Surfing from a sinking ship – surfEXPLORE Mauritania Maptia

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Herman Melville said that no true place is ever on the map. I take this to mean that the soul of a place cannot be contained by the political boundary of a country. Like many African countries that skirt the Atlantic, Mauritania is scarred by post-colonialism, and searching for an identity by trying to link tradition with progress. These giant forces, pulling opposites, give places a twist, a hump, a sense of discomfort. Mauritania is like a docked ship awaiting repairs, one side gathering industrial rust and sinking into the deeply cold Atlantic, the other, sand-swamped. While cherishing its nomadic roots, such tradition is broken on the steaming wheel of the lucrative iron ore trade. While respecting that the very land itself shifts with time as mountainous dunes are reshaped by ceaseless wind, people attempt to lay down political boundaries, these western-Sahara markers no longer moving with the wind, but with the decisions of bureaucrats who no longer live in the heart of the desert but in run-down cities at the rim. And there simply is no map for the location of landmines that litter the access routes to a wealth of incredible waves on Mauritania’s Ras Nouadhibou peninsula in the north…

About Sam Bleakley

I am a freelance writer and professional surfer from Sennen, West Cornwall, in the UK. I specialise in surf exploration projects with renowned surfEXPLORE photographer John Callahan. I have undertaken groundbreaking trips to the likes of Algeria, Liberia, Kenya, Oman, South Korea, Hainan, Palawan and the Maluku Islands. Surf writing has led me to visit sixty countries. My roots, however, remain in Penwith, where I live with my family above Gwenver beach, close to Land's End, the westernmost tip of Britain - next stop Novia Scotia. I have an MA in Geography from Pembroke College, the University of Cambridge, and I am currently researching a part time PhD in Travel Writing with Falmouth University. I am the author of two illustrated surf travel books, Surfing Brilliant Corners and Surfing Tropical Beats (Alison Hodge Publisher, Penzance). I have been a multiple European and British Longboard surfing Champion, and former competitor on the ASP World Longboard Tour. I am widely published and featured in international magazines and newspapers ranging from Resurgence to Action Asia to The Cornishman, and a regular contributor to The Surfer's Path. I have studied and taught travel writing courses and guest lecture on aspects of surfing, travel, writing and geogrphy in further and higher education. I edited The Surfing Tribe: a history of surfing in Britain, and have edited Longboarding supplements and specials for Carve and Wavelength magazines. My first book, Surfing Brilliant Corners, details a decade of extreme global surf travel, illustrated by John Callahan. Surfing, jazz, geography, ecology and cultural studies mix as I journey to Mauritania, locked in political strife, where landmines litter access to some of the best waves on the planet; and Haiti, which captures my heart and makes it race as if falling in love. My second book, Surfing Tropical Beats, follows our surfEXPLORE team on a rollercoaster ride from Haiti to Gabon, through Algeria, India, Vietnam, China and back to Haiti.
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