Senegalese Surfer Khadjou Sambe on Cultivating Diversity in the Sport — and Her Favorite Spots in Dakar

"I want girls to say, I can do this, for their country, and Africa, and for Black women and girls anywhere."

Surfer Khadjou Sambe riding a wave
Surfer Khadjou Sambe near Île de Ngor, just off the westernmost point of the African continent. Photo: Giovanni Astorino

"My dream is for there to be more Black girls surfing alongside the world's best," says Khadjou Sambe, the first-ever woman from her country to compete in the World Surf League. That dream is what led the proud Dakar resident, a member of the Lebou ethnic group, to paddle out at age 14. Despite initial opposition from her parents, the fearless teen soon became the only female fixture on the local swells.

These days, Sambe, now 26, is more in love with the ocean than ever — training with the mentoring collective Black Girls Surf, operating free surf camps across the region with BGS founder Rhonda Harper, and competing professionally around the globe. "Surfing makes me feel peace and love, makes me forget all my problems," Sambe says. "The sea is my second family." She's also encouraging others like her to take to the waves: "I want girls to say, I can do this, for their country, and Africa, and for Black women and girls anywhere," she explains. "Don't let anybody tell you that you can't."

Khadjou Sambe in front of a yellow patterned wall in her home in Senegal
Sambe at her home in Dakar. Giovanni Astorino

Getting in the Groove

"What makes Senegal special is that it's a country of 'teranga,' or hospitality. On your first trip, eat a lot and don't miss the traditional dances called 'lamba' and 'sabar.'"

Beach Bumming

"My favorite places in Senegal to train, relax, and surf are in the Ngor district of Dakar: Plage de Ngor and Île de Ngor, an island just offshore. Go to the beach restaurant Le Carré for the perfect Senegalese meal."

Time Well Spent

"My ideal day in Dakar would be to hang out and surf with Rhonda and the BGS girls. Then I'd go see my family in Ngor and hang with my grandmother, see my friends, play a little with the children, before heading to Lala Beach Club to relax."

A version of this story first appeared in the February 2022 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline Making Waves.

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