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After having all my senses nearly killed by hectic India I escaped to a much mellower and more adorable Hindu place - Bali in November 2012. This transition was almost a joke to me and it even made me wonder if my time in India was real.
Well, it was real. And due to the intensity of it I thought that my articles about India should be the final entry of my "blog-like" online travel diary - Air Esky. Additionally, it was often quite difficult to find an Internet connection in developing countries. It was very time-consuming to upload pictures and articles on a regular basis, too (I have no idea how other travellers keep their blogs up-to-date. Are they really travelling?)
Despite having all these hassles, I must admit that Air Esky has actually kept me going and has kept me on an even keel. It's a great means to see myself objectively while travelling is a heavily subjective thing.

"Where are / were you, Esky?" is a frequent question amongst my friends and my family. I actually went back to Japan in December 2012 to catch up with my buddies and to see my dentist. But as soon as I fulfilled my immense appetite for Sushi, I became extremely itchy for more travelling and more surfing. Thus, I left for Taiwan in January 2013 and continued my way through South East Asia for the first half of 2013. The most notable event during my time in SE Asia was that I met a Colombian woman in a little sea-side town called Da Nang, Vietnam in February and then we travelled together through northern Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia. She was very attractive and super energetic, so my thought of "I might like waves more than women" was proved to be just completely delusional.
Wherever we went, we had so much fun and so much laughter together, but unfortunately, an all-travellers' common problem caught us in the end; our individual goals were dividing our path as she intended to be a yoga teacher in Colombia and I wanted to follow my surf-oriented itinerary. I'm sorry, Eli.

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Confused and uncertain about my own decision to be a solo-traveller again, I landed in South Africa in mid June. Although there were a number of reasons for me to visit South Africa for the second time, those who knew me well could easily tell why I went back there again: it was simply for surfing.
While I made a few road trips for Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique in August, most of my time from June onwards was well spent on surfing after surfing somewhere in South Africa.

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Yes, I hear you say that the water can be icy and there are no vegan sharks in many parts of South Africa's coastline. But there was something about that country I was helplessly attracted to such as quality waves, cheap surfboards, tight and strong surf communities, and high standards amongst local surfers. The more I surfed there, the even more I wanted to surf and the better I wanted to be as a surfer.
My enthusiasm in surfing continuously grew more than ever and eventually led me to one shaper in Cape Town - Mr. Patrick Burnett who was specialising in creating hollow-wood surfboards.

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I neither had any deep knowledge nor any experiences in shaping surfboards, plus I had never worked with my hands previously apart from typing computer-keyboards. Yet making a surfboard with wood for the very first time in my life under Patrick's expert guidance turned out to be so enjoyable: Tons of clamps to be used and lots of hand-planing as well as sand-papering to be done (and so much effort to be made, too!) Each process wasn't only to shape a board, but it was also to breathe new life into it. I'm not sure if I would've felt this way with a conventional PU blank....

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Furthermore, this board-building workshop with Patrick unexpectedly brought a whole new perception of surfboards to me. Up until very recently every time I purchased or looked at a surfboard, I was only thinking of how I wanted to ride it and how I could ride it. Whereas, I now put more of my focus on how the water should flow through the rails, the tail and the bottom-deck of each surfboard. It feels like I've finally realised one of the most fundamental things in surfing; the water-flow.

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It took me a bit longer than initially scheduled for the completion of my own board (Many thanks to Patrick for being so patient with me.) And what came out in the end was a beautiful organic-looking 5'8 Egg with a single/twin fin set-up.

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Have I already taken it out in the water...?

Of course, I have!

Our first date was the morning of December 5th at Wedge in Durban with clean 3ft A-frame waves. I was super excited but nervous at the same time to take my Egg with a single-fin on out there, but it all took me by surprise because paddling in and taking off on the very first wave was so much smoother and easier than expected; I just went down the line, made a super gentle bottom-turn and kept cruising till the wave eventually became white-waters. It was as sensational as the moment that I caught and rode the very first wave in my life a long time ago. Unforgettable!

Still so much to describe about building and shaping a surfboard with wood. In fact, the best way for you to know what it's really like is to actually do it. (Please check Burnett Wood Surfboards here for more details.)
Trust me. It'll be a great experience for you and it might even become your life-time hobby afterwards.

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My stay in South Africa this time was very fruitful and quite sharky (it's a long story), and my South African tourist visa of max 180 days finally ran out on December 8th.

At the time of writing this very article on January 1st, 2014, I find myself in N'Gor island, Senegal in order to avenge my utterly painful experience with sea-urchins during my last visit here in 2011.
It has been windy, but the surf's been quite consistent around N'Gor and Dakar. I've already scored quite a few punchy hollow waves at legendary Quakam (I broke my Firewire then!) and some 6 to 8ft heavy bumpy waves at N'Gor Right. And so far I've had no thorn of nasty sea-urchins yet!

It has been almost three and a half years since I started living only with my backpack and a couple of surfboards. I never initially planned it this long. It's just happened so. And while I don't know how much longer I can continue living this way, one thing for certain is that my passion for surfing remains intact and strong. My next destination after Senegal will be Morocco followed by either Canary Islands or Central / South America again.

Oh, what about the fate of Air Esky???
Well, as much as I'd like to keep myself stealthy, I will try to regularly update it from now on in 2014. No promise, though :-)

People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware. (By Alan Kay)


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Time flies, especially when the surf is consistent.
Unlike my last visit in Senegal two years ago, it's been quite consistent at the westernmost of Africa this time. Believe it or not, I kind of sensed it while I was still in J-bay late October last year when that Code-Red storm hit all over the coastline of Europe. My instant thought was - "There might be more of unusual winter-storm activities in the northern Atlantic this winter." And I was right then :-)

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Almost six weeks have passed since I came to Senegal and we've had proper ground swells at least on three different occasions.
The first one arrived on my first week here (How lucky was I?!) and the swells were southerly, so all the major spots on the south coast in Dakar were going off then. The second one came just after Christmas from North / Northwest and I broke my Firewire at Quakam Right (Damn it!) But it was the third one which struck here during the second week of January and kept us super busy running for the best spot to surf and to dodge some enormous ones. The below is some of the story during the week:
(Note: Some of the photos in this article were taken by Arne, Andre, Roneen and David. Thanks very much, guys!)



@ January 6th (Mon)

As all the major surf-forecasts showed some crazy figures from tomorrow on, our expectations were inevitably higher than usual, but I didn't really see or feel any of the anticipated swells while I was surfing with my wooden Egg in the morning. It was max 3ft on sets.
Still too early, but they slowly began to show us the gravity of what was more to come at the outside of N'Gor Right as shown in the photo below. It was taken just before sunset at low tide. The wave might look mediocre in this photo, but it was big and heavy enough to make me wow.

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@ January 7th (Tue)

Quakam Right started simmering in the early afternoon as the tides were pushing in. Waves were about 3ft on sets with light offshore winds. Very luckily, only a few guys were sitting on the line-up - two German surfers Malta and Andre, two Spanish guys and me only.

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Jesper paddled out later on and caught quite a few waves as if our mother nature gave all the good waves to him for his 37th birthday today. Happy birthday, Jesper!

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@ January 8th (Wed)

The peak of the swells was probably on this Wednesday.
I actually couldn't sleep much not only because of some Rum and Coke and all the sweets that I had at Jesper's birthday party late last night, but also because of gigantic waves crushing over the cliffs of N'Gor island, which made a big constant noise like thunders throughout the night. It was so loud and slightly frightening.

I'm not sure if anybody ever tried a tow-in session at N'Gor on this day. It must have been well over 10 feet out there. A bunch of us on the island, without even waiting for the sunrise, took a special boat to the mainland and drove straight to a spot called Yenne, about one-hour south from Dakar by car.

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While Yenne's local fishermen were getting ready for a catch of the day at the crack of dawn, we were scratching our sleepy eyes and trying to see how big and good set-waves were.
By 7:30am the horizon became visible enough to us, and we realised that it was spot-on! Waves were about 4ft on sets with no wind and it was quite consistent as a set came every three to five minutes. The left-hand was sort of closing out in the beginning, but the right-hand was running long, probably the longest wave in Senegal (?)

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Waves at Yenne tended to be soft at times but very rippable. I found them similar to those waves at Point in J-Bay - good easy waves to practice with your favourite maneuvers.
By mid-afternoon the wind came up and the tides got nearly full. While we had so much fun at Yenne, Quakam was apparently cooking in the afternoon....

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@ January 9th (Thu)

So the peak of the swells was definitely on Wednesday, but my personal highlight of this whole week was actually on the following Thursday morning when the swells dropped a little bit at N'Gor Right.
I was checking the conditions on top of the cliff early in the morning and waves still looked at least 8 to 10ft on sets, clearly heavy, but clean and seemingly makable. Young eager German surfer Andre, who was working and surfing here since September, convinced local goofy-footer Kouka to come along with us.

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I must admit that I was quite nervous to surf on this day, just concerning about the unusual size and heaviness of the waves. So was Andre. However, as soon as Kouka decided to come out with us, I think there was a bit of relief as well as sheer excitement amongst us.
I actually have a whole lot to tell you about what was happening behind the scene on this day. To cut the story short, however, it was Kouka who sat deeper than Andre or me and caught the very first set-wave. I was watching how he approached and took off on it: his usual relaxed style didn't change a tiny bit and he rode the wave as if he was surfing a mundane 2 footer at Secret. I was simply amazed by him and then the game was on.

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Unfortunately and so unexpectedly, Kouka dropped out a few minutes after this wave. A couple of monsters showed up out of nowhere. They mercilessly sucked him in, especially the second wave which completely tore off the leash-plug of his gun (It was a gun, it shouldn't have happened!)
The photos below show the moment: Kouka was about to get smashed while he had no choice but simply threw away his gun and dove in as deeply as he could (No way to duck-dive with your board at this super-heavy N'Gor Right) Andre happily took off on this second bomb in the meantime.

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Kouka turned out to be in no state of panic when he emerged from tons of white-waters (he used to be a diver!) The only pity then was that it took us a little while to get a boat out and to pick him up there.
By the time the boat took Kouka back on land, the usual onshore / cross-shore winds came up to roughen those clean heavy waves....

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Andre caught quite a few waves and I even saw him taking off on one or two heavy triple-overheads.
I'd seen him catch big waves a few times before, but it was another level on this day. Perhaps, he could become the very first big wave rider to represent Germany in the future....?

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Meanwhile, I caught two waves and one wipe-out during this session. The photos below show the second wave that I caught. I thoroughly felt the energy of it when taking off and going down the line through quite a few big bumps.

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A great thing about this second wave was that it wasn't only a take-off, a little fat shoulder popped up after my first bottom-turn and I was able to cruise all the way to the very end of the inside section.
Needless to say, I couldn't be bothered to paddle back out there afterwards. I happily came in without any hesitations. Such a lucky wave for me!

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For this session I randomly picked a Minami's red TufLite from Jesper's board-stock. I don't know the exact dimensions of this board because it had been snapped previously and repainted over where the dimensions were written down. It was probably 6'5 or 6'6 long with a squash tail. I chose it because my two personal sticks were both 5'8 long and definitely not suitable for this day, plus Jesper's 6'2 Bitch board that I was borrowing would also be a bit under-gunned. Thanks very much, Jesper!

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@ January 10th (Fri)

Strong onshore winds started blowing since last night. Yet the remains of the swells were still big enough on this Friday.
No surf around N'Gor island due to the winds. Therefore, Arne (Andre's father) and I headed straight to Quakam, and it was spot-on!
For all my sessions at Quakam Right in the past, I often had to race the first section. Otherwise, the wave just closed out. However, thanks to the very strong offshore winds in this afternoon, waves peeled off nicely and there was even a mini-barrel to be had or a pocket-riding to be made after a take-off. Arne and I caught quite a few good waves and had so much fun.

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@ January 11th (Sat)

Once again, the peak of the swells was definitely three days ago, but there were still plenty of waves to be had on this Saturday. I took the photo below at a spot called Vivier as a Rip Curl contest was being held there over the weekend.
Funnily enough, by this Saturday I kind of surfed out (Hahaha!). Nevertheless, I had one long session at Secret in the afternoon.

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What a great week of surf in Senegal!






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