Senegal’s 2024 Olympic hopefuls kick off qualification at EpicSurf
In mid-September, the Senegal Surfing Federation’s six-person team and four coaches flew across the Atlantic from Dakar to New York. The group was en route to the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Games, which ran September 17-24, and was the first qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Team Senegal wasn’t there for sightseeing, but for waves. And not just any wave: they proceeded to train intensively at EpicSurf—a deep-water, stationary wave that allows endless practice.
EpicSurf is the latest invention from Aquatic Development Group (ADG), a pioneer in recreational surf pools and water park design. In contrast to other standing waves, EpicSurf’s version features enough water flow and power to make it approachable enough for beginners and challenging enough for experts. For Team Senegal, practicing on the portable, customizable wave was a revelation.
“EpicSurf is consistent and provides a place to focus and improve a surfer’s form,” said Imane Signate, one of the two female competitors on Senegal’s national team. “It’s not possible to do that in the ocean.”
Most of the team lives and trains in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, which sits on Africa’s west coast. Dakar juts out into the Atlantic and boasts beaucoup beaches, along with a nearby island, Ngor, which also proffers prized waves. Over the past decade-plus, Dakar has left its former status as an alluring, far-away surf destination behind (see: The Endless Summer) and become a hub of surf schools, surf tourism and now, a home to a team of potential Olympians.
That’s thanks in part to Omaur Seye, the vice president of the Federation and an entrepreneur credited with helping to raise Dakar’s profile. During his visit at EpicSurf’s headquarters, he saw its potential as a new opportunity for surfers in his hometown.
“This machine will help train and develop surfers in many ways, like building leg strength for turns,” said Seye. Among Seye’s suite of businesses in Dakar, he owns a surf school, where would-be waveriders could benefit from the stationary wave as much as the pros.
The Senegalese team saw that potential for beginners among their own ranks. Souleye Mbengue, the team’s official ISA representative, braved EpicSurf waves, despite not knowing how to surf. (“I’m a manager— I keep things organized,” he quipped.) It was fun, he said, even for a neophyte.
Following their New York sojourn, the team went on to compete at the ISA event in Huntington Beach, CA, where they finished in 27th place, out of 50 teams. Results from the contest, which EpicSurf co-sponsored, combined with those from competitions over the next two years, decide who will snag two additional spots that the IOC granted to surfers for 2024. But with more time, more experience—and maybe even more practice on a wave pool at home—their next showing might just get them closer to Paris.