Saturday 2nd November 2008 made history in Ghana with the first ever surfing contest held at Busua Beach in the Western Region of Ghana.
Words: Brett Davies Photos: Kristin Menzel
This was my second trip to Ghana. After my first trip last Christmas I had fallen in love with this country for a number of reasons: surfing uncrowded waves was one reason for my attraction to this African country, but also the people who had made me feel so at home and made my stay unforgettable.
I was going to travel to Mexico last Christmas but being peak season flights were out of my budget. I decided to look at other options and for surf destinations that I hadn't travelled to before with the hopes of scoring some good uncrowded waves. Remembering that Ghana had been one of the destinations that Bruce Brown had travelled to in his classic movie The Endless Summer, I started to research into Ghana and came across a surf shop called Black Star at a beach called Busua.
The shop was owned by an American from California called Peter Nardini and co-owned by a local from Busua called Frankee Bordes. I contacted Peter to ask what the conditions would be like over this period, and he informed me that it wasn't the best season but he had scored good waves the previous season. So I took a chance and booked my ticket. I surfed at least three times a day in uncrowded 2-3ft punchy beach breaks with the odd little cover up here and there. Having travelled to many surf destinations around the world, never have I been able to surf every single wave I wanted. At this point there were only a few local surfers in Ghana, most of whom had only been surfing for a couple of years.
I had an idea before I left to organise a local surfing contest in Ghana and I knew that Peter was also keen on the idea. I work in the surfing industry (Rip Curl UK), and thanks to James Hendy (UK marketing manager) I was able to gather enough promo to use as prizes for the contest, also using contest rash vests left over from this year's Rip Curl Boardmasters to use for the Ghana contest. Most of the event was organised when I reached Ghana, with the help of Black Star and a few friends: the posters were hand-written and sent to lodges in the surrounding areas. Trophies were made by a local carpenter called Richard who did an outstanding job considering it was tough to explain to him exactly what we wanted.
The event had four categories: men’s, longboard, ladies and a tag team, which was mixed with locals and foreigners. I knew that there were about eight local male surfers, two local ladies and about four foreign surfers within the area - but I did not know what to expect on the day.
Unfortunately, on the day of the contest the waves had dropped in size from the 4-5ft world-class waves I had had the pleasure of surfing at various spots earlier on this trip. But the posters had paid off and on the day surfers from all over the globe wanting to take part in this historical event came down. There were surfers from the UK, Italy, France, Germany, America, Canada and even an Aussie from Margaret River.
The surf was 2ft and glassy in the morning, and we managed to run all the semi finals and the ladies final. We ended up with enough surfers to have four man heats in each category apart from the ladies. The tag team was lots of fun, having a mix of locals and foreign surfers. The finals were run in the late afternoon using the tidal push to its full advantage. Throughout the day the beach started to fill with locals, volunteers and travellers creating an incredible atmosphere. The men’s final was the last to hit the water, with most of the finalists surfing 3-4 times that day. The final horn was sounded at sunset and after we held a presentation to crown Ghana's first ever surf champions, followed by a massive party with lots of dancing and a bonfire on the beach.
I would like to thank all the surfers who took part in this event, without you this event would never have happened. Also to all the spectators who turned up to cheer on and support the surfers that took part. I would like to thank Black Star surf shop for hosting the contest and my good friends Akwasi McLaren and Sean McKernan. Hopefully this contest will pay a small part in promoting surfing in Ghana and be the start of many more things to come.