In the mid 2000s, surf magazines were sending surfers to some of the most unstable places in the world. Haiti? Yemen? Gabon? Surfing Magazine did exploratory trips to all three countries in one year, at a time when they were all at the height of political unrest. While the fear factor made for great stories, the expeditions didn’t exactly uncover any world-class waves, and the novelty of going surfing somewhere just because you might get kidnapped after every session quickly wore off.
Earlier this year, photographer Alan Van Gysen convinced Luke Davis and William Aliotti to join him on a surf trip to Nigeria. But not for the novelty. According to Alan, the coastline had legitimate setups, and he was ready to prove it. So they went. They didn’t unearth anything spectacular this time around, but they did find fun waves and friendly faces, and a couple of empty setups that might make you seriously consider Nigeria for a future surf trip. Need more proof? You can read the details of the adventure in the latest issue of SURFER.
In the meantime, we caught up with Luke to hear a bit more about the trip.
What sort of hoops did you have to jump through before you were able to actually board a flight to Nigeria?
It was pretty hectic. I made a super last-minute decision to go, and I had to get two shots — one for Yellow Fever and the other for Hepatitis — and I also had to send my passport out to get a Visa and then drive to the passport agency in LA to get it approved, all in two days. And then the mission to actually get there was another thing entirely.
Was Nigeria what you expected? Or something else entirely?
I didn’t have a lot of crazy expectations because I'd only seen a photo of the wave once before I left. It's an interesting spot. There's a fun left and a wedge right, and that's pretty much it, at least what we saw. They're both really tidal, so you only get them for a couple hours each day. It's tricky. You don’t get to surf all day, so you really have to make it count. I guess it's more consistent during the rainy season, but the water is of worse quality then. There are certain months when the right wedge is good for weeks straight though, and it's a super rampy wave, so you can surf it by yourself. Hard to say that about anywhere in the world these days.
Do you feel like there are other undiscovered setups around?
The people who we were with didn’t think so, because it's a lot of the same, closed-out beachbreak. Apparently, there was a Namibia-style sandbar over there a few years ago while they were pumping sand and building these jetties. But it only lasted about a year, and then completely disappeared.
There was a bombing of a refugee camp in Nigeria while you guys were there. Did that news reach you?
Really? Wow. No. That's sketchy. The area we were staying was pretty removed from all of that. It was a little, mellow beach community. Everyone was nice and it has a little island vibe. There wasn’t a lot to do except hang near the beach and surf. But the city, where the airport is, felt pretty wild. Super busy, super crowded.
Was there a local surf scene?
There were a bunch of kids bodysurfing, and a couple of them have boards. They were all switching off surfing. But every time we went out, they would just be freaking—trying to get out in the lineup with us. I bet you'll see a bunch of kids over there surfing in the future.
Even though you didn’t get the best waves in Nigeria, do you get psyched for these off-the-beaten-path missions?
I'm always down. Before the trip, I didn’t know anyone else going on it, either, so it was definitely an experience going somewhere like Nigeria with a crew you've never met before. It's always sick going to new spots when you don’t know anyone who's been there. The waves weren't great, but it's one of those life-experience trips I'll never forget. It made me feel really lucky and blessed to be from California. I'd never see Nigeria otherwise, and it opened my eyes to how many waves are in Africa. There is so much coastline. I want to go back and do some more missions. The only thing is that it's hard to do strike missions all the way to Africa from California, because it's so far away. But, like with Nigeria, it's always worth it, just for the experience.