The First Proper Surf Trip! Taghazout, Morocco
Out of season = lower cost. That was the selling point for a trip to Morocco with my girlfriend. We’d both decided we were hunting for a sun-drenched week. I wanted to surf without my wetsuit (for the first time), she wanted to tan and we both wanted to see a new part of the world. We both wanted to experience a culture that was new to us.
Morocco did not disappoint. We booked our flights to and from Agadir airport. Flying time – no more than 2 1/2 hours – bam, we’re on a different continent all-together.
One of the first things that struck us was the colour. The last time we’d seen land it was the roughspun, moss and lime patch-blanket of England’s countryside. On our gentle descent we blinked in the listless clay/mustard rock formations and ravines of North Africa; guessing what the unusual buildings were used for and cooing at the enormity of the scene.
You’re only allowed to arrive and depart with a certain amount of Moroccon Dirhams (1 Dirham being roughly 7p) on your person. If I remember rightly we were allowed to arrive with about £80′s worth – don’t quote me on that. So, after having traversed the open airfield, filled out the necessary forms, bundled through the hundred-odd passenger queues at customs and made our stop at the currency exchange desk, we headed out into Morocco proper.
Instantly hot. Instantly humid. Take lightweight clothing and don’t hold back on the sunscreen.
We’d already co-ordinated our accommodation and a taxi to take us straight to our “Riad” – a traditional Moroccon house – so we jumped in and made good our promise of seeing a new culture. Highlights included: scrabbling at the seats in an effort to find non-existent belts, narrowly missing a high pitched motorbike and losing count of the wild dogs we passed.
The driver pulled up at a nondescript part of the dusty road and announced that we’d arrived. Taghazout (pronounced “tag-a-zooote”). The only real downside (for the whole trip) was the smell of the little town. The culmination of the morning catch – Taghazout’s second best trade to tourism is fishing – and occasional areas of uncleanliness meant that the predominant smell was not a nice one.
A really nice local dude named Rachid turned up in flip-flops and boardies and offered to show us our Riad. He knew us by name, the dates/times of our flights and gave us some keys, so we happily handed over our money for the weeks accommodation and nestled in. He invited us for dinner later on and wandered off. Later that evening we ate a traditional broth and various other bits in his family home with his Mother and two brothers (below is the younger brother teaching me how to pronounce Berber).
It didn’t take us long to realise two key things. Number 1 – the place comes alive at night. A combination of prayers and the scorching midday sun saw the locals of Taghazout mincing around the town square between 11pm and 3am. Number 2 – you can haggle for EVERYTHING.
Heading over to the board-rent-shop we managed to get a couple of mals for 4 days at 80 dirhams. That’s around about £5.60. That said; we did have a lot of chat with the board hire dude. Rachid, the guy that looked after the Riad and took our deposit, also put in a good word for us. I imagine in the height of the season you’d be looking at a fair amount more.
After we’d tried a few different spots – “banana town” and one that no-one seemed to know the name of – we eventually found what the locals referred too as “Croc Rock” and at last we got some action. If you decide to give Taghazout a go, ask the taxi driver to take you to the camp-site. If you go South along the coast and come to a village full of bananas – you need to turn back. Bus drivers are really casual about letting you take boards on, and locals will often give you a ride for less than a taxi driver. Make sure you have change if this is your game – nothing fun about promising a local some money and then having to ask him to break a note. Or you can walk.
It was an absolute dream to be surfing in just board shorts and rashie, without tens/hundreds of people competing. There were some local groms that really knew what they were doing – 8 year olds busting out sharp cutbacks, floaters and occasionally getting a bit of air. On our mals we looked a little sluggish, but the quality picked up as the week went on – we learned the conditions (copied the groms) and committed to full days of surfing (in between some really interesting lunches).
One of the goals for me was to get my girlfriend to take at least one good photo of me surfing the bath-warm-water. Unfortunately she spent the majority of the time dodging waves and 90% of our shots are of her face and/or the sky.
She did get one nice one, mind you – here’s the local longboarding dog.
If you’re after a change of scenery for a fairly small budget, I would definitely suggest going to Morocco for a week or so. You’ll tell from this post that it’s a place that requires a bit of backbone to enjoy. During our time it was tough to deal with the amount of haggling and stuff that was plied on us (food, clothing, jewellery, camel rides) but it’s all part of the experience. Besides, we’re the income for a lot of the people operating on the beaches. So it seems a fair deal for a slice of their heat and surf.
Just be firm and you’ll be fine.
Additionally – It’s worth emphasising that this was during the downtime. Taghazout is a surfing town that reportedly comes alive at the height of the season. We met and befriended several groups of travellers, but the line-ups were more or less empty. I can only imagine it’s even more fun (read: more of a battle) when the world descends for the best conditions.
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