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Liberia's First Surfers

11 images Created 14 Oct 2011

Legend has it that The Cotton Tree in Robertsport, Liberia, is where the American Colonization Society tied up its ship in the late 19th century - the spot the Country was founded upon. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the first president of Liberia (for whom Robertsport was named), is said to have carved his initials in the tree when he realized this would be the land where he would spend the rest of his life.

The tree is also a marker for one of the nation's most famous waves that break directly in front of it: "Cotton Trees" is a world-class pointbreak.
I wanted to contrast this bastion of stability (the tree is estimated to be well over 500 years old) with the transient nature of the place these surfers thrive in - both their volatile country, and the ocean. While Liberia is hopefully seeking stability, the ocean is forever changing, never the same - but this famous tree is ancient and stable.

The youths pictured here are litteraly the first generation of surfers in Liberia - they are the first citizens to ride waves on boards, and while many of them have fathers who are fisherman, these new wave riders are forming an entirely new relationship with the ocean due to their new sport. While I did want the images serious, I was very conscious of not wanting the image to be too dark. Yes, this country is coming out of a very dark time - the first elections after its civil war just happened days ago - but this is hopefully a new beginning, and these are the youth who will be shepherding it into being.
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