WATCH: Pioneering The Art Of Stand Up Paddling In… Mozambique?
I stumbled upon this video a couple of weeks ago that showed stand up paddling in, of all places, Mozambique.
Now Mozambique, Africa doesn’t really spring to mind when you think of SUP meccas, in fact it’s one of the last places you’d imagine the sport taking off. But it seems the country has a lot going for it: beautiful coastline, crystal clear waters, enthusiastic locals and a pioneering Californian named Tim Warner.
Turns out Tim and I have a lot of mutual friends, so I got in touch to find out more about stand up paddling in the country. Tim is passionate about introducing SUP to the locals, who in turn have embraced it. He’s keen to see the sport grow and one day would love for Team Mozambique to compete at the ISA Worlds.
How did you first get into Stand Up Paddling?
It’s a long and interesting story, but when I first started SUP in 2012, it was with the goal of doing an expedition along the California coastline with my best friend Clayton Walking Eagle. We wanted to raise awareness for the water crisis in the world. We had all of our sponsors, support boat and film crew, and we were determined to paddle from San Francisco to San Diego. The project was called Bridge to Bridge, beginning at the San Francisco Bridge and ending at the Coronado.
Unfortunately, the night before we were to launch, my 3 month old daughter fell from the first floor balcony at our apartment in Oceanside and was air lifted to Rady’s Children Hospital where she recovered from a fractured skull and broken femur, and spent 5 days in NICU. She is healthy today. As you can imagine, we immediately lost all our funding for the expedition. A couple months later, crushed but not defeated, we drove up to San Francisco and started paddling. We used our credit cards for all the expenses.
It ended up being an epic 10 day journey where we paddled selective parts of the beautiful coastline and filtered all our drinking water we found from lakes and rivers. In addition, we were still able to raise enough money to contribute to a well in Africa. We had some hectic days, including when we almost got blown out to sea around Point Conception, on a 23 mile paddle from Jalama Beach to Gaviota State Park. That adventure was the beginning of my passion and love for paddling.
When was your first SUP session in Mozambique?
My first time ever stand up paddling was at an isolated beach in Northern Mozambique called Chocas Mar. It is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. It was 2013 and I had only been stand up paddling for about a year. My family and I use to live 3 hours from the coast and we would only see the ocean a couple of times per year, so when we did, it was very special.
We lived this far from the ocean for about 4 years and it was very challenging. My first Mozambican SUP surf was about 6 months ago. The waves were overhead and intimidating. On my first wave, I got pummeled by the lip and my SUP bashed my head breaking off two fins. I used a short board the rest of the time.
Was anybody paddling in the country before you, or are you the first one to bring it to Mozambique?
I can’t know for sure. What I will say is that I don’t know of anyone in my area training Mozambicans to SUP. Tourists pass through often so every once and a while you will see someone cruising on a SUP, but the locals aren’t doing it.
Have you organised any local races?
Sometimes we do a time trial during training. We choose a boat anchored out in the water and we race out to it and back. The person with the fastest time wins. We are limited in how we race due to lack of equipment.
What kind of gear have you brought to the country so far? How many boards are there?
Thanks to Jim and Lizzie Terrell from Quickblade, I have 4 top of the line paddles. When I returned back to Mozambique, Jeff Archer from YOLO paddle-boards hooked me up with an inflatable board which was my first board here.
I then hired a carpenter who made me a very heavy wooden SUP which I ended up giving to a Mozambican friend. We currently have one very waterlogged 14ft race board which everyone is using and one SUP surf board that also serves as a training tool. Our goal is to have another 2-3 race boards and team sponsorship by next year.
How many locals are getting into it, and are they doing it seriously?
I’ve introduced it to several of my local friends, some of whom had never been in the ocean before. I live about 100 ft from the water now, and we currently have a few dedicated local SUP’ers that train a couple times per week.
Due to excessive use, my board got trashed and waterlogged. I have since left it out to dry and patched it so we can keep going. I have also created a series of land-based training exercises for our team. I have a personal goal to develop into an elite paddler. We do sprints, planks, push-ups, beach runs, pull ups and we even pull tires along the beach.
What’s the general response been from everyone that’s tried it?
They love the feeling this sport brings to them. They are already planning on trying to paddle over to the island 10 miles off the coast. One of my friends named Aminosi has told me he has the dream of being a professional paddle boarder. It’s amazing to see the excitement brewing.
Is there any kind of surfing or paddling culture in Mozambique already?
Yes. Being a fishing village, the Mozambicans in our province are very familiar with the water. After just 3 lessons with Aminosi, I was blown away by his technique. These guys have been pulling heavy dugout canoes through the water their entire lives and are very strong. The transition to SUP was not too difficult for them. I live about 3 hours from an amazing surfing spot and we try to go at least once a month. I did see a Mozambican short boarding down south and I was really impressed.
What are the waves like?
World class! I have had the most amazing opportunity to score over head, epic waves. The coastline is majestic with great conditions.
Which part of Mozambique are you paddling in?
I live in a city called Vilankulos. It is in the Inhambane province. Most mornings, if the tide is high you can get great conditions. I have even had a couple really good down-winders.
What are your plans for the future of SUP in Mozambique?
My first plan is to get more equipment. I have a huge desire to see a draft train of 5-10 people out there. We need to paddle together and not take turns. These guys are pushing me to improve.
Next year, I have the goal of taking 2 Mozambicans with me to neighboring South Africa to compete against some of South Africa’s top riders. It will be a great experience for them if I can pull this off. We live about 1-2 days drive away from South Africa so this may very easily work out.
I also want to take the guys on a short surf trip so they can experience stand up paddle surfing. Maybe in the future we will see Mozambique representing at the ISA Worlds. I would be excited to coach them as they represent their country. I will be in the USA from November through January for work, and I will be doing as many races as I can before returning to Mozambique in February.
What took you to Mozambique in the first place, will you remain living there in the future, and what’s it like to live there?
We came to Mozambique to work with the local communities and see lives transformed. We have a passion for the youth and want to see them staying out of trouble and equip them to live a life of purpose.
We are involved in clean water well projects, school uniform distribution, medical clinics, small micro finance projects and outreaches to the bush. My wife is currently working on a community health program to empower people to live well.
I am married with 3 kids and let me tell you, living here is not easy. We have had to learn a new culture and a new language to be able to function well. We have lived for months without running water, had all sorts of crazy sicknesses and have been victims of criminal activity. We don’t however, regret any of it. It has been an incredible adventure so far and we are glad to have stand up paddle boarding as another tool for effecting positive change.
How long will we stay? We can’t say for sure, but we will ride this wave as long as it will take us.