As devotees of print, it’s always an exciting moment when a brand new, independently produced piece of surf publishing lands on our desk.
Last week it was a particular pleasure to finally get our hands on the first edition of the firs ‘Local Surfer’ book – a project we have been following for a number of years, which features an exploration of the unique local surf culture of Senegal.
The book comprises a selection of images, illustrations and written stories compiled over an extended trip to the west African nation by a photographer and illustrator duo named Goivanni and Anna.
Their idea for the project first came a few years ago, as the pair sat hauled up in a car on a storm-battered beach in Finland, where they are both based. They were discussing how they felt surfing’s image had been hijacked in recent years by the privileged elite surfer. Or, as they put it: “Rich western guys, sponsored, with cool surfboards riding perfect waves in picture-perfect horizons.”
So they decided to do something about it, heading off on a two-year quest around the globe, in search of the authentic experience of local surfers in far-flung places. Their first stop was Senegal.
They began by contacting as many local surfers they could find in the country online, setting out a vague plan to visit each of them and tell their stories. Not wanting to arrive empty handed and aware of how hard good surf equipment is to come by in the nation, they hit up local Finnish shaper Olli from Kala Surfboards, who kindly agreed to donate some surfboards for them to give to the surfers they met along the way.
The resulting book serves as a detailed study of people and place, offering readers an unprecedented look into a unique West African surf culture. We learn about the waves, the culture and the history. We Meet the pioneers of the sport and the country’s modern practitioners; from a dedicated self-taught national champion to the nations first female surfer.
The photography is striking and the stories emotive, providing a real window into a surfing experience thoroughly detached from our own. More than that though, the book offers a much more nuanced and three-dimensional view of African culture than the barrage of poverty-stricken imagery of the continent that fills the western press. And in that way, the project serves as so much more than just another bit of surfing content.