could just be tempted to forget all that.
A guide to the Africa surfing season
The great thing about surfing in Africa is that there’s almost always a wave on offer. It’s all just a matter of picking the right place at the right time. For the purposes of this continent-wide guide, we’re going to have to simplify immensely…
North Africa (Morocco)
The winter season reigns supreme as the strong North Atlantic currents roll through and pump up the waves around the Essouaria-Taghazout coast. Possibilities of big overheads come in the peak months of December and January, which means beginners could be better off holidaying in March or November. We’d avoid the summer. Strong Saharan winds can wreak havoc in the high temperatures from May to September and chop up anything worthy of a surfboard.
West Africa (Ghana, Namibia)
West Africa enjoys its prime surf time during the April-August winter period. That’s mainly down to dominant swells that come in from the South Atlantic, but also because winds tend to drop away. This far midway up the continent, you’re also rarely looking at big-wave sets. The norm is shoulder to head, even on the punchiest of days. Longboarders are the natural riders, but we’d put our finger on the region as a doozy of a beginner destination for the years to come for purely climactic reasons.
South Africa always has something pumping. The country faces in three directions, giving it the Atlantic and the Indian and the Southern oceans alike. Basically, autumn and spring (May and November) tend to offer the peak conditions for hitting the water, especially if you’ve got your heart set on Jeffrey’s Bay. Generally speaking, you can expect bigger swells all over both capes in the winter months between April and August on account of the strong southerly currents. On the Eastern Cape, keep watch of wind direction, which can really help add glass to the offering in Durban and Port Elizabeth.