Wow, where do you start when you’ve just had an amazing surf trip. This was the first time I’d been to Morocco and I’d heard a lot of scare stories, (every surf trip has them) over crowded, dirty water, people getting robbed, surf that’s too big and I have to say I never experienced any of this. O.K, the water quality was a bit bad on some days but no worse than I’ve surfed at Shanklin after a good storm.
Day 1 and we flew from Heathrow at midday and by half past four I was in the line up. It was small but a nice introduction for what was to come and I was surfing in board shorts. That night, after a dinner that cost little more that £3, it was clear the surf was building. The noise as I tried to get to sleep just kept getting louder. I know the phrase “rolling thunder” is a bit of a cliché but it really did sound like rolling thunder and it’s very hard to sleep through when it’s right under your window.
Day 2 and when I woke the swell had jumped from tiny to clean 8-10 feet lines and everywhere I looked there were point breaks going off. I surfed Panoramas and it was a bit of a humbling experience to say the the least. Getting outback wasn’t to much of a problem and even surfing the big powerful waves was O.K but getting back in was something else. The shore dump from waves that had already broken twice was massive and a bit like running the gauntlet. Boards were broken but thankfully not mine.
Day 3 and the swell had dropped to a nice manageable 6 foot. I was picking waves up on the point at Panoramas and riding them for about 500 yards. They were without a doubt the longest waves I’ve ever ridden. After just 5 waves and a 500 yard paddle back out I’d now paddled 2500 yards but only had 5 waves. My shoulders were killing me so it was time for lunch. Anyone that’s been there knows they grow the best bananas in the world. These are picked ripe, unlike our ones that are picked 6 months in advance and kept in airtight containers until the supermarket wants them. A kilo costs about 80p, the cheapest lunch ever! After they went down it was back out, another 4 waves, another 2000 yards of paddling and I was done. After another cheap meal and not feeling like doing much I was pleased to see a South African guy, James, already setting the projector up in the hotels little cinema. The word cinema doesn’t really do it justice. It’s a chill out area with cushions everywhere to crash on while you choose which one of the 200 surf films they have on the hard drive that you’d like to see projected onto a white wall.
Day 4 and the swell was pretty much the same as yesterday so it was another day at the office and more stupidly long rides. That night though I discovered the place we were staying had an amazing roof garden complete with hammock, guitar and another cushioned seating area big enough for about 50 people. The view, whether it was day or night was fantastic and there was always different people to meet up there. I think I had a drink and a chat with someone from nearly every continent up there at some point. South Africans, Aussies, Americans, Dutch, Germans, French, Irish, and even the Welsh.
Day5 saw the swell drop and by Moroccan standards it was small but still more powerful and clean than your average Island wave. For most of the morning the tide was too high for anywhere to break properly but as it dropped back the point at Panoramas starting working. Because it was small, maybe shoulder high, a hollow wave was running close in along the line of the rocks. Seeing one guy out I ventured out with your typical Brits abroad hangover and had what was one of the defining surfs of the trip. The guy that was out on his own was a local called Salem and after I’d introduced myself he told how the wave breaks, where to sit and what to expect. After some good old fashioned surfers banter, pulling leashes, flicking water and dropping in on each other, I had about 30 good fun waves. We were joined by a few others that day but most of them seemed to be frightened by the rocks so I think we had nearly every set wave. I’d made a friend and he asked me to stop by where he worked the next time it was working.
Day 6 and because of modern technology everyone knew what was coming. The chart was showing 17 foot and although it clearly wasn’t, it was still big and ugly. We’d met a German guy called Ulv who was staying at the same place as us. He had a hire car and a sense of humour, I know, I know but he turned out to be one of the coolest guys I’d ever met. Anyway, he offered us a lift to Agadir which was about the only place that was going to be small enough to ride. As we pulled into the car park the rain arrived and it was a race to get a surf in before it washed all manner of unspeakable things into the ocean. The wave was hideous. Clean and head high but shutting down in one big close out the length of the bay. I was glad to leave it behind. We spent the next hour driving round the city getting lost whilst looking for the supermarket for that all important ‘beer run’.
Day 7 and everywhere was still massive and ugly. Ulv had an idea that Imsoune might be good and said he’d be glad of the company. Ims is a small fishing village about an hour and half up the coast, maybe less the way Ulv drives. The Japanese bought the rights to the best fish from this village and in return they built a harbour and fishery. When it’s massive everywhere else, there’s a wrap around wave from the harbour that I’d heard sometimes goes on for 500 yards. We were the first to arrive and the tide was too high. Later as the tide dropped back and every surfer in Morocco descended on the place the waves got a little better but never that good. Ulv assured me it was because the sandbanks weren’t right and then added “just don’t mention zee war” which became the catchphrase of the day. As we drove back along the coast there was a point break, I don’t know the name there’s just too many, with one guy out enjoying a perfect overhead evening glass off to himself. Can’t win em all.
Day 8 was the only day I never surfed. There was big waves everywhere and the sun was out but the wind had picked up and after watching countless people fail to get out I decided to rest. All the locals where getting warmed up for the festival of Eid. It’s the biggest festival in the Muslim calender. After being warned that all the shops would be closed for two days I hooked up with a surf guide that worked there for another beer run. The supermarket was packed with Moroccans stock piling food so it was a bit like Tesco the day before Christmas. Everywhere you look you see people buying sheep or goats ready for Eid. They’re tied to roof racks, hanging out of boots or piled high on the back of low loaders. That evening I talked to a local guy called Mohamed who worked at the place we were staying. He explained a lot about his religion, the Berber people and their culture. By the end of the evening I’d made a friend and…T.B.C
Day9 and everywhere was a bit crap apart from one place, Anchors. It seems to be the one place that everyone wants to surf, has to surf and likes to say they’ve surfed but today it was fickle. I’m sure on its day it’s a world class wave, I’ve seen the photos, but today the tide was too high, it was crowded and after a steep take off and short ride it just sputtered out. Four guys on longboards were sat way out back and taking the lions share of set waves but then they were from Wales. I got out frustrated after 3 waves and walked back to the hotel to wait for the tide to drop back. I wandered round to Panoramas and asked Salem if he thought it was going to break. He told me to come back at 4 o’clock and we’d go in regardless of size. I went back and after a race across the rocks with him to see who could get out first I had the second best session of the trip. The tide starting pushing. The waves picked up to about shoulder height and once again we had the lions share. After about 40 waves in blistering heat I was surfed out. That evening I chatted with Mohamed again about his life and family until the wee hours of the morning and…
Day 10 Eid. I came downstairs for breakfast and the local staff had been replaced by the owner and manager. The staff were going home for Eid. Mohamed asked me if I’d like to be his guest and go with him and his brother to their family home and celebrate Eid. Still bleary eyed and knowing what to expect I hesitated before saying yes, I’d be honoured. The surf was pretty much flat everywhere as we drove towards the little village at the foot of the mountains where Mohamed grew up. His family had lived there for generations and I was unsure what to expect. For those of you that are squeamish go straight to Day 11. The houses in the village are simple. Concrete floors, bare walls and small windows, some rooms have none. The main room has a rug and cushions and after slipping your footwear off you’re invited to sit on a cushion while his mother serves breakfast. Fresh mint tea, warm home made bread and dishes of sweet honey, arogan oil, nuts, cake and not a pre-wrapped Kellog sign in sight. After breakfast Mohamed washes ready for prayer while I enjoy the silence with his mother. Nobody else in the little village spoke English and his mother spoke only Berber. It’s a language that most locals don’t write but learn by ear. Once he’d washed I walked up to the open air mosque with him but not being aloud inside I walked into the mountains to admire the view. Words aren’t going to do it justice so I won’t try. After about half an hour he drove up and picked me up with some friends, it was time.
We drove down and he changed into some old clothes, things were going to get bloody. He led me into a little stable with no roof where there were four older guys sharpening knives and his young cousin Mohamed, (popular name in Morocco). His cousin was only six years old but he said it was important for him to see what happens because one day he would have to do it. It’s a ritual that’s been taking place for centuries. One by one two sheep and three goats were lead in and after being laid on their side they had their throats cut. A bush is then placed under the head while the blood drains into the soil. The head is then severed and a sharpened stick is used to pierce a hole in it’s leg.
One of the men place their lips around the hole and the animal is then blown up like a balloon. Once inflated they beat the dead animal with a stick to loosen the hide. It’s then strung up, skinned and gutted. While this is happening women come in and out leaving washing bowls and water to clean and carry the innards. Apart from the blood nothing is wasted. After the third animal I was starting to feel queasy so I stepped out for some air.
Little Mohamed followed and even though he didn’t speak a word of English he took me on a tour of his village. Once again I was invited into another home and more tea, bread and sweet dips appeared. The owner of this home had just finished doing his own sheep outside his front door and wanted me to take a picture of him holding the freshly skinned animal in his arms. I obliged and being the uncle of Mohamed he told that his home was now mine and I was welcome there any time.
I arrived back at the stable just as the last carcass was being taken away to a kitchen and the teenagers were making away with the hides for later on. We went back to Mohamed’s and with little or no ventilation the place was filled with the smoke of cooking meat. Once again we kicked our shoes off and took our places on the cushions. First up was a skewer each with various parts of the animals internal organs including the lung. After that it’s the main course which is meat on the bone braised in a kind of gravy. There is no cutlery and everyone just tucks in with their right hand. Warm bread is dealt out like cards by mum to mop up the rich gravy. When this is gone and you feel like you can’t eat another thing a large plate of fresh fruit is placed on the table and everyone eats as much as they can as quickly as they can. I can only assume it’s to add some much needed roughage to the Eid diet. When the feast is over I ask to wash my hands and I’m led to the kitchen where water is poured over my hands with a cup. This is because the government have cut off the water supply because they want the land and everything is carried into the homes in whatever holds water. It seems they want to develop it and turn it into another Benidorm. After so much food it was time to walk it off and Mohamed took me to his beach, the beach he grew up on, the beach his grandfather carried a boat down to everyday to work the fish rich waters. Again, I can’t do it justice so I won’t try. To be taken in by a local and treated as one, to join his family for their biggest celebration, to be fed and watered and be asked for nothing in return but friendship was an honour, a privilege and the perfect end to the surf trip. Tomorrow I was going home.
There’s a million cultural and religious things I learned there that I haven’t touched on because I’m aware this is a surf story. All in all I’d say Morocco is one of the best surf destinations for a number of reasons and a few people from the Island that have stayed there agreed. Firstly it’s not a long haul flight so it’s cheap to get there and relatively quick. It’s still quite cheap as it’s not a part of the dreaded Euro. The dry sunny climate means there’s not a mosquito in sight, major bonus. The surf is excellent and I lost count of the amount of uncrowded and unridden point breaks in such a small area of coastline. Lastly, the Berber are amazingly warm and friendly people and if you treat them as a friend you will be treated as such yourself.