Coming back home from Morocco, I was a different person. Suddenly, I was saying things like “gnarly” and all I could talk to my friends about was “shredding.” Without a whitecap in sight, I began to feel down on my luck. It took me awhile to realize it, but I was heartbroken. All I wanted to do was go back to surfing in Morocco.
Morocco is a world-class surfing destination – the perfect spot for hosting international competitions, or for a barney (slang for newbie) like me learning to surf.
Hooked after the first try there was no looking back. The best part is that I had no plans to try surfing in Morocco, but one chance encounter led to the most memorable experience of the trip.
Here’s a backpacker’s story, and some inspiration for trying out your new favorite travel hobby.
When Waves Collide
After experiencing the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, Lindsay and I were looking for a little refresher. The perfect antidote was to catch the next bus to Essaouira, a peaceful oceanside town that should be part of every Morocco itinerary. Right away we noticed the locals are a little different here. Families fill the streets enjoying the beautiful weather, artists search for inspiration, and you find… golden dreadlock surfers??
Not exactly what we read in our guidebook, but radical nonetheless! Breathing in the ocean air awakens the free spirit in all who walk Essaouira’s white-washed streets. As luck would have it our Airbnb host, Flurina, was quite the surfer chick herself.
We met up with Flurina outside her white-washed apartment building in the medina. As Flurina took us around her new digs she giggled with red cheeks when she presented her living room, which was mostly used for storing her surf gear. Immediately, Lindsay’s eyes lit up and she turned to me with a grin stapled to her face. I could see where this was going.
Our final stop was up to Flurina’s rooftop where we would enjoy the sunset views and get to know each other over some mint tea.
“I’m actually from Switzerland,” she told us, “but I didn’t like my job and wanted to take a chance,”. Surfing is her passion, her escape, and so it only seemed right to move to Morocco when things were not going the way she wanted. I could only admire the guts she had to take that big step.
Time passed with the tea turning to ice as we were caught up in conversation. We continued our night into town searching for freshly grilled seafood, bumping into some of Flurina’s new friends along the way. Funny enough, most of those golden dreadlocked surfers we saw hanging around were her best friends. We were having such a great time with Flurina and we couldn’t help but ask her about the possibility of surfing in Essaouira.
“Actually, my friend has a kitesurf shop and he teaches lessons. I could call him if you’d like?”
This all could not have worked out any better. What we thought would be a short lesson would evolve into a full road-trip adventure catching waves with our new surfing crew.
Off to Sidi Kaouki
We woke up the next morning to perfect conditions. Even more fitting is that is was Valentine’s Day, and the hopeless romantic in me had yet to realize he was about to fall in love.
All we could hope for is that our new friend would come along too! After a little bit of begging, Flurina called her Arabic instructor to say she “wouldn’t be making it to class today.” The day was simply too good to pass up!
With surf bags in hand, we hiked out of the medina to meet up with Abdel and Youssef, two rad dudes who live and breathe the ocean. Abdel runs Kite Surf Maroc in Essaouira, and he would be teaching us how to surf, but more importantly, how to live the wavy life, Moroccan style. He provided all of our surf gear, beginner boards, and a ride in his SUV.
After scanning over wind forecasts, Flurina and Abdel picked a small town outside of Essaouira as our spot. I was just fine going with the flow and left the decision to the experts. What I didn’t know is we were in for quite the workout (or beat down depending on your perspective).
Bombing down the highway with the tunes blasting we arrived in Sidi Kaouki. Sidi Kaouki is one of the premier surfing spots in Morocco with good waves crashing in year round.
At first sight of the waves, Flurina shouts “Abdel! What have you done!” I peered out the car window for a peak. All I could see were gigantic waves far out in the ocean with crests 10 feet high and my inevitable doom.
“Don’t worry my friend! You will do it,” Abdel reassured me. Further down the beach, there were much smaller, and more manageable waves suited for beginners.
My anxiety bubbled into uncontrollable excitement. Lindsay and I were scrambling so quickly to put on our wetsuits we did not realize we had them on inside out. With a good laugh and a quick fix, we were off to the beach.
Flurina and Youssef sought off for the larger barrels while Lindsay, Abdel, and I walked further down the beach. We were starting off in the surfing kiddie pool, where whitecaps were just starting to form.
Abdel demonstrated step by step the basics of surfing. He showed us how to position ourselves, how to paddle out, how to “catch” the wave just right, and how to stand up and carve!
“Relax! Paddle in the wave and then go slow” Abdel repeated over and over, but Lindsay and I had already darted into the water. All the excitement did not aid us as we both struggled to balance and catch the waves. With every mouthful of ocean water I was starting to get worried I would not conquer a wave by the end of the day. Abdel kept repeating “Paddle, paddle! Go with the wave.”
Then suddenly, it all clicked.
I took a deep breath and lined myself up for the next incoming tide. As the wave encroached I paddle harder, putting in a few final strokes as the curling whitecap picked up the board from under me. The key was to then feed off the energy of the wave. Once you are set in front of the wave, don’t overthink it, just stand up fluidly. Follow the motion of the ocean, baby!
Just like that, I finally got up on the surfboard and was riding my first wave. It was the happiest 1.79 seconds of my life! The adrenaline rush hit like a ton of bricks, and all i could think about was the next wave. Abdel was cheering us on from the shallows, and sure enough, his guidance helped to get Lindsay up too.
I like to think that Abdel was impressed by how quickly we caught on. He suggested we were ready for some bigger waves (which really means 3 or 4 feet tall). Trying to tackle even these small waves was incredibly tiring, and the adrenaline only carried us so far. I was humbled by mother nature and finally understood how surfers always have shredded abs. After two and a half hours on the waves, it was time for lunch.
End of a Perfect Day
The whole surfing crew was back together again chilling at one of the many beachside grills. Being the gentleman that he is, Abdel hooked us up with a massive pot of tajine to share, filled our glasses with sparkling Coca-cola, and asked us all to be his valentine.
Everyone was beaming, and life was great. I felt so accomplished after trying something new on a whim! Recounting the stories of our best waves and laughing over our biggest spills was the perfect topper for the day.
In the end, half the fun is about coming together to share in the community, only to do it all over again the next day.
We would surf till the sun went down and our muscles gave out. It was a long day, but the rewards were so sweet. To be honest, I didn’t think the trip could get any better than this.
Surfing in Morocco was another one of those moments that reminded me of why I travel. All the great people you will meet on the road along with the unpredictable adventures make for memories you will cherish for a lifetime. Live life spontaneously, and soak up every moment
All I know now is surfing will always be on the top of my list for journeys to come.
If you are heading to Essaouira, please do yourself a favour and stay with Flurina! She is a wonderful host and will show you the best time in Essaouira. If you are considering surfing reach out to Kite Surf Maroc for the best experience.
For the DIY enthusiasts, you can catch regular locals buses to Sidi Kaouki from the Bab Doukkala square for 7dh. Surfboard rental and lesson packages go for about 400dh.
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