Words by Rita Xavier from SOMA: The closest place on earth to the middle of the planet, where the 0ºlatitude and 0ºlongitude points meet, you can find one of the world’s least visited countries, São Tomé and Principe. Roughly 250 km off the western coast of Central Africa, the country is made up of two islands total, being São Tomé the largest and where the country’s surf scene is. In all natural terms, the island was built for surfing, having a variety of beach breaks, slabs, and point breaks that tend to work best between June and September.
One of the youngest modern surf scenes in Africa, with the first surfboard being brought to the island from Portugal in 2004. A sport that conquered the hearts of kids and grown ups but until 2020 was a sport that only men knew until SOMA arrived to change the history of the sport in the country.
In late 2020, São Tomé saw the first group of girls surfing for the first time when Soma’s founder Francisca Sequeira went door to door to seek parental permission. Those efforts turned up the page of gender inequality and female surfing “took off”. The fact that there were no girls surfing in São Tomé before, represented the extreme gender inequality Santomense women face everyday, so in an effort to support these girls, SOMA was born with the help of health and surf professionals, social workers and activists aiming to change these girls' narrative.
SOMA has worked with 90 girls through a surf-therapy program that works to raise a generation of confident African young women, through sports, academic and psycho-empowerment - A surf community always looking for opportunities to glide and ride waves of parity.