- 03 January 2014 | Surfing
What would you do if you were a surfer in a landlocked country? Would you create your own waves or would you travel every weekend to the nearest ocean?
Planet Earth has 48 landlocked countries. These sovereign states don't have a direct access to a classic oceanic coastline, and represent 11,4% of the world.
Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country, despite having access to the Caspian Sea, the largest enclosed inland body of water on Earth. Here, only wind swells will produce a fair surf session, from time to time.
In the American continent, only two countries are truly landlocked. For Bolivia, it's a dramatic issue, as its border is only 180 kilometers away from the South Pacific Ocean.
Bolivia lost its coastline during the War of the Pacific (1879-1883). The consequences were never really accepted by the Bolivians. The country has been pressuring Chile for sovereign access to the sea, but with no practical consequences.
Former Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, has supported the landlocked nation by declaring, one day, "I want to swim in Bolivian seas". But Bolivia is not alone. Paraguay also misses a spiritual connection to the salted waters.
Europe, the Old Continent, has several countries without direct access to open seas. Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia, and Switzerland may not have oceanic surfing waves, but some of them managed to create unique river surfing communities, and wave riding federations.
In Africa, there are several landlocked countries, but two small nations were "unlucky", as they only miss the Indian Ocean for 100 kilometers. Meet Swaziland and Lesotho.
In the heart of Asia, there's only one country that hasn't been blessed by a proper coastline. If there are surfers in Laos, they have to travel 90 kilometers to the South China Sea, in order to find waves.
Finally, a word to one of the most isolated countries in the world. In Mongolia, it's tough to be a surfer. Ulaanbaatar, the country's capital, offers an annual average temperature of 0°C, making it the world's coldest capital city. Any waves out there? Apparently not.
For many landlocked countries, surfing is yet to be born. But with the advent of artificial waves, surf pools, and surf parks, surf shops will open everywhere. Even in countries that have never had the privilege to touch the sea.
Till my soul is full of longing,
For the secret of the sea,
And the heart of the great ocean
Sends a thrilling pulse through me.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Seaside and Fireside", 1850