Senegal with Nate Zoller


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Recently, Nate Zoller traveled to Senegal courtesy of Roark armed with a board and a camera. Read about his travels below, and check out his images of his trip throughout this post. 

Words and Photography by Nate Zoller

The Gnar Of Dakar

We’re moments outside the airport walls and Mr. Ala is taking each turn like he’s captaining a Paris-Dakar win. It’s midnight on the Dark Continent and Alpha Blondy’s “Brigadier Sabari” is blaring out the car windows. It’s hot and dusty with brutal smells. Disintegrated cinder block houses stitch every corner en route to our hotel. Poverty stares back at us from behind the windows of Mr. Ala’s speedy rig. Not an hour into Senegal and we are already feeling the altered reality of life in Northwest Africa. Fresh off a tweaked travel schedule and a series of blood thinning vaccinations, topped with a daily dose of the anti-malaria medication Malarone, and nobody is thinking clearly. But it’s fog-headed nights in far-off countries that lift a man’s character. Adventure may hurt, but monotony will kill you. That, or Ebola.

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It’s June of 2014 and the Ebola virus is very much on the radar in West Africa, hastily climbing its way up the coast from Liberia towards Guinea-Bissau. Soon it would hit Senegal. I had never been to Africa before and to be honest Northern Africa scared the shit out of me. But what are you going to do when an itinerary like this is thrown onto your lap, thanks to Roark? You vaccinate and go. So I did.

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Along for the ride were Toubab’s (white boy’s) Rod Stewart, Carl Smith and Jeffrey Thayer. Four ‘first-timers’ navigating the Dark Continent. Thankfully we had our local guides Dr. Koi, the countries most notorious playboy and spitting image of Tyrese, and our forementioned driver Mr. Ala, snappy with the whit of a streetcar racer. The two of them worked hand in hand. The chirpy driver would get us where we needed to be and the tall, mild-mannered Dr. Koi would settle any day-to-day handlings with the locals. The Senegalese speak French and everyone is beautiful with immaculate skin texture. On the eve of Ramadan Dr. Koi met up with three different ladies to which he downplayed afterwards saying, “I was tired, I could have had five.”

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We called the Hotel La Brazzerade our Senegalese home. It is located on the sand of lively Ngor beach, Africa’s western most point where Bruce Brown began his Endless Summer film. The hotel bar served as a melting pot for expat Frenchman and ladies of the night. Mix in our surf crew with a fair bit of La Gazelle lager and Voodoo magic begins to happen. As one local storyteller named Samba revealed, “You have technology, we have mystery.”

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It’s impossible not to notice how sporty the Senegalese people are. Driving down the street you see people running for exercise. On the beach, wrestling matches and volleyball tourneys happen on the daily. Late at night a wrestler trains in the sand in front of the hotel. Not many third world countries are like this. Where else does Voodoo and wrestling go hand in hand?

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For the next week we descend upon new surf breaks and float in pink lakes, then we ride camels and hang in Rasta wood carving villages. The constant drum rhythm of Senegal gives us an extra committed approach. The fresh seafood keeps us strong and the Voodoo magic allows us to do things we never imagined possible. We escape without Ebola and learn that “Americans get killed by time, while Africans kill time.”

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Check out more of Nate’s images in the gallery:

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