For a girl born on the west coast, when you think of surfing you think beach breaks, sandy beaches and the Pacific Coast Highway. Surf trips away from the California waters land you mostly in Hawaii for often times warmer, bigger and more consistent waves. So needless to say, traveling to and surfing in Africa was an experience I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have. But thanks to a $300 travel voucher and a sale on American Airlines, I was able to visit Morocco to explore its oceans and roads.
The barren landscape of the Moroccan countryside displays a serene beauty and the trades the people have mastered and made their way of life is a humbling simplicity: Herders, pottery makers and fisherman amongst them.
Walking into each souk, your senses are hit with the smell of Moroccan spices while your eyes feast on the brightly colored, hand painted pottery and intricately loomed rugs. Weaving in and out of the market’s alleys you will find yourself lost in the artisan culture of the country. You could bring an empty suitcase with you to bring back all the goods that would normally be a task to import to the States.
Moroccan food is everything you have seen on the travel channel and more. An amazing burst of flavor with a rich, earthy feel to the dishes. Much of the food is prepared in a tagine clay pot and served with root vegetables, couscous or rice and a protein of some kind (chicken, goat, lamb, camel…yes, camel.). The spice element in each dish is what makes every meal truly delicious. You’ll also be free enjoy Berber whiskey (better known as Moroccan tea) at each meal and in every café you stop at along your trip.
Surf Africa. Morocco’s western coast boasts an endless strip of point and beach breaks along the 500-kilometer stretch of highway from Agadir in the south to Casablanca in the north. You can’t always see the water from the main road, so you take your chances at guessing where the next turn off will take you. Good news is: most roads lead to the ocean. With too many breaks to name, we didn’t get to visit all of them. So here’s a look at three of the main stops:
Taghazout / Anchor Point
The one road town of Taghazout is the seemed to embody the essence of a Moroccan surf town. The main highway leads right through the town’s center. A few surf shops line the street alongside breakfast and lunch cafes. Fishermen set up their stands on the beach and massage parlors are set back on the side streets. The main break here is a long right-hander, Anchor Point. You can pick up a board rental at the local surf shops. There are surf camps and additional housing options here as well if you’d like to stay for a night or two. Surf Maroc is a popular camp off the main road and offers travel to additional spots along the coast.
Thirty kilometers north of Taghazout you’ll find the small rural area of Tamri. The consistent swell lines generate a popular beach break that offers waves when Anchor Point isn’t breaking in the south. The stretch of sand and rocks on the shore make it a beautiful spot. It’s also a common stop for the surf camps. I didn’t find any board rental spots here so be sure to grab one in Taghazout before heading up.
Safi / Lalla Fatna
Home to both big waves and a number of body boarders, Safi is a great stop along the way with a few different options for surf spots. The best however, may be 20 kilometers north of Safi. Make the turn at the blue and white sign leading to the coast that reads “Plage Lalla Fatna.” The winding road will lead you down to a concrete shack with Arabic graffiti, a worn out logo for the Association of Body Boarders and café tables overlooking the surf. The beach break seemed to be free of the dozens of surfers from the surf camps leaving you with some waves to yourself. You can pick up a board and wetsuit rental here for 100 dirham an hour (roughly $15).
MUST DO + SEE STOPS ALONG THE WAY
- Marrakech. Possibly the best souk markets in the country and a true feel for Morocco’s “big city” lifestyle.
- Jardin Majorelle. The beautiful garden owned by Yves Sant Laurent before his death in the outskirts of Marrakech. See pieces from the designer’s personal artworks as well as the lush landscape he housed. The surrounding area is an artistic setting with gourmet restaurants and higher-end boutiques.
- Essouira fish markets. Watch hundreds of blue wooden fishing boats come into the harbor and toss in their daily catch of sardines by the bucket-full and see the sun set behind the city’s old castle walls and sea marsh scattered with fishermen with rod and reel in hand.
- Ride a camel. Yes, it hurts and yes, they smell but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Many beaches offer rides along the shore, or better yet, take a ride out to the desert in Merzouga and book an overnight camel excursion to sleep in the dunes under the stars.
- Surf season runs from about October through April with peak season hitting in the winter months.
- Bring a board with you if you can. Makes it easier for when you find the more uninhabited surf breaks.
- You will likely need a wetsuit if you’re surfing in the fall/winter. Water can average about 55 degrees.
- Ladies, bring a long sleeve shirt to wear when you are out and about, even for after you get out of the water. It’s a respect to the Moroccan culture and it will prevent you from getting any unwanted glances.
- If you’re not up for braving the roads and trying to find the best breaks on your own, stay with a surf camp. They will handle the driving, waves and gear. Check out Surf Maroc.
- Your phone’s GPS won’t do you much good out here sadly. Stick to the old-fashioned paper map or see about a navigation system from the rental car dealer.
- If you have the time, I highly recommend taking the ferry across the Straight of Gibraltar and into Spain. It’s a beautiful trip.
- Skip Casablanca. Really. You won’t miss much.