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Stormrider Guide to surfing Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast, AFRICA


Grand Drewin, Marc Fenies

Summary

+ Empty line-ups - Inconsistent swell
+ Light wind patterns - Lack of big waves
+ Cool beachbreaks, easy points - Fairly expensive
+ Jungle scenery and animals - Malaria and hygiene threats

Located on the Gulf of Guinea, the Ivory Coast contains 515km (320mi) of exposed southerly facing shoreline. This equatorial country picks up the South Atlantic swells, which break on a variety of beaches and reefs, backed by swaying coconut trees and endless lagoons. Close to the Ghanaian border, Assinie is the most popular surf destination in the country with fast, hollow beachbreak conditions and a French run surf camp. When the swell picks up then there’s reef and pointbreak action to the west and more mellow waves ideal for longboarders and beginners.

When to Go

Nov to April is the best time to catch the clean beachbreaks like Assinie, which only work on smaller swells anyway. The pointbreaks work on Southern Hemisphere wintertime groundswell, but it is also the rainy season when malaria is an issue. The Harmattan is a cool and dry N wind that blows offshore from December to May (10-20%), although around lunchtime a gentle onshore sea breeze picks up and ruins the waves. From June to September, the SW monsoon blows a mild onshore most of the time, but on the whole, wind strengths are fairly light. Tidal ranges are very low and only affect some shallow spots.

Surf Spots

From the Liberian border to San Pedro access to the remote coastline is difficult beyond the main towns of Tabou and Grand Bereby which both have some soft beachbreak. San Pedro has a black lava reefbreak, a number of beachbreaks to choose from and also a consistent low tide shorebreak. Monogaga is protected by a jutting headland so the righthand point needs a huge swell to work and will handle WSW winds. Rocky headlands like Grand Drewin hold a better righthander that breaks in a small sandy cove facing a fishing village. Faster walls and the suckier inside section keep the locals and visitors happy. Sassandra main beach is dirty, but the rights off the pink granite reef can produce rides of up to 100m. There are some other good right pointbreaks around that are worth searching for. There’s also miles of average beachbreak nearby, but this area swarms with mosquitoes during the rainy months. Dagbego, in front of the ‘Hotel Best of Africa’, where there is a very nice beach with a right breaking from the tip of a rocky point. It needs a big swell to give long, workable walls, which won’t be hollow. West of Abidjan is Grand-Lahou, a tourist zone with beachbreaks and a ‘passe’ where a sandbank holds a decent right and a left, best on an incoming tide. Either side of the capital Abidjan, a deep-water trench creates endless closeouts with horrendous rips and is locally known as ‘La Barre’. The tourist beach town of Grand Bassam lacks quality banks, with either shoredump or messy chaos, but if the lagoons open to the sea between here and Assouinde, a quality passe may appear. Rips, rip offs and jellyfish can be a problem. Assinie, is the most popular surf destination in the country with bigger, more powerful beachbreak conditions, breaking fast and hollow and it always picks up any available swell. Handles overhead conditions before it closes out and is usually glassy in the morning and evening. Paddling out can be punishing when bigger. Winter conditions are often smaller and cleaner making it ideal for beginners. Peaks are named after the kilometre road signs. Currents and murky water up near the rivermouth.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell S -S S -SW S -SW S -SW S -S S -S
swell size (ft) 2 2-3 3-4 4 3 2-3
consistency (%) 60 60 70 50 60 60
dominant wind S -W S -W S -W S -W S -W S -W
average force F2 F3 F3 F3 F3 F3
consistency (%) 65 73 75 82 74 72
water temp (C) 27 28 27 25 24 26
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts

Travel Information

Weather
There is a short rainy season corresponding with the SW monsoon during Oct-Nov and again from mid-May to July. From Dec to mid-April and Aug to Sept, it’s usually dry. Highest temps are around 35-37°C (95-99ºF), occurring from March to June with 100% humidity. The coolest months are Aug, Sept and Jan. The water temp never drops below 23°C (73ºF) and often hits 28°C (82ºF). Take a rash vest for sun protection.

Lodging and Food
In Assinie you can rent a hut for cheap, but it's rough. Club Med is closed at Assinie, but there are plenty of lodges like RipCurl Camp and Kame camp. Assinie surf camp bungalows cost $35/dble/full board. Local food is cheap - great selection of fruit.

Nature and Culture
This is a totally rural, African beach-life trip with little to do at night. When it’s flat, Abidjan (2 hours away) is the best city trip to take. Jungle trips involve money and at least 2-3 days. Canoe trips around the lagoon, 10 minutes away from Assinie, will reveal crocodiles, birds and other exotic fauna.