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Stormrider Guide to surfing Sao Tome

Sao Tome and Principe, AFRICA


Radiation Point, John Callahan/Tropicalpix

Summary

+ Quality, empty pointbreaks - Mostly small waves
+ Consistent summer swells - No access to west coast
+ No rain during surf season - Expensive trip
+ Untouched equatorial island - Malaria

São Tomé is the largest of 3 islands, followed by Príncipe which is 30min away by plane, and finally the tiny islet of Rolas (3km). São Tomé and Príncipe is a developing country where oil and tourism have taken over from an economy based on coffee and cocoa, hence the nickname of the “Chocolate Islands”. Australian and American surfers visited as early as the ‘70s, but travelling surfers remain rare. There are many promising set-ups along the east coast plus the equator straddling Point Zero Left.

When to Go

It’s usually flat from October to March until the Austral winter brings 2-8ft waves and the dominant SW winds get stronger. Rolas is the most exposed, but doesn’t handle the stronger S swells that spots like Porto Alegre require to fire. 4ft max of tidal range affects Radiation Point at high.

Surf Spots

The quickest check from the capitol is Forte de São Tomé, but the historical scenery is usually better than the short, dribbly, boulder rights that are often flat. Lavaduro could be a great right slab if it was not facing northeast, meaning the tubes are rarely big enough to clear the rocks. Radiation Point is fairly consistent, because even local SE windswell will wrap with enough size to ride, and the SW wind is cross-offshore on the biggest outside section. Batismo in Praia das Pombas is a great set up with long walls down the rocky point when a bigger S swell swings up the east coast. Lower tides and any W wind will do. The same conditions will see hollower waves at Dique, a shallow, urchin covered reef/point north of Santana village. Easily visible from the road, Santana throws down some pretty right walls over the reef hugging the point. Hollow pockets here and there on the low tide and it is still fun and bashable in light onshores. Agua Izé bay looks really nice and the right pointbreak set-up is obvious, but once again needs a strong pulse to fire. The cluster of rocks at the southern end of Baia Coqueiro hold the rivermouth sandbars nicely for some long, relaxing righthand shoulders into the bay. There’s another good point/rivermouth named after the Lo Grande river which flows from the mountainous interior. This right picks up a bit more swell and the river flow decides how many holes are blown in the 300m line-up. Water can be murky and rippy. Porto Alegre, the African Nias, is the best wave on the island. It’s a 200m long boulder/cobble right point that needs a big S swell and W quadrant winds to produce walls that are generally steeper and peel faster than the other pointbreaks on the island. Ilheu das Rolas is a small islet sitting on the equator off the southern tip of São Tome. It’s an amazingly beautiful island and home to a very upscale dive resort. To reach the island catch the Cariouco boat from São João dos Angolares or Porto Alegre and cheaper accommodation is available at a Roça. Praia Pestana, or Fishermen’s Bay, is a Waikiki-style reform, ideal to have fun on a longboard. The consistent Point Zero Lefts are bang-on the Equator, but suffer from sideshores and strong currents. There is now a decent new road providing access to Praia Jale Ecolodge, beach bungalows directly in front of a rocky lefthander that pulls in the swell, but it’s often onshore. The west coast shows potential for long lefts, but the difficult access prevents many from exploring the multiple rivermouths and rocky coves. In the middle of the west coast is Fim do Caminho (end of the trail) near Santa Catarina. It’s a long wrapping left pointbreak over a bunch of rocks, but it’s a 2h drive from São Tomé.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW
swell size (ft) 1-2 2-3 3-4 3-4 2-3 1-2
consistency (%) 30 50 60 70 50 30
dominant wind S -W S -W S -W S -W S -W S -W
average force F2-F3 F3 F3-F4 F3-F4 F3 F3
consistency (%) 76 74 75 92 85 78
water temp (C) 28 28 27 25 26 27
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts

Travel Information

Weather
São Tomé is fully equatorial and oceanic SW winds bring heavy rainfall and humidity, especially from February to May and again from October to November. When it rains, the sea becomes muddy. Despite the moisture it is often sunny, and the rains are mostly thunderstorms.

Lodging and Food
On Rolas, Pestana Equador Resort is a diving & fishing resort that costs $145/n/dbl: Jalé Beach Ecolodge bungalow for 2 from $45/day and the much newer Praia Inhame Ecolodge ($58/n/dbl/b&b). Allow $15 per meal. Roça are ex-plantation houses. Roça de São João dos Angolares: $55 for dble. Santomean cuisine is very rich! Eat Calulu, Blabla, Cachupa and Feijoada.

Nature and Culture
A paradise for bird watchers, hikers and biodiversity lovers. São Tomé Pico is a volcanic cone at 2024m. Don’t miss Obo National Park. Visit coffee or cocoa plantations. Sea turtles can be seen at Mikolo Beach.