One of the most beautiful aspects of surfing is its transformative properties. Doctors in France have prescribed it as a treatment for depression, while its healing effects for those afflicted by cystic fibrosis have long been documented.
A new feature by SURFER shows that sometimes that healing ability goes deeper than relieving physical maladies. In Liberia, surf is helping a small community overcome the traumas of the Ebola virus and two civil wars.
Liberia has had more than its fair share of sociopolitical struggles. Starting in 1989 and running through 2003, the country experienced two gruesome civil wars that left hundreds of thousands dead.
In late 2013, a decade after the Second Liberian Civil War, the Ebola epidemic struck the country. It killed over 4,000 citizens before it was over and left travelers weary of visiting Liberia’s emerald shores.
Despite all of that turmoil, a fledgling surf community sprang up in the town of Robertsport after the civil wars. Though many in the town lost loved ones in other parts of the country, Ebola miraculously never arrived in Robertsport itself.
The local surfers started by riding remnants of boards left behind by aid workers and tourists. The community was eventually aided by Californians Sean Brody and Daniel Hopkins, who started the Kwepunha surf camp in 2011 in an effort to bring aid to the area and promote the dreamlike left-hand breaks on the country’s shores.
“You could see and feel in the community that there was a lot of opportunity for tourism to come here,” Hopkins told SURFER. “People really wanted it … We spent a long time figuring out how we could set up a business and do it in a way that benefits the community. I ended up moving out here and somehow things worked out.”
Now, bolstered by an indomitable spirit and gradually increasing interest from outsiders, the local surf community has made it through the Ebola epidemic and is seeing the deep scars left by the civil wars fade away.
“We went through a lot of pain, but we didn't want to just keep sitting, worrying,” one local told SURFER about Robertsport. “Surfing makes you strong.”
For the full story, head over to SURFER.
More from GrindTV