In Sierra Leone, No Moon Suits, Just Trunks and the Healing Surf

by Chris Dixon


In a Sierra Leone plagued by Ebola, Bureh Beach Surf Club members find resilience in a passion.
Photo: Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

BUREH BEACH, Sierra Leone — There is at least one place in this country, along a quiet, palm-fringed cove, where nobody is talking about viral loads or death rates, treatment centers or protective suits.

Instead, the focus is more elemental and more peaceful: on the rhythm of the waves, the pull of the ocean, the sets coming in.

Every weekend, despite the fact that this country is in the throes of anEbola epidemic, or maybe even because of it, a dozen or so die-hard local surfers paddle out into the blue-green swell, floating on their boards like water bugs.


Waiting for a wave at Bureh Beach in November. The club’s surfers rent out boards and cook for tourists, whose arrival has slowed to a trickle because of Ebola. Photo: Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times



But on the outskirts of Freetown, along a perfect crescent of golden sand where little wooden shacks stare out at the sea and the palms hang heavy with fuzzy coconuts, the Bureh Beach Surf Club gives new meaning to the word resilience. No one here is bowing to the virus. Instead, the surfers seem determined to live out their passion as a way to cope.

The club was just getting going when Ebola hit. The idea behind the club, founded in 2012 by poor fishermen and run like a cooperative, was to enhance ecotourism, protect Sierra Leone’s pristine coastline and create some jobs. Bureh Beach is the only surf club in the country, and the 30 or so surfers in it eke out a living by renting out boards and cooking up beachside meals for tourists, who used to arrive in scores. These days, they mostly see the lone aid worker or a few others swept in to work on Ebola.

Read the Rest of Jeffrey Gettelman’s Remarkable Article at The New York Times… 


Photo by Tommy Trenchard:


Photo: Bureh Beach Club. 

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