At 24 years old, this surfer with a big heart has crossed Africa to bring clean water
How to combine his passion for surfing and his desire to help people in need?
At 24 years old, Ismail Benlamlih, a young Moroccan surfer with a big heart, made a crazy bet.
Determined to help others while making a living from his passion for surfing, he embarked on an extraordinary 5-month journey across the African continent to help local people gain access to clean water.
But how did it all start?
Ismail is a young Moroccan surfer from Casablanca and a yoga teacher. His quest for the wave has taken him to the most remote places. Throughout his journey, he has come to realize that Africa’s number one problem is the lack of access to clean water.
“My quest for the perfect virgin wave took me to the farthest reaches of the jungle where I met people I could help,” he says.
From there, he set out with a dual goal: to fulfill his dream of surfing trips on African waves while helping local people gain access to clean water by distributing water filters. In May 2016, his journey with a big heart began. His sporting and human epic was filmed. His entire journey is chronicled in the documentary “The African water wave”.
How did he do it? What did he do? What difficulties did he encounter?
Step 1: Launch a donation campaign.
First, Ismail decided to mobilize the surfing community with the creation of a donation campaign to obtain water filters and equipment.
“I appealed for donations through the surfing community I met everywhere. Water filters were purchased from Europe, America, Australia and Morocco and sent to me.”
When he received all these wonderful donations, he packed up his boards and equipment to go help his fellow man.
2nd step: travel to 8 African countries in 5 months to help local populations to have access to drinking water.
“I am Moroccan and Africa is my continent, a continent where happiness is contagious.”
Ismail decided to travel light by taking local transportation. He left from Morocco to Namibia through Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Ghana. You can see his journey on the African continent in the video below:
“It’s very difficult to plan a trip to West Africa, there’s no up-to-date information on the Internet and the situations there are really complicated: the war in Mali, the bombings in Ivory Coast, Ebola in Liberia. I told myself that by being as close to the people as possible, I would be protected.”
Morocco – Mali – Senegal – Ivory Coast
He travelled 60 hours by bus from Dakar to Abidjan via Mali. The locals welcomed him warmly with a smile. He was able to eat and rest in their homes.
Liberia – Ghana
To get to Liberia, he had to fly because the borders were closed.
“Liberia is the destination that affected me the most, I had to fly from Abidjan to Monrovia because the borders were closed because of Ebola. I really didn’t know what to expect and everything I could find on the net was scary,” he explains.
Despite the concerns, he decided to overcome his fear of the unknown and achieve his goal of helping the local people.
“I felt quite privileged to be able to go there, tourism is non-existent and there are only a few windows to visit the country between epidemic and war. What touched me is that despite the difficulty, people are happy and joyful, they dance and party as if nothing had happened” he says.
Mauritania – Namibia
His human adventure took him to Namibia via Mauritania. He was able to realize a beautiful surf trip and enjoyed the waves of Skeleton Bay.
Throughout his trip, he was warmly welcomed by the locals. The young surfer distributed water filters to people in need to have access to clean water.
“As Moroccans, we lose our identity by trying to resemble Europeans or others, we forget that we live on a continent rich in color, vitality and knowledge. We can help each other among Africans, we don’t need to be rich to give. You just need to have a little time to share your passion.
Photo credit: Ismail Benlamlih
The difficulties of travel.
His journey wasn’t easy. He had to overcome his fear of the unknown and set out to discover countries he had never seen. Despite his determination, he became ill. Ismail was hospitalized several times with malaria and hepatitis. But despite this, he remained focused on his goals of helping others. He has no regrets and has wonderful memories. The local people welcomed him with a lot of love and smiles.
A passion for surfing and yoga
Throughout his journey, Ismail declares his love for surfing. This sport has helped him stay on track and channeled his energy when he needed it.
“Surfing came into my life as a teenager at a time when I was going off the rails a bit, it channeled my energy and gave me the desire to train to become a better surfer, but also a better human being. The practice of yoga has helped me a lot, I have accepted myself as I am by trying to make better choices in my life.
“Surfing has really changed my outlook on life, it’s more of a spiritual activity than a sport, kind of like yoga, because three quarters of the time you’re paddling, you’re meditating, you’re marveling at what’s around you, you’re talking to people who share your passion and you see how it changes minds.”
“We can help each other among Africans, you don’t have to be rich to give. You just need to have a little time to share your passion.”
This Moroccan surfer is a great inspiration. He decided to stop being a spectator of the suffering of others. He took action by helping local populations by distributing water filters to have access to drinking water. He is the testimony that it is possible to live from his passion and take care of his fellow man. Afroculture.net thanks him for this act of kindness.