“I’m cartwheeling down the face of this gnarly 10ft wave, smacking into my board below. Tumbling under the wash for ages, I climbed the leash to find just half my board on the surface. Our photographer (Alan Van Geyson) was too busy directing Klee (Strachan) away from trouble off the point to spot me, so I’m treading water, clinging to what’s left of my board, for like 45 minutes and end up getting swept 2km down the coast…”
As I continued to quiz Dan Thornton about his afternoon session over a friendly game of poker, I felt a little better about my own efforts that day. An RVCA-and-Firewire-sponsored free-riding pro from South Afirca, Dan had spent his day paddling for his life much like myself. My morning session, however, was a rather more modest and futile attempt at paddling in whitewater hell.
Three days into my Moroccan Surf camp and I was yet to get a ride. I’ve only my poor ability and the epic forecast for the week to blame, such was the 26ft (8m) swell headed in our direction. Still, Morocco’s culture is as big an experience as the surf, so the entire group took a day off from the monster waves and were shuttled off to the souks in Agadir.
Denny Tolley, who runs www.morocsurf.com in Tamraght is a legend in his own right, and his crews’ local knowledge of waves in the area is second to none. Pro surfers and amateurs alike return to Den’s setup year after year for clean and consistent waves without the crowds. Denny started the business in September 2001, sticking at his dream despite the 9/11 attacks causing westerners to rethink their visits to Middle Eastern and North African countries. With obstacles overcome and endless energy, Den has integrated himself and become a trusted and respected business among the community. As it’s family run and employs local crews, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re his first ever guest, such is his genuine enthusiasm and the hospitable nature the rest of the team embodies.
Agadir is renowned as a pro-surf paradise but Morocsurf cater to the likes of us amateurs too. Finding the best wave for your ability whatever the conditions is second nature to these guys, whether it’s beach breaks, points, reefs or even cheeky lefts you’re after – and if you simply want to learn, you are made just as welcome.
All was not lost and the swell was kind enough to drop off enough for some fun mellow beach breaks. By this point Den’s team had the measure of me and directed me into the pocket of some gentle left-handers for my goofy stance. Setting an optimistic target of 10 rides to make up for previous surf-less days I came out applauded and grinning; I’d clocked up a solid 15 rides on a patch of water all to myself as my fellow novices soaked up the afternoon sun from the shore.
A typical day consists of an inclusive 8am breakfast so you can hit the road at 9 while the going is good. You’ll have a packed lunch waiting in the truck to fuel your afternoon session and eating in at the hotel will have you dining on some of the best Moroccan food in town from the on-site chef. It’s far from a boot camp: just let your driver know what you’re after, if you want to go early or late or even head off to Marrakech for a few days off.
Morocco is the ideal destination for a winter surf escape but is open year round. The swell is some of the world’s most consistent and you’ll find the 18ºC water temperatures around February a welcome relief from the UK’s winter. Bring your own boards and wetsuits or make your choice from their vast selection; whatever gems you find in the shed are yours for the duration of your stay.
A number of clientele during my visit were repeat customers of varying surfing abilities. Some were staying for a month; some had escaped Scottish winters; while others were boycotting landlocked Switzerland for a few weeks.
Check out a video of the week here
For more information, visit: www.morocsurf.com