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SUMMARY
+ Quality, empty pointbreaks
+ Consistent summer swells
+ No rain during surf season
+ Untouched equatorial island
+ Beautiful scenery and wildlife
- Mostly small waves
- No access to west coast
- Expensive local prices
- Costly flights
- Malaria
oneill



Sao Tome, Sao Tome and Principe, AFRICA


Radiation Point, John Callahan/Tropicalpix

Surf Spots

Forte de Sao Tome
Lavadouro
Radiation Point
Batismo
Dique
Santana
Agua Ize
Baia Coqueiro
Io Grande
Porto Alegre
Praia Pestana
Point Zero Left
Ecolodge
Fim do Caminho

The Surf

Approximately 270km from the western shores of Africa, São Tomé and Príncipe Archipelago are composed of 3 islands: São Tomé is the largest, followed by Príncipe which is 30min away by plane, and finally the tiny islet of Rolas (3km²). São Tomé and Príncipe is a developing country, with an economy based on coffee, cocoa, small-scale agriculture and fishing. Principe was the first island where cocoa trees were planted in 1822 by the Portuguese, hence the nickname of the “Chocolate Islands”. Many plantations were abandoned after independence in 1975, which wreaked havoc with the economy of the country for decades. The islands are still in reconstruction, but war is history and oil and tourism have taken over as the new way to give a better future for this secluded paradise. Australian and American surfers visited as early as the ‘70s, and the odd French surfer from Gabon or the Ivory Coast, but travelling surfers remain rare. The first media surf trip to this area was in August 2000, when Callahan, Rarick, George, et al found many promising set-ups along the east coast plus the equator straddling Point Zero Left.



When to Go

At this equatorial latitude, only solid S-SW groundswells produce surf. It’s usually flat from October to March. The Austral winter brings several main swells a month, producing 2-8ft (0.6-2.5m) wave faces, often with long periods in the 18sec range. Rolas is the most exposed island, but it can’t handle much size. Radiation Point also boats consistency and will break on windswell. The SSW wind is dominant, and it is strongest from June to Sept, with regular 20-30km/h speeds, before backing off and going more W or SE during the off season. S/SE wind is also more likely at the airport on the northeast coast, as it bends around the island. Porto Alegre rights need a good swell to break, and rarely reaches 6ft (2m). Access is a problem for west coast spots and other potential locations between Porto Alegre and São João dos Angolares. Many forecasting sites ignore São Tomé so use the Gabon data. It takes 3-4 days for South African swells off Cape Town to reach São Tomé. Salinity might be lower in the Guinea Gulf during heavy rainy seasons. Tides are semi-diurnal with 4ft (1.2m) max of tidal range. This affects Radiation Point, which does not work at high tide when small.

SURF STATISTICS
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW
swell size (ft) 1-2 2-3 3-4 3-4 2-3 1-2
consistency (%) 30 50 60 70 50 30
dominant wind S -W S -W S -W S -W S -W S -W
average force F2-F3 F3 F3-F4 F3-F4 F3 F3
consistency (%) 76 74 75 92 85 78
water temp (C) 28 28 27 25 26 27
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts
Population
183,176

Coastline
209km (136km Sao Tome)

Timezone
GMT

Travel Information

Weather

Sao Tomé is fully equatorial but because of abrupt topography and oceanic SW winds, there is a great diversity of climates as well as rainfall, going from 2000mm (80in) in the coastal NW to 7000mm (280in) in the SW highlands. Northern and western zones are drier than the rest of the island. The eastern coast is semi-humid, cloaked with rainforest down to the sheltered beaches. The south is generally the most humid and rainy. The main rainy season is from February to May and again from October to November, when an almost constant southerly breeze blows at 10-25 knots. When it rains, the sea becomes muddy. Despite the moisture it is often sunny, and the rains are mostly thunderstorms. During “Gravana”, from June to September, the sea becomes choppy, which makes it difficult to go out by boat. Divers prefer the rainy season for visibility. “Gravanita” is the name given to Dec-Feb, which is a lighter version of Gravana. Warm water year-round, with a vest in July-August.

Nature

A paradise for bird watchers, hikers and biodiversity lovers. Sao Tomé Pico is a volcanic cone at 2024m. Don’t miss Obo National Park. Check out Tchiloli, a weird form of theatre where men roam around Cao Grande, a mountain on Sao Tomé. Visit coffee or cocoa plantations. Sea turtles can be seen at Mikolo Beach.

Hazards

As well as yellow fever shots, full protection against chloroquine-resistant malaria with appropriate drugs and mosquito repellent is essential. To surf the SW coast means going prepared. Radiation Point can be quite shallow but rocks are ok. Rolas can be out of control with strong rips. Friendly locals on local wooden boards are becoming more common.

Hints

Bring a longboard for the smaller days. Dollars and Euros are accepted for main payments - no cash machines. Dobras are used for local markets, taxis etc. Santomean cuisine is very rich! Refuse to eat dishes made of sea turtles (meat or egg), or other protected species (shark, earth snails, forest pigeons etc). Eat Calulu, Blabla, Cachupa and Feijoada.