The Land of Perfect Line-ups
“Every morning of the trip I surfed glassy peelers, most of which break in the outer reefs”
I’d heard a lot about the waves in Madagascar, so my expectations for the trip were high. But I’d also heard about the sharks, which were also on my mind. However in a month of surfing perfect 2-6ft waves I never spotted a single shark on the reefs there.
Every morning of the trip I surfed glassy peelers, most of which break in the outer reefs, just a few minutes’ away by boat from the lodge where we were staying. The one I surfed most was Roger’s Right, a very long wave when the right swell hits the reef, providing a nice variety of walled sections, sometimes a barrel section in the middle, and, if you’re lucky, a second barrel on the inside. It’s a great wave to practice rail turns, floaters and top turns in some very fun sections – and it’s easy to make it all the way to the inside, ready for the long paddle back out to the empty line-up, to wait for another set wave. It’s dreamy and tiring after a few waves.
When it was too small at Roger’s we surfed a low-tide right hander, with a fast and super-fun section where you can do two or three pocket turns, before it slowed down for some rail carves or cutbacks. Then there are the lefts; the most famous of which is Flameballs, nearly an hour away by boat, where a tube ride above a shallow reef makes a great-looking wave and the most sought after in the area. It needs a decent swell to work and holds well in the wind, making it a great option on the biggest days. Unfortunately I didn’t get to surf it this time, but I did surf another left, just a few minutes’
from the lodge and so much fun, with an easy take-off, a walled section and then a faster final section above the reef.
I surfed amazing waves every day and on a couple of sessions there were only of couple of other people out. I met some guys from the Reunion Islands who’ve been surfing there for over 20 years, in search of good waves away from the sharks. The rest of the crowd were made up of three groups of surfers staying in our lodge. The first was a fun English fun crew, including shaper Markie Lascelles, World Champion longboarder Ben ‘Skindog’ Skinner, Sharpy, the talented photographer, and Jem Rogers, one of the lodge owners who usually scored the bomb of the day. The second group was made-up of the three people on my trip: Valeria, the happy Mexican 17 year-old, surf coach Justin West and Rita, the nicest woman you’ll ever meet, who had the job of making everything happen. Finally there was a group of South Africans – a trio of fifty-something year-old guys and one of their sons. One of them, Deon, not only made a few barrels but was also a great fisherman – he caught nine fish in three hours, seven of which were over 6kg.
All these guys were easy-going, fun and super happy, which made this trip super special. Meeting them was definitely the highlight of the trip, along with the empty line-ups, of course. The feeling of paddling out into perfect waves in the early morning light makes my heart beat faster and makes me want to get back there as soon as I can.
“The feeling of paddling out into perfect waves in the early morning light makes my heart beat faster”
“I fell in love with Madagascar and will definitely go back”
The worst element of the trip was probably the long journey to get there, but it was totally worth it – it was amazing to arrive at the lodge by boat, welcomed by lots of excited kids from the village. The people and the culture are amazing. The boats are handmade and the sails look like rice bags sewed together. The older boys and men sail and fish far out the sea, while the younger ones learn how to sail and fish closer to the shore. The kids play on the beach all day (I think they go to school after lunch) and they are always smiling, singing and dancing, and look very happy. They tried to communicate with us with some French words they had learnt, but their Mother Tongue is Malagasy and I wished I could understand it.
Because the waves are so long and there are no crowds, life in the water was endless paddling and catching waves. After four hours of surfing I was tired and sore, so when the onshore winds hit in the afternoon, it provided a welcome reason to enjoy the amazing and comfortable lodge, where you could play ping-pong, watch movies, play cards, eat great food and mingle with the lovely people staying there. Or you could just explore the endless, empty white-sand beaches.
I fell in love with Madagascar and will definitely go back. What with beautiful people and culture, amazing un-crowded surf and tropical, crystalclear water, what else could you want on a surf trip?
Leonor trying to make the most of a slower section at Roger’s Right.
Local women carrying water gallons.