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The Journey to Africa – Angola Surf

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  • Author:tomerp
  • March 31, 2020

Surfing Angola

After countless stories about the landscapes, waves, culture, samba dances and uniqueness of the country – it’s now my time for surfing Angola. Packed and ready to go, equipped with surfboards for any kind of condition including wet-suits, some clothes and very little accessories, I caught my flight from Israel to Frankfurt and then to my final destination Luanda, excited for a completely new type of a surf trip.

Some geographic info for those of you who unfamiliar with the African coastline – The Republic of Angola is located in West Africa, north to the deserts of Namibia and South Africa and south to tropical landscapes of Congo. Having 1,650 km of coastline and countless natural bays, Angola produce long, perfect waves that break all along its virgin coastline.

During the flight my endless thoughts prevent me from falling asleep. I’m on my way to a country that opened its doors to tourism only a few years ago, I don’t know anyone who visited there, have no Idea where to surf, and have no idea what to expect. Shortly after I landed in Luanda, all my thoughts replaced with pure excitement and expectation. A warm welcome awaited me at the airport by the local partner of Global Surf in Angola. Bizuka Barros (Super friendly Portuguese guy born in Angola and a former professional surfer who came to live in Angola) was waiting for me with a sign with “Lucky Surfers” on it – I knew it was me!
We started the journey with 4X4 vehicles fully equipped with camping gear and anything else we might need to tackle the journey along Angola’s wild coastline. During the ride, the spectacular views caught my attention. Africa is an amazing continent and you will never know what to expect. Northern Angola is characterized by green landscapes, mountainous landscapes, banana plantations, fields of crops and open spaces that never end.

Cabo Ledo

Our first stop was at the most famous surf town in Angola – “Cabo Ledo”. Completely stocked from the ride, no one could prepare me for what I was about to see. One of the best set ups I have ever seen in my life was lining up perfectly right in front of me with no one out. An endless left hander (can reach 800 meters) breaking into a beautiful sandy bay. The size of the swell was around 3-4ft height, and the waves was rolling from the top corner of the bay all the way into the shore. The direction of the swell makes the waves break almost vertically to the shore and rolling all the way along the bay. The feeling is like you’re riding a wave for so long without getting closer to the shore. I suppose I spent about a minute on each wave connecting so many sections until you could no longer stand on your feet. Paddling back to the lineup is so long that it is best to go back in and walk your way back to the peak at the top of the bay. There are no words to describe the levels of satisfaction and pleasure I felt after that one session.

Catanas

Once we lowered the ‘panic’ and had our first surf we could start the journey calm and satisfied. We started heading south towards the Namib Desert. After about 3.5 hours drive, we arrived at the first beach town, a fishing village named “Catanas”, which means in Portuguese – Machete. The village got its name immediately after the civil war ended in 2002 when the first surfers who discovered the village arrived at the beach. While the surfers were working on setting up their camp so they can spend the night calmly, they were amazed to see all the village members waiting for them with machetes in hand. The local people, which had no Idea the war has been declared over asked to chief of the village what to do with the intruders. The chief allowed them to spend the night at the beach, and that’s where the village got its name.
“Catanas” – a long, high-quality left hander point break, offers long rides over a rocky bottom combined with sand and pebbles. The waves are very friendly and fun and offer a variety of sections for performance surfing.

The water temp was around 20 degrees Celsius, and the temp outside around 26-27. The warm sun allows you to surf with only a vest a board shorts, real pleasure! After the session I came back in and found that Bizuka and the team had already set up camp, the tents were up, and the food was already on the table. Tired, full of good fresh food and satisfied, we went to sleep in our tents expecting for the new adventures tomorrow would bring.

After waking up in front of an amazing sunrise, we took another sip from the morning’s coffee and paddled out for another session in Catanas. The conditions improved due to the increasing swell and the light morning offshore breeze. We got out of the water for a pampering lunch and which afterwards we folded the gear, loaded the vehicles and continued our journey south.

Heading South

The next stop – “Cabo Negro.” A stunning desert bay, overlooking a particularly long left-hand point break, offering various good quality sections and some surprising tubes. Quick drops and long open face walls are rolling along the bay over shallow sandy bottom, making it easier to get in and out of the water. It is truly a magical and virgin place and the amazing waves are suited for all levels of surfers. Despite the fatigue from the trip, we were popped with the energy by the sight of the waves, got on short suits, unloaded the surfboards and ran in to a spectacular sunset session I will never forget. Right after the session, we lit a fire, Bizzuka prepared an all-time Poika, pulled out the guitars and started a jam that ended another amazing day in Angola.

In the morning, after another decent surf in Cabo Negro, we took off towards Flamingo Lodge. The lodge is located in the middle of the desert, facing spectacular views, and attracts surfers and fishermen from all over the world. You can choose between accommodation in nice rooms or alternatively in the campground, which includes toilets and hot water showers.

Already accustomed to camping conditions, I decided to stay in the tent to full soak the atmosphere. The rest of the group also opted for tents over the rooms as it is truly a unique experience.
We arrived at the lodge for sunset and after a warm and luxurious shower we sat down to have a dinner. Fish, potatoes, salads and cold beer, a perfect finish to a perfect day.
The area is characterized by large number of point breaks within an hour drive distance north or south while in the north you’ll find “Three Brothers”, which provide three extra-long left points, and another Beach Break called “Fisherman’s” which works at its best when the swell is small.

To catch the ideal conditions, we drove towards the “three brothers” before sunrise. We traveled all the way on the shoreline in the SUVs that are perfectly suitable for such a mission. It was amazing to see how completely different the landscape of this area is relatively to the green of north Angola. You can see nothing but dunes and natural bays. The area is so virgin that we opened our own travel routes in several places. I felt that I may be among the few surfers who ever surfed here.
From up the cliff we noticed a perfect wave rolling into one of the bays, it was the “little brother” who broke down perfectly. 300 meters of perfect open faces for performance, with one barrel section, braking over mixed sand and rocks bottom.
We all enjoyed the wave and surfed it for three days in a raw while we slept in Flamingo Lodge. The waves, the atmosphere, the views and the amazing food (I still have a vivid memory of the fish soup we had there one evening) provided an amazing experience I would do all over again without blinking.

Desert Queen

From there, we set off for the last and southernmost destination that lies at the heart of the Namibian desert, the “Tombaa”. This is THE WAVE! Long and heavy tubes that are breaking over sand and slightly reminds me of Puerto Escondido in Mexico. Unfortunately, the conditions were not ideal and too challenging. With Bizuka’s recommendation, we chose to give up the session and head out to the open beach to see the wrecked boats in the area. The open spaces of Angola and the never-ending beaches of the Atlantic remind you at every opportunity how powerful and wild the place really is, truly an admirable experience.
Despite the unfulfilled expectation of scoring a session in Tombaa, we made a U-turn and returned to Cabo Negro. Cabo Negro of course delivered its goods and luckily, we scored a perfect session. The waves are so fun and long that you feel your leg muscles already burning only half the way through. No matter how bad you want, you can’t get off the wave, the sections just open up one after another and pull you in for more. By the moment we were out of the water, a tidy tent, bonfire and dinner awaited us as usual. Another magical ending for another day full of new experiences.

The next day, we went surfing in a wave called “Salinas”, the wave is breaking in front of a local and magical fishing village that is hard not to fall in love with its simplicity. They all welcomed us with big smiles and good energy. The scenery on the site was amazing, a desert accompanied by natural salt pools and a huge bay. Before leaving we bought fresh fish at the village market which was still swimming a minute before. We spent the night on a natural and special cliff called Bentyaba, cooked the fish on the fire and relaxed to the sounds of the waves crashing on the rocks in the background. The proximity to the ocean and the virginity of the place created an electrifying feeling.
The next day we started our way back north towards Cabo Ledo, while every once in a while, a new perfect set up is appeared in the horizon delivers perfect waves that no one had ever experienced. We arrived at Cabo Ledo and it looked just as perfect as the first day. it is difficult to explain in words the levels of satisfaction these perfect waves make you feel. Head high waves rolling from up the point into the sandy bay and each wave feels eternal. Perfect end to a perfect trip!

The way back to the airport in Luanda was a great time to take another look of this unique landscapes, people, culture and memorize them as one of the most powerful surf experiences I have had in my life. I couldn’t believe our trip was over. Angola left me a lot of appreciation for the open landscapes of West Africa and lots of more flavor. That’s how a real surf trip should feel! There’s no doubt I will be back to explore this stunning, virgin coastal strip very very soon!

A bit of dry details on the Angola surf trip:

Surf season: May-October / Swell: Southwestern direction / Wind: Northeast to Southeastern / Water temp: ℃ 17-22 / Climate: Tropical-Desert / Attractions Key points: Namibian desert, national nature parks and nature reserve, waterfalls in the “Kavabo” river and the spectacular view of the Tundabala Mall.