Cherif Fall Is Starstruck In Senegal - Stab Mag

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"I have two objectives right now: 1.) Qualify for the international tour, 2.) Represent Senegal at the Olympics". Photo by Jimmy Wilson.

Cherif Fall Is Starstruck In Senegal

Cherif has earned the right to test his skills against the world’s best — so why can’t he?

features // Mar 11, 2022
Words by Jed Smith
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Video by Surfdome and Billabong

Cherif Fall has just woken up in the port city of Dakar, Senegal, his hometown, when he picks up the call from Stab. Like most mornings, especially during the Hawaiian winter, his mind was immediately consumed by thoughts of escape. 

“This time of year in Senegal, I’m so sad. I wanted to go to Hawaii to train. I’m waiting for my visa. It’s hard for African people to travel. I wanted to go there, everyone is there. My dream is one day to be there,” he says. 

It might come as a surprise to you — at least it did to me — that Senegal, a small, largely impoverished nation of 17 million people on the west coast of Africa, is producing world-class surfing talent. 

At 25, Cherif is the best in the land having won the Senegalese Surf Championships every year for the past decade and represented his nation at the recent ISA World Games. As you’ll see above (and below), Cherif rips. His aerial repertoire, which includes lofty frontside and backside air reverses, probably would have won him a World Title in the late nineties. 

Pop. Photo by Jimmy Wilson.

“I’m the best surfer from my country and for 10 years, I’ve been winning every competition here. I’m sad that I’m not able to travel. My dream is to go Hawaii and everywhere to surf and train,” he says.  

Cherif’s dad is a swimming coach. His family, meanwhile, is part of the Lebu ethnic group, a coastal-based people famous for fishing. Senegalese people have been taking to surfing with gusto. 

“I’m so happy, I’m lucky. And when you see in Africa, they have two guys you can see who is black, Michael February, and me. All of Africa they don’t have surfer ripping like me, you know, and I’m so lucky about this thing, and I keep my level and doing more, training more,” he says. 

The most impressive feature of Cherif’s skillset is the backflip, which he tells me he’s landed three times though never managed to catch on film. This was after being forced to put the move on ice until he secured a board sponsor who could absorb the amount of broken boards he was generating attempting the trick. 

The only thing stopping Cherif from going bigger was a short supply of boards. That’s not a problem anymore.

“I landed it like three times. I didn’t used to have a board sponsor and I was always breaking my boards. Now I’m sponsored by Alessandro Pierre from France and I have boards, so I’m trying backflips more,” he says. 

Cherif’s dream to test himself against the world’s best has been stymied by stingy customs officials on the basis of his religion. The inability of surfers from predominately Islamic countries such as Senegal and Indonesia to travel the world competing and surfing is an all too common and all too sad story. 

Instead, his sponsor, Billabong, brought the world’s best to Senegal in the form of Brazilian World Champ, Italo Ferreira, who visited the country recently. 

Not sure how Cherif fits in this whip but it’s cute.

“I was so lucky to have Italo here. I was showing him my country and the waves and the future of Senegalese surfing. Everyone was so happy to see him. Nobody thought Italo would ever come here to surf,” says Cherif. 

During his stay, Italo was given a grand tour of Dakar’s waves and Cherif’s Lebu culture, feasting on traditional dishes and surfing the many quality waves near his home. 

“When we surf together, he’s so fun. I like to do big airs and try to push Italo, like, ‘Yo man, watch this!” he recalls. 

Not to be outdone, the Brazilian World Champ upped his game and began nailing two and three air reverses on a single wave. 

“He’s so funny in the water. I would do something on one wave then he would do like two or three air reverses. I’d be like, ‘Wow man!’ And he says to me, ‘Calm down,’” laughs Cherif, adding, “Italo is my favorite surfer. He’s always training, and I love watching him surf.”

Watching Italo depart to continue competing, training, and travelling around the world was a bitter pill to swallow. With Billabong’s help, Cherif has hired a specialised lawyer to battle the visa bureaucracy on his behalf. As soon as he finished our call, he’d be picking up the phone to call him. 

“I’m going to call them to figure out what’s going on. I’ve been trying for a while and I’m still waiting,” he says. 

Cherif’s dreams are as ambitious as his punt game. 

“My goal is one day to be the best surfer in the world. My goal is to qualify for the Olympics now, and eventually the CT,” he says. 

He promises not to leave any stone unturned in his quest. There’s too much at stake. 

“I know I am the best surfer in my country and I want to show people how good African people can surf. This is my dream, I’m working hard at it,” he says.  

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