When a friend asked me if I’d like to go to Spain for her 30th birthday, I kind of thought, whilst I’m over that way perhaps I’ll travel around Spain a little, try somewhere new, so I booked the following two weeks off work. But looking on the map, my eyes were always drawn to Morocco. Africa was right there, next to Spain, and I’d never been to North Africa before. So on a whim, I booked a cheap flight from Madrid to Marrakech.
I’d heard mixed reports about women travelling solo in Morocco, but then people say that about most of the destinations I visit, so I usually take that with a pinch of salt. But sometimes travelling solo can be really tiring and lonely (especially on short trips), so I was really happy when my friend Lisa asked if she could join me. Lisa could only come for a week, so that gave me 5 days on my own at the beginning of the trip.
Now what could I do with 5 days?
A few years back, my first surf teacher in the UK, Nigel,had told me about a surf school he co-owned in Morocco, place with great weather and where camels roamed the beaches. It sounded magical, but I’d just never managed to make it happen – until now. I emailed Nige and asked if there was space for me and after a couple of emails back and forth, I was booked in for a few days of surf and yoga in the sunshine with Moroccan Surf Adventures in the small village of Tamraght, near Taghazout on the Atlantic Ocean.
The age range of the group went from late teens to late thirties, with mixed surfing abilities, but mostly beginners. There was a big group of eight, a few smaller groups of two and three, and then a few solo travellers, just like me.
Every day began with sunrise yoga on the roof terrace in the cool morning air, stretching, breathing and meditating our way into the day with the sound of the waves crashing in the distance. Pretty much everyone attended Rosannah’s classes.
By the time breakfast came around at 8.30, we were always ravenous, gathering around the two large communal tables, before filling our faces with Moroccan bread, eggs, yoghurt and spreads, chatting excitedly about the day of surfing ahead and reflecting on the wipe outs and triumphs of the one before.
At 9.30, we gathered downstairs. Wetsuits and rash vests were handed out and then we’d pile into the vans, driving the coast, looking for the best surf spots of the day.
Once the guys were satisfied, we’d jump out and head down to the beach. After doing a quick warm up, we’d grab our boards and run into the ocean, ready to take a battering from the waves. For the newbies, it was surf lessons on the beach at first.
Scott and Omar would put us through our paces – loosen your hips, move your front foot forward, lower your hands – correcting us and helping us pick the right waves.
Those who’d made progress paddled out to the back, looking pretty cool, waiting for green waves, unbroken waves, the ones that break beneath you at speed, sending you forward at such an angle that if you don’t get up quickly enough you’ll be thrown straight into the washing machine. I wanted one, but Omar told me to wait a bit longer, perfect the white water first. Standing up on a white wave is one thing, standing up a green wave is another and patience has never been a virtue of mine.
Whilst the camel men would perch nearby – “Touch my camel. Take picture with surf board.” Only in Morocco hey?
Rested, if not recovered, we’d head back to the waves once again for more punishment. Those who’d had enough would chill on the beach, or sometimes take trips to the nearby souk or the hammam. I only had a few days, I just wanted to surf.
The waves were always relentless, pushing me back as I tried to make my way out to sea. The thought process when a wave comes towards you is always – please don’t break on me, please don’t break on me – sometimes it would just gently swell underneath me (the best kind), other times it would break beneath me, bouncing me into the air, causing me to cling on for dear life as I smacked back down on to my board, ribs first, and quite often I just got a wave straight to the face. With experience I’ll learn how to roll or dive under the wave, but for now, I’ll just paddle my little heart out an hope for the best.
On my third day, Omar told me I was ready to take some green waves. So I paddled out, feeling like I’d joined to the cool gang. I tried to sit up on my board, wobbled and fell off.
Catching your first green wave is a pretty awesome occasion in a ‘young’ surfers life. They are fast and steep, and even if I managed to paddle hard enough and actually catch the wave, I’d either crash out on the dive, which I didn’t feel too bad about as most people did, or just ride the wave on my stomach – which admittedly, was pretty awesome anyway. Except when you realised you then had to make your way all the way back out to the calmer water to have another attempt.
But eventually I did it. I caught a couple of green waves, riding them all the way to the beach, standing up on the board. As our teacher Scott always said “Pick your battles.” Wait for the best waves.
By the end of each day, my body ached, my eyes were sore and red, my hair was matted and my hands looked like they belonged to a 60-year-old man, but my mind was bright and I felt like I could do anything.
We’d come back to the hostel, those on the yoga package would do another yoga class, some would get massages from ‘Magic Hands’ and the rest would simply shower, grab a beer and watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean, before feasting on a 3-course meal prepared by Momo.
Our nights were spent chilling, drinking beers, listening to music, being entertained by Denny (the co-owner with Nige) and gazing at the blanket of stars. There from the balcony, I saw the biggest shooting star of my life. A bright flash of orange against the sky. But I won’t tell you what I wished for.
On our last day, we surfed before breakfast so we could take an afternoon trip to Paradise Valley in the anti-Atlas Mountains. Just an hour or so drive from Tamraght, it’s an amazing little place to visit. Once at the valley, it’s a short trek to the first pool, where you can take a swim and play mermaids.
The braver ones jumped off the cliffs. Some of the guys thought they were pretty cool until Omar, my favourite surf ninja, came along, sprinting and flipping into the water, showing them all how it was done – like a boss.
After a late lunch of tagine, the rest of the group headed home, whilst the yogis headed further into the valley for our class. We settled on a beautiful spot overlooking an emerald green pool.
The floor was sloped and the sun was still quite high in the sky, so we spread ourselves around in the shade. The wonky rocks made the class a little bit challenging, but it was very fun and that just added to the experience. The views were incredible.
On our last night, Momo prepared a huge fish supper for us which had everyone in a good mood. The drinks were flowing and tonight was party night, and party we did. Especially me.
The last few months have taken a toll on me, both physically and mentally and I was exhausted. But surfing in Morocco helped to bring me back to my happy place. I absolutely loved everything about Moroccan Surf Adventures, the guys that worked there and the other surf enthusiasts like me!
My only regret is that I didn’t stay longer, or take more pictures – with only 3 full days, it was all about the surfing. But there’s always next time and I am planning to return, soon. Denny – get the Rosé in the fridge please! Who wants to come?
- A week at Moroccan Surf Adventures costs £449 (01/05 – 31/08) – £499 (01/09 – 30/04) for the Surfing Package. Includes surf lessons, return transfers from Agadir, all meals, accommodation, equipment, a cooking lesson with Momo and daily morning yoga sessions. Pretty sweet hey?
- For an extra £50 a week, you can do the Surfing & Yoga Package, which includes an evening yoga session every day and a day trip to Paradise Valley (with yoga lesson).
- Stays of less than a week are charged at £80 per day – for both packages.
- The guys arranged my pick up from the bus station in Agadir (they also do airport pick ups), but gave me great pre-departure advice on where to stay in Marrakech and how to get to Agadir.
- There are direct flights to Agadir, but it is also pretty easy to fly to Marrakech and you can take a Supratours or CTM bus from there for just a few pounds.
- The night before I arrived in Tamraght, I stayed at the Marrakech Ibis, which is right next door to the Supratours bus station (CTM is also nearby).
- Take a really good sunscreen – zinc if possible for faces, hands, feet, neck and ears (if not a high factor sports sunscreen should be ok). While the rest of you is covered by the wetsuit, they are exposed all day.
- Practice your surf moves at home before and after you go. There are loads of surf exercises on Youtube that you can do in the comfort of your own living room. Yoga is also a perfect companion for surfing.
- Oh, and download the SkyView app. You’ll need it to identify all those pretty stars you’re looking at.