When it comes to connotations, Côte d’Ivoire tends not to automatically conjure images of your typical surf designation.
Jaw-dropping scenery. The vertical tricolour orange, white, and green flag. Didier Drogba rocketing a game-tying header past Bayern’s Manuel Neuer in the dying minutes of the 2012 Champions League final and continuing to boss it for Chelsea by converting the final penalty kick for the win. Sure, one of those, perhaps. But cerulean waters, playful swell, and a vibrant surf culture? Hard to say. But guess what, it’s there. You just need to know where to look.
And so enters the man not only with the keen eye, but also surfing’s overall darling child and one of our closest friends, Mikey February. Always on the pursuit for the intersectional zenith of surf, art, and culture. That’s what led Mikey to this particular slice of coastal West Africa.
We sat down with M Feb, as he’s more affectionally known, recently on the deck of Wasted Talent’s Hawaii residence — no less than Pat O’Connell’s actual house. The setting: balmy but not oppressive trade winds, Modelos (or were they Konas? Regardless, something chilled, effervescent, and welcome) in hand, palm trees and white sand and a backdrop that’d bring tears to even John Ford’s eye. The intention: talk shop and get down to the nitty-gritty détails super importants behind the seismic Sonic Souvenirs part deux. The details: below.
WT: So Feb, what spurred your decision of shooting this on the Ivory Coast?
MF: I’m a huge fan of northwest Africa, the music, the waves. I feel the Ivory Coast hasn’t been documented that much before so that really intrigued me to go and check it out. We were super excited to explore and see what we would find.
How much did you know before you go?
Well, we did quite a lot of research but there just wasn’t all that much out there. It wasn’t one of those locations where you kind of know what you are going to get. For music especially it seemed like it was kind of kept within the Ivory Coast and that aren’t that many surfers there so we were going into this pretty blind.
So how did Steven come on the scene?
In the research we did on all the social media accounts for artists, labels, venues, etc. all led us to one person, Steven. He’s the man! We saw a couple of rad videos of him and everyone pointed us towards him. He studied Music at Berklee so was far more educated on the subject than any of us. He was our guide, our translator – everything really
It was amazing to see his take on it, as he had only played music in the Ivory Coast quite late in his life before he moved to the US to study so taking that skillset and bringing it back with that cultural knowledge was amazing to see. Such youthful, applied, energy and intelligence to both modern and old music there.
It seems like you guys scored pretty fun waves – Did you guys have a window to shoot or go on a swell?
There was this window where the good swell and good wind seasons aligned so we went then, in early November. We had pretty good waves in the beginning and then headed north for another swell where the point breaks are so it all lined up pretty perfectly. We were out there for two weeks, it was pretty hectic but we did a lot! Last Sonic Souvenirs was pretty different as we were in South Africa so we had much more time and could move around flexibly based on swell.
Each African country has a distinct cultural heritage and general vibe to it. How would describe the Ivory Coast?
I really enjoy that French African blend. It’s all so vibrant and colourful. Spending a few weeks there you get the feeling it’s totally unique to other west African countries. The food was insane.
What was the beer of choice?
Ivoire. Pretty good.
What boards did you ride?
A bunch of different boards from CI, all twins. Had a Fishbeard, a twin pin, and a new twin pin we are working on. Also had a Red Beauty that was pretty fun. Was great to hand that over to Lee Anne and watch her ride it.
Talk us through the dynamic with Souleyman
Spending time with Souleyman was really cool, it’s great to see those people who are so involved with their community and a leader. Especially in such a small core surf community in its infancy. I think he was stoked to see us enjoy everything his hometown has to offer. As the trip went on he was just surfing better and better – by the end he was ripping
How was it seeing the reaction of people seeing Lee Anne surfing over there?
Lee Anne had been there before which was really cool. She felt super comfortable and happy to be back there. In all the communities we went to they are all, of course, super small and the only surfers are males so having a female presence was amazing. Especially seeing all the girls and women reacting to Lee Anne surfing was amazing, I feel it really opened their eyes and I’m sure the next time we go there will be a lot more female surfers in the water.
Having Kai last time was amazing but it was great to be with someone the whole journey, we thought so much so when we hit the road he kind of knew what we wanted to shoot and how we wanted it to look that by the time we came to the editing phase there wasn’t too much back and forth. Blake did a great job.
How did you go about choosing the music?
I think when people think of African music they think of older music but Steven really showed us that there is some cool younger stuff coming up as well that we tried to blend in as best we could. I hope it’s a good representation of the Ivory Coast.
How would you describe the surf culture there?
It was amazing to see the kids take on surfing. We’ve all been surrounded by photos and videos of what surfing is, and what good surfing is so we’re all somewhat looking at surfing through the same lens like “that’s an aerial” or whatever. These kids haven’t had much inspiration in terms of videos of surfers etc so they are just fully going for it. Their whole thing was being as close to the rocks as possible, that’s their idea of what a good wave is – totally pure and uninfluenced.
Any anecdotes? Any danger on the road? Excitement?
When we were driving back from up north to the point breaks, I think we had a big night the night before but the road was terrible, the worst potholes – things just take longer over there anyway. Suddenly the guy appears in the middle of the road, telling us to stop, then telling us to move again and stop. Out of nowhere this huge tree falls blocking the road. The guy just disappeared and all the traffic started backing up. All the locals bring out their machetes and start hacking away the tree, I thought it would take hours and hours but they had the whole thing cleared away within 20 minutes. Unreal.
So what is next in the Sonic Souvenir Chapters?
I think with Sonic Souvenirs we need to branch outside of Africa this time. Maybe even a super known surf destination but view it through the Sonic Souvenirs lens likes Hawaii or Australia. I mean, there’s also all the off the map places as well. I think India could be amazing….