Morocco — Surfing the Land of Rights [en]

Just returned from one of my yearly surf-trips, this time revisiting Morocco. Here is some old pics, from when I visited there back in 2011:

Unlike last year in Iberia or the year before that in Zanzibar, I only had four weeks. So I wanted to do less sight-seeing and traveling, and focus more on the surfing part. I also took fewer photos, so I’ll make it short this time.

Nov 19th, Week One, Tamraght

Like back in the day, I first headed to the area of Taghazout, a small coastal town north of Agadir. I had booked one week at CLI Surf, in the nearby town of Tamraght. A lot had changed here since my previous visit. The long beach that stretches from Taghazout south to Devil’s Rock is still there. Back in the day, the area between the beach and Tamraght had been a barren wasteland. Now it’s packed with hotel resorts and other tourism infrastructure, marketed as “Taghazout Bay”. Even the main road through Taghazout has been rerouted in order to accommodate some of the resorts. And there is a frickin’ golf-course further up the hillside.

The good thing is that Taghazout and Tamraght have kept some of their old charm. There’s definitely more touristy cafés, restaurants, souvenir shops and surf rentals everywhere. But there’s also ordinary produce stores, and most establishments seem to be small, locally owned business. Also good: public beach access is still possible everywhere. There’s a nice beach promenade just behind the beach at Taghazout Bay, and even more remote beaches are equipped with waste containers.

Which is good, because we had to drive to all sorts of spots to catch some waves. The first two days, we had decent swell, just right for warm-up. After some white-water and loads of close-outs on day one, day two was actually pretty fun. Sadly, the swell got smaller for the rest of the week, which meant that I was stuck on 8 foot foamies. But the CLI surf crew did a good job at finding the right spots, where some surfing was still possible.

A couple of days we ended up at the main beach in Agadir. Which was surprisingly nice and accessible, even though they’ve had big hotel resorts for ages there. Could not notice any severe pollution from the nearby industrial port either.

One day we even drove all the way south to Tifnit, which is sill the lovely fisherman’s village that it used to be. No large-scale tourism development yet, though I noticed a couple new inns and cafés:

Nov 26th, Week Two, Tamraght

I decided to stay in Tamraght for another week, but I moved over to nearby Mint Surf. Being a slightly smaller place, they could offer a more flexible surf-guiding package. Plus they made me a good offer for a nice double room all for myself.

Since the swell had picked up a little, I chose a 7′8″ board for most of the week. The first day, we went to Banana Point which had just the right size of waves. Unfortunately, it was also very crowded. One of my fellow guests just folded after a short while in the line-up. Everyone was dropping in on everyone else in the line-up. Party waves, as someone else would later call it. However, I caught some left-over waves a little further down from the main peak.

That’s why we mostly headed for beach-breaks for the rest of the week. Later that day, we went just north of Devil’s Rock, and we also had some good waves at Anza and KM11. As the title of this post says, Morocco is the land of right handed point-breaks. However, I did not get a chance to ride many of them. Anchor point was either too small, or too big, or too crowded. Boilers is still too sketchy for me, though it looked doable on one of the smaller days. We tried Killers once, which used to be my favorite spot on previous Morocco trips. The scenery bellow the cliffs is still stunning, but we weren’t lucky with the waves. Was just too soft after the tide started rising. Well, at least it wasn’t too crowded.

Towards the end of the week, the swell was getting smaller again, well below one meter. So we went to good old Tamri Beach. This beach lies perpendicular to the prevailing swells rolling in from the north-west, so it gets waves even when most other spots are flat. According to locals, the sand-banks there are not what they used to be, and in deed I struggled reading the waves there. The strong side-shore wind — and resulting current — didn’t help either. The next day the wind had calmed down, but it was rather cold and it was raining most of the time. I love being out there in the rain, but it was also very exhausting. Did not catch a single decent wave that day.

It was the only day of rain during my whole stay in Morocco. It wasn’t heavy rainfall, but it was steady. And it transformed the landscape thoroughly. All the gullies that lie dry for most of the year turned into muddy streams. There isn’t much vegetation to hold back the dirt, so some stretches of the coastal waters turned quite muddy. Check out these pics from Tamri and our drive back to Tamraght:

The last day of the week the swell was even smaller, so I grabbed an 8 foot soft-board, and joined in with the beginner’s lessons. They went to a beach they break called One Palm, a little north of Taghazout. While the beginners got busy in the white-water, me and a couple of other guests paddled out. Looked like the waves were closing out mostly, but after a while we figured out the spot. I got some really nice rides, mostly rights, but also some lefts. At around one meter, the waves were just right for the big board. I could catch a lot of them, with no risk of nose-dives and no hassle paddling out again. Certainly the most fun session so far.

Dec 3rd, Week Three, Imsouane

I wanted to see something new after all, so I relocated to Imsoune for a week. It’s not much further north than Tamri beach, but it’s about an hour more to drive. The road does not follow the coast-line, but passes a small mountain-range and continues further inland. The Souk to Surf shuttle is a convenient travel option here.

I’ve always liked this stretch of road. The landscape is rough and barren, and makes the sea seem all the bluer. Although after the recent rainfall, the land looked just a wee bit greener. This may also be the reason why I didn’t see any of the iconic tree-climbing goats that can usually be spotted along the road. I guess they prefer fresh shoots of grass over thorny Argan Trees, if they have the choice.

I stayed at Auberge Tawala, which I can definitely recommend. It’s a small family business and the rooms are much simpler than the ones at Mint or CLI. But they are located right on the cliff in front of Cathedral Point, with direct beach access. They have a super-cozy terrace with a good view of the line-up:

Imsouane does not have as many surf spots as the Taghazout area, only two major ones. The good thing is that these are just a short walk away from anywhere in town. The more famous spot is called Imsouane Bay, or simply The Bay. It’s a long right-handed point break that peels around Imsouane’s peninsula, all the way from the busy fisherman’s port to the endless beach inside the bay. In the right conditions — low tide, with a decent swell from the north-west — you can ride hundreds of meters.

However, the wave can get rather soft in some sections. That’s why you’ll meet a lot of long-boarders there, who have it easier to stay on the wave. Consequently I picked a 9 foot hard-top for this spot. However, I made the mistake to stay at the busy main peak for too long. The stiff competition and the occasional clean-up set make it hard to catch waves there. Instead you can simply let yourself drift further down the wave and catch whatever leftovers roll through. Eventually, you’ll end up on the beach. Then it’s walk back, paddle out, and repeat. Took me a couple of days to learn how to apply this procedure efficiently.

Here’s some pics from Imsouane Bay:

The other surf spot, Cathedral Point, is all the way at the other side of town (right by Auberge Tawala, where I was staying). It’s also a right-hander, but much shorter than The Bay. In certain conditions a small left-hander further down the beach also worked quite well.

Main trouble here was the crowds once-again. It wasn’t as many surfers as over at The Bay, but there the crowds would spread out over the sheer length of the wave. At Cathedral, everyone was sitting in the same spot and dropping in on each other. In particular on smaller days, when I would be surfing an 8 foot softy.

On one of the bigger days, the waves reached about 2 meters, which deterred the big crowds. And the handful of surfers still in the line-up knew to play by the rules. I tried my luck with a nice 7′8″ mini Malibu. It was an awesome ride compared to the bigger boards I’ve used most of the time. And I did indeed catch a couple nice waves. But it was hard work paddling out and fighting the moderate current. I guess my endurance was the limiting factor here.

Here’s some pics from Cathedral Point and its surroundings:

Altogether, Imsouane is as packed with tourists as Thaghazout. But the large-scale tourism developments are still absent here. And everybody is here for the surf. This gives Imsouane a more laid-back vibe.

Dec 10th, Week Four, Tamraght

Nevertheless, I relocated to Mint Surf in Tamraght for the last week of my trip. Unfortunately, I fell sick and had to skip three days of surfing. The day after, I still felt super weak and opted for a mellow soft-top session at One Palm. I could barely stand upright on dry land, but the surf was super fun once again.

The remaining days were so flat that we could barely find surfable waves. One day we ended up at KM11, the next day we drove all the way north to Imsouane. The Bay did not look promising, so we tried the left-hander near Cathedral Point. This worked surprisingly well for about half an hour, but then it just went too soft. In the end we relocated to Tamri, which once again kept the promise as a reliable spot for smaller swells. I struggled with my 7′8″ hardtop, but in the end I caught a couple strong waves. A good conclusion to my trip.

I have not taken many photos during the last week, but here is some impressions from Mint Surf, Taghazout by night, and the beach front and hotels near Tamraght: