In the realm of surfing in Liberia, a captivating myth is emerging. The myth has a name and it’s Oscar Commey. Chronicling the remarkable story of Oscar, a young man rising to the top of the Liberian surfing scene, this narrative unfolds against the backdrop of a destination scarred by civil war and striving to rebuild.
I’m Dan Sebal and I’ve embarked on a journey to West Africa. I’m here with Kent and Landis from Universal Outreach, an organization working in Liberia to create opportunities for ambitious yet under-resourced Liberians through education and economic development. I’m out to shed light on the positive transformations the Universal Outreach Community catalyzed through its commitment to empowering communities to help themselves.
First Stop: Fact Check
In pursuing the mythical Oscar, I decided my first stop in Liberia should be a visit with Mai Urey, a highly influential figure in Liberia, particularly in the realms of government and tourism. Contrary to the discouraging travel advisories, Mai conveyed the friendliness and safety prevailing in Liberia. The exaggeration of risks, as she explained, was rooted in politics, unfairly tarnishing the image of a nation working towards recovery.
Embarking on the Adventure:
Prepared with this newfound perspective, I set out for Robertsport, commencing my exploration with a fellow volunteer, Tom, a talented architect from the UK. Tom, like myself, had questioned the validity of the travel advisory, but fate has brought him Liberia as part of a team developing a plan for the Robertsport Surf Club to expand their accommodation offerings.
Arrival in Robertsport:
As we traversed the dusty red mud road leading to Robertsport, the town unfolded before us, resembling scenes from a post-apocalyptic movie set in a tropical paradise. Despite the decayed buildings, nature's reclamation, and bustling townsfolk, the atmosphere exuded resilience and joy. Kent and Landis, the boots with 18 years of Robertsport surfing and camping experience, provided valuable insights into the community's way of life.
Philip's Guest House:
Our accommodation, "Philips Guest House," a clean yet rustic lodge located mere meters from the water, is testament to Universal Outreach’s dedication to helping develop businesses in regions with growth potential. They offered Philip a loan through the organization's loan program to start his business. The loan was given right before COVID hit Liberia, but Philip managed to pay it back, and the guest house continues to be a haven for travellers.
"The real treasure, however, lay in the pristine beachfront – an untouched beauty that stirred conflicting emotions within me. Should such splendour remain hidden, or should it be shared to breathe financial life into the community?
The Robertsport Surf Club:
Years ago, the GCMCSCA approached Kent and Landis to discuss their vision for economic diversity in Robertsport through tourism. It was suggested that the NGO first acquire land for a secure home for the project. The local NGO rallied government officials and got the job done. Surf appreciating donors from Universal Outreach then came on board. Now, five camping platforms, a restaurant, a clubhouse and a business office, all powered by solar, sit right in front of Fisherman’s Point, the break of choice on bigger swell days.
Thanks to the Universal Outreach Community in partnership with the International Surf Association, the youth of this community have been equipped with water safety, surf instructor training and competition judging skills, providing them with more ways to earn important dollars.
The project's overarching goal is economic development and job creation by rejuvenating Robertsport's tourism sector. With tourists comes tourism dollars and Robertsport’s culture, beaches and surf breaks make it the ideal location to relax, explore its rich history, hike, or learn to surf.
From newly developing events like being on the newly established West African Surf Circuit to its history that includes WW2 plane crashes, Robertsport offers a diverse experience for adventure seekers, history enthusiasts, beach lovers, and those yearning to disconnect from the ordinary.
So where is this famous Oscar you ask? We’ll get to him in Part Two of my story, where I’ll share the latest development in African Surf, how girls and girls are getting in the water and why it's never too late to become literate.
Stay Tuned - Dan