The big surf discoveries of the past 10 years have surprisingly been in Africa. Gone are the Hawaiian shirts and SoCal woody wagons. “Here, surfing is about exploration,” says Andy Davis, cofounder of the Cape Town–based surf brand Mami Wata, “in places that are still so wild—jungles, deserts, and unspoiled vistas—where there could be crocs and hippos in the water.”
Named after the African water spirit, Mami Wata celebrates this particular surf culture. Davis, owner of South African surf magazine Zigzag, launched the brand in 2017 with friends Nick Dutton, a former advertising executive, and Peet Pienaar, a designer who works with brands including Camper and Diesel. The trio develops and manufactures all of Mami Wata’s products locally. And its three Cape Town storefronts, located in hipster Woodstock, the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, and on trendy Kloof Street, double as urban surf clubs, with fair-trade coffee and TVs playing big-wave films. On the shelves, you won’t find neon hues or shaka-sign motifs. Board shorts and tees feature primary-color prints of surfing zebras and bananas—a nod to Morocco’s mellow right-hand wave called Banana Point.
African surf breaks also inform the boards, all hand-shaped by legendary South African craftsman Hugh Thompson. And to shift the traveler’s mind-set from wildlife safari to surf safari, the brand has partnered with local outfitter Escape+Explore to offer trips around the continent. There are also long-term plans to launch surf lodges. “Surfing in Africa is unlike anywhere else,” Dutton says. “We’re the new frontier.”
Where to Catch Africa’s Best Waves
Tofo Beach, Mozambique
These gentle breaks, 300 miles northeast of Maputo, are ideal for longboarders.
You’ll see mosques from the A-framers here. “It feels like surfing in Indonesia,” Dutton says.
Noumbi, Republic of the Congo
This chocolate-brown wave in the middle of the Congo breaks for 600 feet.
Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
J-Bay is known for Super-tubes, one of the world’s finest right-hand point breaks.