surf spotlight on angola

9 December 2011 07:20:00 AEDT

Okay, so when your company said they were promoting you to run the new office you were hoping they meant the branch in Europe...not Angola! Anyway it's too late to back out now but what options for surf are you going to have? With such open access to the South Atlantic, Angola has regular surf. The geography of north west Africa tends to shield the coast from any swell with a northerly or north west component. During the winter however (June-August), large low pressure systems from the South manage to travel along the coastline and deliver regular south west to westerly swell.

Most of the spots you are likely to surf will be beach breaks such as Shipwrecks and Buraco which work better in a south westerly swell, there are a few quality point breaks in the area however such as Cabo Ledo which work better in a westerly swell. The Benguela current is the predominant surface stream in the area which flows from south to north along the coast. The current serves to bring reasonably regular rain to the coast but also brings the water temperature down a little more than you may expect for a tropical area. Still, you shouldn’t need anything more than a springsuit in the middle of winter.

Unfortunately, there is no real tourist economy in Angola at the moment, hence getting around can be a little difficult. In fact, travelling here basically requires you to have a sponsor. As a result, most surfers are actually foreigners working in the area of Luanda. You certainly are not going to have any problems with crowds in the area, in fact it can be a comfort to actually have someone to ride with – some of the areas are very sharky and when it gets big can be a little spooky. The capital Luanda sits on a jutting section of land which acts as a great swell magnet. Travel outside of the Luanda region can be difficult and if you don’t have a guide and appropriate safety equipment it can be plain dangerous.

Hence really only 125KM strip of the coast has been explored by surfers. There are some fantastic looking points to the south towards the Skeleton Coast on the Namibia border that have never been surfed, beaches that have never been walked on. The sand dunes along the coast stretch inland for over 100kilometres. Shipwrecked Europeans in the 1600’s walked inland from some of these beaches and were never seen again. It all begs the question, is this one of surfing’s last frontiers?

Level of surfing


Quality of surf


Call code


Net code





1,600 km


Arid in the south through to Temperate in the north. Dry season (May to October) with Wet season (November-April)


Difficult Access, War / Conflict

Best Months

May - September




Kwanza (AOA) Kwanza per US dollar - 80.4 (2006)

Time Zone

West Africa time (WAT) ALPHA (UTC+1)

Special Requirements

Private Beaches, Special Pass / Permits, Lengthy VISA Process, Non tourist Friendly


Dfb3941aff3973ba9eaba93cbcd6ad34Map of Angola

Angola is situated on the west coast of Africa, just south of the equator. The country is still in the process of rebuilding following 27 years of bitter civil war. The war ended in 2002 but the terrible legacy of 15 years of mine warfare has taken a terrible toll on the country.

As each side of the conflict ran low on funds they opted for the cheaper chinese made plastic mines that unfortunately are very difficult to detect and defuse. Nether the less, the HALO Trust (Hazardous Area Life-support Organisation) has made tremendous progress in clearing large areas of the country and returning them to the population for agricultural use. Still, it is unwise to venture too far off clearly marked roads.

Always stay close to the HALO Trust markers in suspect areas and be very suspicious of any red rocks, markers..or basically anything painted red. This is the standard form of noting the presence of a mine of other form of unexploded ordnance. But despite all of that – there is surf.


A253cbb23cd341a812e22c5456ac6081Angola's Queen Nzinga in peace negotiations with the Portuguese;1657

The original inhabitants of Angola were the Khoisan and Bantu tribes of Africa. Eurpoean contact was initiated by the Portuguese in the 15th century as an interim port from Europe for restocking prior to making the dash around the cape and onto the spice rich islands of the Indian Ocean.

As the Dutch began to expand their pwn spice trade in the 1640’s, the area came under their rule until the Portuguese finally reclaimed it by 1650. The capital Luanda grew from initial inception as a major slave trading port with Europe and the America’s. Portuguese rule continued for almost 500 years with the area being named Portuguese West Africa in the 1950’s.

The Portuguese colonial government was overthrown by a socilaist military coup in 1975 and the country decended into chaos. Two main groups emerged in the struggle for power, the socialist MPLA and the South African backed FNLA and UNITA. The Soviet Union was keen to support the socialist faction and used Cuban troops to support action in the area. Eventually the FNLA was defeated by Cuban forces.

The remaining UNITA was now backed by South Africa and The United States. Hence, Angola decended into 27 years of cold was fuelled conflict. The rich diamond and oil resources of the country ensured economic and military support from supporting factions – does this sound familiar to anyone? In 2002, the leader of UNITA was killed and a ceasefire called. The country today is technically a Republic yet free elections have never been held. Open violence has ceased and the country has embarked upon a rebuilding programme.


0f652cbd7f87fd471377a7b9369a896dColourful Herero Women

Several major carriers operate direct flights to the capital Luanda including South African Airways (Johannesburg) and Air France (Paris). Smaller African airlines connect from nearby capitals also. You can drive into Angola from Namibia – as discussed, makesure all of your paperwork is in order.

All nationalities require visas, passports valid for at least 6 months and vaccination certificates. Importantly, you need a letter of sponsorship from some from of organization stating that they will be responsible for you. Most overseas visitors come for work, the oil and gas / mining industry continues to boom. Usually these people can arrange a car through their employer to visit the surf spots around Luanda. There are a few very good South African surfers and many of them head down the coast on the weekend to get out of the city – try to hook up with a few of them if you can. A very friendly UN team may even bring you along for a trip down to some of the isolated communites on the south coast – now that would be special, fancy re-enacting the scene from Endless summer in teaching the locals to surf ?

On a serious note, make sure you only drink bottled water, always wear protection for sex and be careful of taking pictures around military or police installations – this can be misinterpreted fairly readily as spying and you can end up in some very hot water. English is not widely spoken at all so it would be wise to pick up a few phrases in Portuguese, especially if you are thinking of doing some travelling. If you are going to hit the road, always take plenty of water with you; the sand dunes of the far south are littered with a few hundred years worth of skeletons of those that failed to.


3e7cd5084b588cb2a0f079f897d402c7Mila Zinkova: Iridescent Clouds

For the surfer, the winter months of June – August offer the best chance of major swell activity. Being so exposed to the south however, there is swell for the majority of the year. The north westerly swells and storms of Dec - March are blocked by the rest of North West Africa and hence the area is predominantly flat throughout.

It can get very big in the Winter, (June – August) the south westerly swells travel all the way from the Antartic and can build up a considerable period by the time they meet the coast. Many of the beaches can be quite treacherous in these conditions with serious currents and under tows coming into play. If you do find yourself in this part of the world when it all comes together however – spare a thought for those of us surfing with 20 people on every wave, because you definetly won’t be.

where to stay

933a2cf38c3d102c4131f29dd31610efBenoit Rousseau: Downtown Luanda; 2005

Luanda is the capital and likely to be the place you will spend the most time. Accomodation is fairly expensive and you will have limited options unless a local organization has been able to help you out. The ‘Le Presidente Meridien’ is really the only choice in the city, and at $180 USD a night isn’t cheap. Some companies have arrangements with other guest houses in the area. Be wary of staying too far out of town however as crime is a big problem and firearms are carried by many civilians for protection.

what to pack

F9795fc3e977e755d8b9fc8976e38493Rich Niewiroski Jr.: 62 mm ultra-violet, fluorescent, and polarizing lens filters. Camera used was a Canon 400D; April 9, 2007

Trainers, loose clothing - everything for the hot weather. Definitely take along some bug repellent spray, good sunscreen and sunglasses! Better take your medicines with you (esp. anti histamine tablets), as the brands can be unfamiliar and cost more.

Bring along cash as it may be hard to find an ATM to withdraw money, and even if you are able to withdraw, the banks might charge you a high fee for withdrawing.. you may also lose from their exchange rates

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