Senegal has all the makings of a vibrant surf scene: consistent breaks, warm water and a friendly, inviting culture. But without access to the raw materials needed to shape their own boards, many miss out on the fun. One local surfer found a unique way to create his own boards and has now launched a business with the goal of becoming the first Senegalese surfboard shaper.
Shaping a surfboard from scratch requires a great deal of skill and precision. It also requires a host of raw materials, such as resin and fiberglass, which are hard to come by in Senegal.
But those obstacles never deterred Pape Diouf from trying to make his own.
Diouf grew up in Dakar’s seaside Yoff neighborhood, where he learned to surf on boards borrowed from friends — boards that were typically imported from Europe or left behind by tourists. But Diouf says he always dreamt of making his own.
“It allows you to not be dependent on the West in order to have boards. So, once there’s a possibility to find a board locally, it will help the Senegalese surf industry develop much more easily,” Diouf said.
In 2019, a Lebanese-Senegalese surfboard shaper agreed to teach Diouf how to shape and repair boards. Since he didn’t yet have the funds to purchase materials, Diouf began salvaging old, discarded boards and repurposing them into new ones.
He often gave them away to young surfers from his community who didn’t have their own. Over the last year Diouf raised more than $15,000 through online crowdfunding and from international investors. He was granted a free 6-month training meant to help local entrepreneurs develop their businesses. He’s now in the running for a second round of investments. He plans to use the money to purchase the foam blanks he needs to shape the boards from scratch.
Walid Moukadem is the surfboard shaper who trained Diouf.
“It will be a first. It will really be a first. I don’t think there are many African surfboard shapers. To know that tomorrow Pape can sell his own boards, it’s huge,” Moukadem said.
Experts say there are many benefits to having surfboards shaped locally, particularly in countries where it’s not easily accessible. In Senegal, where infrastructure and businesses often rely on foreign investment, it’s also a matter of national pride.
Oumar Seye is the vice president of the Senegalese Surf Federation. He was the first professional Senegalese surfer and has witnessed the development of the country’s surf industry.
“What we would appreciate more is to have surfboards made in Senegal from Pape, it’s our hope. To have boards made in Senegal by a Senegalese [surfboard] shaper,” he said.
Seye said he looks forward to one day watching Diouf train the next generation of Senegalese surfboard shapers.