Tarkwa Bay is to Lagos what Rockaway Beach is to New York City. A 15-minute water taxi ride away from the mainland, it feels like a world apart from the bustling Nigerian metropolis. Here, the vibrant energy of Africa’s most populous city is tempered by a picture-postcard backdrop. Young couples relax in the shade of palm trees and feast on delicious plates of chicken suya, a spicy local delicacy, as children play games of soccer and volleyball on the sand. “It’s a paradise, an escape from the craziness of Lagos,” says Jomi Marcus-Bello. Marcus-Bello is the cofounder of Wafflesncream, Nigeria’s first skate brand, and has been coming here with his crew almost every weekend for the past few years. Much like skating, surfing is a relatively new sport to the region, and the teenage surf enthusiasts who zip along the shore are mostly self-taught. Some of them learn to ride the waves on makeshift boards they’ve cobbled together from discarded wood. “Surfing and skating, it’s like a feeling, that’s why we understand each other,” says Baingor Joiner, a Wafflesncream skater and photographer.
The crew’s affinity for this urban beach community has resulted in some pretty cool tourist merch, including Tarkwa Bay bucket hats, though there’s a collaborative effort on the horizon that’s poised to transform the landscape here entirely: the city’s first skate park and surf shop. It’s a project Marcus-Bello is planning to realize with the help of Tarkwa Bay resident Godpower Pekipuma. As his name would suggest, Pekipuma is something of a local legend, and his surfing prowess has earned him a reputation across the continent. “I remember watching Endless Summer as a kid and thinking Wow, look how these people are walking on water like Jesus Christ,” says Pekipuma, 28, who has been practicing the sport since the age of 10. “I knew at that moment that I wanted to ride waves.” Pekipuma wears Wafflesncream’s gear with the same easy swagger of the skaters on the streets of Lagos. His pants are rolled up to the knee on one side; his shirt is unbuttoned to the navel. Though the brand has been making graphic tees for a few years, it’s the first time they’ve built out a head-to-toe streetwear uniform of sorts, and it’s laced with a good dose of Nigerian wit. The label’s so-called “Uncle shirt” is a nod to the boxy short-sleeved button-downs favored by older men across the country, while the drawstring logo pants are cut from distinctive Ankara prints. “We all saw our grandmas wearing those prints; they’re very recognizable,” says Bello. “It’s 100 percent Nigerian steez—that’s style with ease.”
With a newly opened skate shop on Victoria Island in Lagos, the first of its kind in the region, Marcus-Bello is already doing his part to put Nigerian skate culture on the map. Made-in-Africa decks hang on the walls of the store alongside images of the Wafflesncream crew in action. In the absence of a skate park, kids flip ollies on the sidewalk and under the city’s sunbaked highways. “It gets pretty hot out there, so it’s nice for the skaters to come and hang out,” says Marcus-Bello, “it’s actually more like a clubhouse than a store.” Marcus-Bello spent part of his childhood in the north of England and East Africa, and has extended the crew’s family tree to include members in the U.K., Zambia, South Africa, and New York since he started the label eight years ago. Having staged sell-out pop-up events in neighboring Ghana, he’s now looking to connect with burgeoning skate and surf communities across West Africa. “I’ve always said that if nobody does this, then some guy from Europe will come and teach us how it’s done—that’s always been the African narrative,” says Marcus-Bello, looking out onto the ocean. “I want this to be for us, by us.”
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