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Cottons in Liberia, Africa, a world class surf spot on its day
Outside Cottons, reeling into Inside Cottons | Photo © Alphanso Kwame Appleton



By Will Bendix

Like Snapper Rocks in reverse, without the crowd. That would be the simplest way to describe the series of points that make up the Robertsport Peninsula in northwest Liberia.

The crown jewel amongst these sandy treasures is Cottons, a consistent left that spins off between clumps of rocks and ancient primary rainforest that tumbles down to the shore.

On a normal day, the wave is made up of Outside Cottons and Inside Cottons, two separate sections that can offer rides over a hundred yards long. But when deep, booming groundswells march up the length of the African coastline, the two sections connect into a thigh-aching wall that can run for half a mile. Locals will even tell you of days when the wave connects all the way to Fishermans, the furthest point inside the bay, a mile away.

The only spoiler is the tradewind, which tends to blow sideshore during the peak swell season. But even then, the wave remains a highly ripable affair and is the least of the local crew’s worries. Rather, it’s the slow recovery from decades of civil war.

Locals will even tell you of days when the wave connects all the way to Fishermans, the furthest point inside the bay, a mile away.

Between 1989 and 2003, Liberia was devastated by horrific back-to-back civil wars with a number of rebel groups vying to overthrow the Liberian government. In an unlikely genesis story, Alfred Lomax became the first Liberian surfer after he found a bodyboard in a rubbish dump while fleeing rebels in the capital of Monrovia. Lomax taught himself to “slide” along the waves, learning to surf alone without any outside influence. He returned to Robertsport after the war ended and later met Nicholai Lidow, a young academic from America. Lidow passed on a surfboard to Lomax and returned year after year; eventually making the documentary Sliding Liberia that would help awaken the surf world to the rich potential along Liberia’s coastline.

In the years that followed, a small surf community was forged around the sandy points of Robertsport. Two Americans built a surf lodge in partnership with the local community, and travellers started finding their way to the tropical outpost. Things were looking up. Then the Ebola outbreak struck, and the country was flung into another crisis that lasted two years.

Liberia is once again finding its feet. The war is long over, there is no more Ebola, but the waves remain.


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