A European winter surf tour – Morocco
Previous posts have delved into the potential for surf exploration in France, Spain and Portugal, we now continue the quest for empty waves and venture south across the Gibraltar strait into Africa and Morocco.
Tom Keyes: Oct 2017 – As winter marches on towards its shortest days, the temptation to seek out warmer waters and experience a brief encounter with the sunshine becomes ever greater. For surfers choosing to continue the quest for waves in the UK, it’s time to bring the boots, hoods and gloves out of their summer hibernation. But the darkest months are also the best time to escape the icy waters that lap against our shores. And whilst even the southernmost points of Europe may still be susceptible to the ferocious low pressures that loiter in the depths of the Atlantic, there is one country ideally placed to benefit from the swell created by the Atlantic lows, without succumbing to the less appealing associated weather elements. A country that has long been a favourite destination for both the intrepid travelling surfer on an endless quest for perfection, and the casual surfer looking for quality waves with some brief respite from the cold. A leap into the unknown, both culturally and geographically: Morocco.
Due to its relatively easy access, Morocco has long been a winter favourite for Northern European surfers. The perfectly smooth coastal highway neatly tracks the shoreline, making exploration of the best Moroccan surf spots a piece of cake.
The centre of the North African surf scene is Taghazout. A brief stroll through the heart of this once small Moroccan village is a slightly surreal experience. Taghazout has fully embraced its cultural invasion. Ding repair shops sidle up to the locals as they slow cook their humble tagines. Sex wax is available in the local grocery stores. And fully fledged surf shops selling overpriced gear have flourished. The reason for this invasion is pretty obvious: the sublimely consistent breaks that litter the coastline surrounding Taghazout. Staying here is the obvious choice. Anchor Point offers endless walls as the swell wraps around its rocky outcrop. Killers delivers challenging waves in relative safety. And Boilers lays out dreamily hollow rides at an alarmingly consistent rate. But whilst a trip to Taghazout may be the obvious choice. It’s also the lazy choice. This perfection has come at a price. Everything that once made Taghazout such a perfect winter surf trip destination has come back to mar the experience of visiting. It’s so overpopulated with honorary locals that good days at the major breaks are completely zooed out. Anchor Point still delivers its picture postcard perfection; you’ll just have to hassle to score a wave to yourself. The further you travel from the Moroccan epicentre of surfing, the more the crowds disperse, but a bit of careful planning is required to ensure a potentially perfect surf trip doesn’t become a time of frustration.
If you must visit Taghazout, think carefully about your dates. The accessibility of this surf paradise result in drastically bolstered numbers in the water throughout the duration of the UK school holidays. It’s not unheard of for scores of groms on corporately sponsored training camps to flood the line-ups with their wave thwarting enthusiasm. Going early or late in the season is a risk, but it might just lead to you experiencing the peaks as they used to be, i.e. relatively empty.
Perhaps more than ever, a better option is to explore the potential of all that lies north of Agadir. With perfect coastal roads and ample opportunities for overnight van stops, the best way of surveying this uninterrupted wave playground is to leisurely amble through the country. The more famous spots are liberally documented in all the surf guides. And a trip to any of these spots is a safe bet to securing infinitely quieter waves than you’d find further south.
Dar Bouzza is a mirror image of Anchor Point. And with the correct swell, it will easily match anything that Morocco’s most famous right hand point break can deliver. The often ignored city of Rabat is surrounded with possibilities both in and out of the water. The opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the cultural divergence of this fascinating capital is too good to overlook. The most reliable spot in the region is most definitely Mehdya Place. Rumoured to have been first surfed by members of the US military in the 60’s, its location means that it’s nicely sheltered from any northerly wind that might threaten to ripple the surface of the ocean. Unlike some of the other breaks surrounding Rabat, this is also a wave that can handle a larger swell. When other spots are beginning to max out, the right-hander known as Moone will be coming to life.
If the capital city of Rabat holds little allure, then Casablanca will surely stir emotion in even the harshest of souls. Long famed for a regularly misquoted film line, the Portugese and Spanish architectural influences create a stunning back drop at which to marvel. If you want to observe the skyline from the water, then there are plenty of beach breaks out front. Or for a wave of greater quality and consistency, head for Jack’s Beach. A swell magnet of a beach break south of Casablanca that A-frames majestically in the African sun.
The further south you head the sketchier reliable information becomes. Which is perfect. Because information overload is what is killing the anonymity of dwindling secluded surf spots the world over. A one-time secret spot that has been thrust into the surfing mainstream – due in no small part to its cavernous barrels – is Safi. Backdoor style tube rides scream down the north point of Safi’s Garden, sending those perched under the lip hurtling towards a spray filled exit. This wave needs a really big swell to properly stand up and it works best at low tide. It’s also a place to show respect in the water, the locals would rather it remained more low key, so can be reluctant to share the spoils. There are other spots in the area that work in similar conditions, so if Safi is firing, a reccy of the surrounding inlets could prove fruitful.
So pack plenty of boards, a light summer wetsuit and enough dirham for a few tanks of fuel. Bury deep the memories of a bleak British winter and set out to discover new cultures and fresh waves. It’s hard to think of a more accessibly rewarding winter surf escape.