When Dan Malloy came back from Liberia surfers around the office were asking him how the trip was, anxiously hoping to hear about perfect waves. Dan, humble as ever, spoke well of the trip and the waves but you could hear in his voice and see in his eyes that it wasn’t a typical surf trip. This one was heavy.
Dan, along with fellow Patagonia ambassador Crystal Thornburg and artist Chris Del Moro, visited Liberia last summer. And this year, we all have the opportunity to share in their experience when the film Sliding Liberia is released. Conceived of by Stanford filmmaker Britton Caillouette and Stanford PhD student Nicholai Lidow, with cinematography by Dave Homcy (Shelter, Brokedown Melody), the film now has an official Web site (be patient with the load time, it’s a beautiful site that’s worth the wait) and the trip itself has already received quite a bit of attention. Surfing Magazine ran a Lightbox slide show with Dan, Crystal shared some of her thoughts and photos on Mixed Plate Special, even Lonely Planet ran an article on surfing in Liberia.
The following words come from Dan Malloy. He talks about the trip, the country and a photo that was found on the blog Kevin in Liberia showing a board Dan left behind getting some use by the locals.
Last summer I had a very rare travel opportunity. My cousin Britton has been attending Stanford studying film. There he became good friends with a guy named Nicholia Lidow, a political science major who has focused his studies on the development of nations that are currently experiencing civil war or just very recently experienced a civil war. What that means, in short, is that Nicholia has been spending all of his free time in Liberia. Although Nicholia is very serious about his major and is actively working and studying at all times, he also happens to be a good surfer, and Liberia also happens to have amazing surf.
Very few people have ever surfed the Liberian coastline. With development in Liberia halted by the vicious rule of Charles Taylor, the country has been in the midst of a gruesome civil war for the last 20 years. Under intense pressure on all fronts, Charles Taylor finally resigned. Upon his resignation, the United Nations agreed to occupy Liberia with a plan to reestablish peace. The Liberian people elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as their new leader and the U.N. quickly began purchasing guns from Liberian citizens to get them off the street.
Peace came almost overnight. The bombs stopped, the gunshots stopped, the fear of war was finally behind them. The war is over, but Liberia remains one of the poorest nations on the planet. Getting killed is now a worry of the past. The struggle now for the Liberian people, with a completely obliterated system, is to stay alive.
With the war over, Nicholai invited a few of us to experience Liberia with him and his local Liberian friends. He took us on a three week journey that I will never forget. This photo was sent to me almost six months after we returned. It shows a few of the local boys. When we arrived there was only one Liberian surfer named Alfred. Now it looks like there are three. That is my 5’10” Fletcher fun hog fish that I left behind. I am stoked to see that it has been getting some good use.
We’ll let you know as soon as there’s a firm release date for Sliding Liberia. In the meantime, check out two more trailers for the movie. The first one features Alfred Lomax, the lone Liberian surfer Dan mentioned.
[With thanks to Dan Malloy, Britton Caillouette and Kevin in Liberia for their help with this post.]