Surf's up in Angola now the war years are over

Tue Dec 2, 2008 1:09pm EST
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By Henrique Almeida

CABO LEDO, Angola (Reuters Life!) - It used to be unthinkable for even the most daredevil surfers to venture south of Luanda toward the beach of Cabo Ledo during almost four decades of wars in the southwestern African nation of Angola.

The 125 km (78-mile) stretch of rugged coastal road that links the capital to one of the world's longest waves was peppered with landmines and heavily armed government troops guarding Luanda from rebels of the main opposition UNITA party.

While everybody was going surfing to the music of the Beach Boys in the 1960s, Angolans were fighting for independence from the Portuguese. Later they fought each other in a 1975-2002 civil war that claimed over half a million lives.

The war was so intense that even the most influential surf movie of the 1960s "The Endless Summer," which followed two surfers from California on their quest for waves around the world, failed to show any footage of Angola's 1,600 km wave-filled coastline.

But the restoration of peace in 2002 has turned oil-rich Angola into one of the world's fastest growing economies and opened a new frontier for surfers, mostly from Luanda, who flock to the warm blue waters of Cabo Ledo on weekends to ride waves.

"It's what keeps me sane after working for a whole week," said Francisco, a Portuguese surfer who runs a money exchange business in Luanda before he paddled out to catch a wave.

On a good day, the face of this very long, sometimes tubing wave, rises to about one meter (yard) at the eastern tip of the bay of Cabo Ledo, and breaks from left to right for over 500 meters (yards) until it breaks on the sand near a military barracks in the middle of the bay.


<p>Surfers walk along the beach at Cabo Ledo near the capital Luanda October 8, 2008. REUTERS/Henrique Almeida</p>