Morocco: What’s it really like?

Written by on 19th September 2012
Published in Surfing, Travel
Feeling the love with 0 Likes
Tagged with

Maybe you’re looking to go on your first overseas surf trip, or you may have been on a few trips and are eyeing up Morocco next and naturally have some questions, so here’s my appraisal of the Taghazout are after several trips to this country over the years.

A surfer makes a bottom turn, looking for the barrel on a cool green Morocco wave

Bottle green walls typify the Moroccan surfing experience

Morocco certainly is unlike anywhere else I’ve been to; it is equal measures safe and edgy, calm and chaotic, friendly and inhospitable, to coin a cliche, a real land of contrasts, and that’s what makes it very addictive. Oh, and of course there are the waves: every bit as good as you’ve been led to believe…

Being A Tourist In Morocco

(If you just wanna read about the surf, skip to ‘The Surf’ subheader below)

Taghazoute was really the first place to attract visiting (or any for that matter) surfers thanks to its collection of stunning point breaks and near-guaranteed sunshine. On my first visit some ten years ago, glue-sniffing kids would loiter in dusty car-parks by the breaks, begging for money under the auspices of looking after your car (looking after your car mean not vandalising it whilst you surfed). The streets of the town had more than their fair share of scammers, touts and drunks, hassling you for whatever they could get.

A shop with groceries displayed outside on the street in Taghazoute, Morocco

Standard shop in Taghazoute, selling plenty of fruit, bread and Coca Cola

My most recent visit was March this year and wow, what a difference between now and then. The new car-park kids have worked out that by doing a proper job of watching your car that you will pay them every day for a week. The streets have definitely cleaned up too; people are intent on just doing a good job for you as they know you will come back again. Sustainable tourism 1-0-1!

The internet cafe has gone, I suppose everyone has smart-phones these days. Also there used to be a licensed restaurant at Panoramas, but that’s gone too, so if you need a beer you’ll need to drive to the supermarket in Agadir, some 35 minutes south. Otherwise the cheerful array of fruit and grocery stores and local food restaurants are all still intact. The surf shops are better appointed than before; expect to pay the same prices as you would at home for the same gear, handy if you need a new suit or board in a pinch.

An internet cafe is closed for business and looks a bit derelict

A relic from another time…the internet cafe

Out of Taghazout heading north, the first village you come to is Tamri. You will end up here on smaller surf days. These days it’s full of sunbathers, learner surfers and parasols, there’s real Mediterranean vibe to it and the waves are OK for a splash around. The village is just as charming as ever; bustling, basic, and very Moroccan meaning you should expect to be fussed over when you sit down to eat a delicious tagine (kind of a slow-cooked lamb dish, totally delicious) washed down with sweet mint tea. I love the place and could sit and watch the locals rushing around for hours.

Westerners frolic and sunbathe on Tamri Beach

Kicking back on the warm sands of Tamri

The police are a lot more congenial towards tourists than before; maybe they’ve taken some advice from the local business men? Most likely their improved attitude towards tourists is down to royal decree since the King of Morocco is a fairly progressive and liberal chap and he knows tourism is where it’s at. It used to be that if you were driving and saw the cops, they were already flagging you down to extort some bribe out of you. Nowadays, unless you make some traffic rule infringement, they’ll wave you straight on through their check point.

Overall, the hazards and hassles from people are minimal in Taghazoute but that doesn’t mean it’s dull, for if you wanted it, pretty much every Moroccan you pass on the street would happily engage you in a lengthly conversation about the most random of topics. They really are a lively, social bunch as you’ll soon notice by the numbers of locals hanging around in shops, cafes, pavements, or where ever. So if you expect to go quietly through the streets, you won’t. It’s a small town and new arrivals stand out like sore thumbs; I bet after you’ve been out there for a few days you’ll spot the ‘fresh of da boat’ crew on their first tentative walk around town! All that you need to enjoy these interactions is a sense of humour and not to be in any great rush; I find it much easier to get on when you don’t take yourself too seriously in Morocco.

Sum bleddy boys!

The harbour beach in the middle Taghazoute is a nice place to watch people doing hard work. Just ask these three fellas.

That said, like anywhere on Earth, bad things happen. The times I’ve found myself in a bit of a pickle in Morocco over the years, people have been so keen to help me out of it. I’ve had to place great trust in strangers out there, and they’ve come through for me every time. Morocco is certainly not a place where people walk by someone when they’re in trouble, unlike our own countries perhaps…

The Surf

The first question people ask of a surf destination is: are there waves? In Morocco’s case, if you go during out winter months, YES, for it is a ridiculously consistent place. The next question people ask is: will the waves suit my ability? Well, if you’re learning to surf, or already cruising and want to extend yourself a bit, for sure. If you’re a real tube-hound, these waves do exist but naturally are a little more fickle. I’ve been to Morocco when it was pumping and the waves then would keep even the weariest pro stoked. I’ve also been when the surf was at half potential, and I surfed myself silly for days on end.

A perfect wave is groomed by an offshore wind, somewhere on the edge of the desert

Because of the shape of the coastline, spots like Boilers or Killer Point could be going off hard with huge green walls and throaty barrel sections, whilst down at Banana Point beginners are taking surf lessons in safe tranquillity. If you’re experienced at cross referencing maps with swell forecasts, you’ll find it quite easy to pin point where to head on a given day around Taghazoute. If forecasting and spot planning is a bit new to you, just leave that up to your surf guide :)

For boards, I’ve had most fun on a classic thruster shortboard. The wave have stacks of push compared to the UK so you don’t want loads of foam under you. If you intend to surf the points, consider taking a longer board than usual because of the amount of paddling required; on a good day you’ could be paddling 400m back up the line after kicking out several times! I don’t think you’d want to take a gun; if it was that huge, I’d head towards a more fickle spot for a really quality wave rather than a big lump.

A backlit surfer makes a swooping turn on a head high wave

Looks fun, is fun! And each one runs for over 200m,

You will need wheels to really get the most out of Taghazout unless you fancy hiking your way to the spots. You can rent a motor, catch buses (surprisingly efficient), or book minibus transport as part of your surf package. If you drive, the roads are pretty quiet and good quality, just do not ever overtake on an unbroken white line – cops will hang out at such places and you will get pulled.

Post Surf

One thing I love about Taghazoute is all the visiting surfers getting together in the evenings to swap tales of action over a sizzling roof-top bbq. The vibe is always friendly, open and relaxed; folk in town for just a week or two, with mates or alone, always ready to chat. These days there’s less of a feral crowd than there used to be; that’s neither a good or a bad thing but there are a lot more female travellers than before, encouraged into surfing through as part of yoga retreats and I don’t think any one would lament the growth of that traveller group.

Young people enjoying a rooftop bbq on a surf trip

Keep your ears open for the weekly BBQs that occur in Taghazoute

You really should eat out a few times around Taghazoute. The tagines I’ve already mentioned are delicious to the point of being addictive. Fish is fresh, bread and olives arrive with every meal and service is really good and attentive, if not in any way hurried.

Wrapping up

Taghazout is really a place that offers adventure at the level you wish to find it. The surrounding landscape (and seascape) can be quite harsh, but the town has everything you need and is a welcoming place to return to in the evening. Solo travellers can stay in apartments in town where they will meet other surfers and groups of friends will find it easy to split their groups depending on ability during the day.

The back streets in town are quiet, lazy places

For a combo of sun, price, and consistency and variety of waves, I would say there is nowhere within a 3hr flight radius from the UK that would beat it.

 

 

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

© Errant Surf 2017 | Part of Star Surf Camps (UK) Ltd | Registered Company number: 09334241