Work in Progress: Surf of Clans Sambava

When I was in Sambava to shoot the vanilla story, I started surfing and hanging out with the Surf of Clans gaong (boys), the local surf crew. Yoyo, Coco, Vario, Valérien, Paul, Lego, Nora and Olidano Colonel welcomed me with a particular mix of warmth, curiosity and heavy sarcasm that is unique to Malagasy people.

They’ve all known each other since childhood and started surfing together a couple of years ago. There are no surf shops in Sambava, so all the boards and equipment they own they received from visitors and occasionally from some older, wealthier local surfers.


All the guys are self-taught surfers and amazing, seemingly never tired. I learned so much from them. They pirate wifi around the city to download surf videos and through the club’s Facebook page, they’re connected to other surfers around the world. Their boards break often and when they do, the guys set up a little workshop in Vario’s backyard and manufacture fins etc. from glass fiber.

Coco, Lego and Nora with Olidano’s board

None of the guys own cars or motos, so they carry their boards from Ampandrozonana beach back home again. Sambava is a small town but the boards can get really heavy after a long walk.

Olidano, the president of the surf club, and Madagascar’s next top model.

Coco and Yoyo are close like brothers and often surf together at sunrise.

The water! The air! The colours!!! I mean, come on. Ridiculous.

La maison de Vario, and his beloved one-finned longboard that I surfed with so often. He stores it in the kitchen on a rack.

Paul and Lego working on a self-made fin.

The younger surfers, Valérien (pictured above) and Paul, don’t own boards and are often given the most ghetto boards by the older gaong. They try to find small pieces of driftwood on the beach as makeshift fins before their sessions.

Yoyo in his room.