Praia Izè, São Tomé

article appears in Volume 30:
The Health Issue.

While travelling around the islands of São Tomé and Prîncipe,
just off the west coast of Central African coast, I came across a
beach an hour’s drive the capital, São Tomé, where local children
ride the kind of waves that would make a professional envious. As a
surfer, I was captivated by their skill and ingenuity as they
danced along the breakwater on imaginative, handcrafted wooden

It was a Saturday, so there was no school. The shoreline was
filled with women from the nearby village washing their clothes and
laying them out to dry on the pebbles. Two naked boys armed only
with a plank of wood clambered over the sharp volcanic rocks before
stopping at a ledge about 50m from the water’s edge. Their jump
into the ocean had to be well-timed; a rogue wave could easily dump
them painfully back onto the crags.

More and more children began to arrive in groups of two or
three, launching themselves into the ocean like lemmings. Yet as
soon as they hit the water they were on their own, free and
focused. For me, this time of quiet contemplation is the part of
surfing that I enjoy the most. It becomes a meditative experience,
a moment to escape the stresses and pressures of everyday life.
Watching these children undergo the same transformation almost felt
like I was dipping beneath the surface myself.

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São Tomé and Principe