Photo: Ted Grambeau
By Marissa Osterkamp
Nicholai Lidow didn’t go to West Africa to find the perfect wave; he went to research the plight of refugees fleeing from civil war in Liberia. When he returned two years later, the lifelong surfer and Southern California native took his board along and stumbled upon a world-class point break north of the Liberian capital of Monrovia. After making several trips to the beach, surfing and listening to the locals’ stories, he realized that living among and learning from the Liberian people taught him more about the conflict than working for an NGO ever could.
Rather than keep the surfer’s paradise a secret, Lidow, ’05, now a PhD student in political science at Stanford, wanted to share it to raise awareness of the situation in West Africa, and maybe even improve it. “There’s no reason why tourists would go there,” he says. “But surfers will go, and they can play a big role in their community development.”
When he heard about Lidow’s experience, Britton Caillouette’s response was: “Dude, this should be a film!” Caillouette, ’07, also an avid surfer until he lost his left leg to bone cancer as a teenager, was completing a minor in film at Stanford at the time. The two teamed up and hired a cinematographer and photographer. Three experienced surfers completed the entourage. They shot over four weeks in Liberia, paying off officials and living on rice and lentils.
The result, Sliding Liberia, is the first in a new genre: the socially conscious surf film. And clearly it has struck a chord with surfers and hodads alike. Since it debuted in January, the movie has garnered top honors on the film festival circuit and has received distribution offers. The message, as Caillouette puts it: “You can’t ignore the shore on your search for waves.”
—MARISSA OSTERKAMP, ’07
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