The crashing of the waves can have a calming effect on some, though they can make for a terrifying view for others. There’s no doubt what reaction they cause for 19-year-old Kadiatu Kamara, also known as KK, as she paddles her surfboard in the waters of Bureh Beach in Sierra Leone.
Two years ago, Kamara discovered that riding the waves not only gave her a sense of euphoria but also an escape from her problems. Her problems are shared by many in the West African country – losing their loved ones first to an 11-year civil war and later to the Ebola virus.
The civil war in Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002 was infamous for the recruitment of child soldiers and human rights violations that cost the lives of over 50,000 people. It was partly funded by diamonds mined in the country.
Just as Sierra Leone was settling into a period of stability after the war, the Ebola epidemic in 2014 brought further devastation. After losing her father to the disease, Kamara joined the Bureh Beach Surf Club – founded by Irish surfer Shane O’Connor to promote surfing. The club hoped to fund the education of the country’s young surfers.
Kamara became the first woman in the country to learn the sport and, according to DW, surfing not only gave her self-confidence but also helped her stay in school. It also gave her a dream – of becoming a professional surfer one day.
“Di waves dem go mak u feel fine,” says the club’s website. The documentary, A Million Waves, couldn’t agree more.