Nigeria hosted over the weekend (May 19-21) its National surfing festival in Tarkwa bay, Lagos.
Senegal, South Africa and Morocco may immediately come to mind when thinking about surfing in Africa. Lagos too ambitions to become a popular surfing spot on the continent.
Nigeria’s Tarkwa bay gathers many youths and could provide them with a better future.
On Sunday (May 21), about 30 contenders were taking part in a national competition. A source of joy for the president of the Nigerian Surfing Federation who sees the sports as a tool for crime and violence prevention
"This have given them a lot of hope and we believe that with surfing some of them that are hopeless, that have nothing to do, that are frustrated, are beginning to develop hope that come from surfing- it become something positive in life," Adewale Fawe commented.
"It takes them away from bad criminality, it takes them away from drug abuse, it takes them away from all manner of wrong vices in this society. This is what surfing has offered them."
Representing African surfing
Some may think Lagos is an unlikely surfing spot with its oil tankers and polluted water. Still, it's Michael Gabriel's training ground. The man hopes to make his country shine on the global stage as he names US and Brazilian athletes he admires.
"I like surfing because anytime I surf, I feel good and I forget all my pains on me. And one day I believe I will become a champion [...]"
"I want to be like Kelly Slater (American professional surfer) John John Florence (American professional surfer), Ítalo Ferreira (Brazilian professional surfer), everyone. And I want to become like John (the organiser of the competition) also. I want to represent Nigeria, not only Nigeria, African surfing."
All has not been rosy in the story of the aspiring champion.
On January 21, 2020, the Nigerian naval forces cleared the waterfront and fishing community of 10,000 residents. They gave Tarkwa Bay residents a morning to pack up their lives and move out.
For Nigeria's army, tens of thousands of residents had to be "evacuated", without alternative housing, because the communities participate directly, or indirectly by buying fuel, in syphoning oil from pipelines which skirt the lagoon.
"They [Editor's note: authorities] said the problem is the pipeline vandalizer, they said too much fuel on this island, too much pipelines, so they demolished our island [...] since then I struggl[ed] to have a shelter, to eat food, to have a good life," Michael Gabriel says.
"We have been surfing hard, surfing hard, surfing hard, to make like a competition, to just forget everything else."
The winner of the senior surfers competition was 20-year-old Monday and for the junior surfers, it was his younger brother, 18 years old Joshua.
Nigeria offers a coastline of over 850 kms. The country joined the International Surfing Association in 2014.
Among other membership benefits, the association says member countries gain 'eligibility to participate in World-Class competitions' and 'enhanced performance in both event judging and coaching'.