Surfing in Morocco: Riding high in Taghazout
Surfing in Morocco: Riding high in Taghazout
A laid-back mini surfing empire in Taghazout has ex-pro instructors, but can they teach our writer – aged 48, with a dodgy back – to ride the waves?
Maroc and rollers … beginners are put though their paces at Taghazout
The Guardian, Fri 25 May 2012 22.45 BST
This is the most peaceful place imaginable to practise yoga: the veranda of a villa high above the Atlantic on a beautiful warm evening, the sun dipping below the horizon, turning the sky and waves pink, the surf breaking on the rocks below creating a relaxing soundtrack.
But unfortunately I was neither calmed by the yoga nor taking in the view. I was absolutely bricking myself.
Tomorrow I’d be out in those waves, attempting, at the age of 48, to surf for the first time in my life. What the hell had I – out of shape, overweight, terrible co-ordination, arthritic back – been thinking of when I signed up for this?
In a panic I emailed my editor, praying she’d free me from this suicide mission. Fat chance. I could almost hear her laughing in London as she replied: “You’ll be fine Gav, just remember to cover your head when you fall off so you don’t knock yourself out on the seabed!” Cheers boss.
I was staying with Surf Maroc, a British-owned outfit who have created a mini empire in Taghazout, Morocco’s leading surfing beach, just north of Agadir. It has surf camps (including a girls-only week), yoga-surf retreats, lessons and equipment hire, and a choice of four places to stay (all on the beach), from basic hostel-style rooms to a comfortable villa with a pool and hammam. There is also a daily sunset yoga class to help surfers stretch after a hard day in the water, which I’d joined shortly after my arrival.
Villa Taghazout, where I stayed, felt a bit tired and in need of a refurb (choose the lovely Villa Mandala if you’re here to relax rather than party) but the overall level of service is unbeatable for the price – surf packages cost from £275 a week. For dinner, big tasty helpings of Moroccan food are served at a communal table where everyone chats about which beach they’ve been to that day (surfers are divided into groups depending on their level).
Surf Maroc’s next project will be a notch up from this successful communal, happy-camper formula, however. Amouage, which will open at the end of the year overlooking Anchor Point, Morocco’s most famous wave, is its first purpose-built property and – with its swanky, ocean-front infinity pool, yoga centre and rooms with balconies overlooking the water – will be the country’s first boutique surf pad.
Surfing naturally attracts chilled-out types (as co-owner Ben put it: “It’s not like we’re running golfing holidays for fat cats”) and there was a lovely easy vibe to Surf Maroc. Many of the surfers I spoke to were returnees.
This friendly approach extends to the excellent surf instructors. My first one-on-one lesson was with Lisa, an easygoing South African ex-pro who had that teacher’s gift of filling you with confidence. She had coaxed me into the water and on to my board before I had time to feel daunted. I didn’t get to my feet on day one but Lisa convinced me I’d made fantastic progress, even telling everyone back at the villa that I was “a natural” – though we both really knew I was as lithe as a beached whale.
I’d engaged so many unused muscles surfing that that night’s yoga was torture – but I was looking forward to, not dreading, my next surf lesson.
Day two: different teacher, different style. Youness is a local who has been with Surf Maroc for five years. He was great fun but also intense and analytical, giving feedback after every wave I caught: “Hands further up the board!”; “Paddle harder!”; and, time and again “Don’t look down at the board!” A couple of guys who have surfed all over the world told me Youness was the best instructor they have ever had.
Finally, I got on a wave. It didn’t look pretty and it was only a piddly one, but I stayed up long enough to feel a grin as wide as the beach on my face and, as I crashed back into the water, glimpsed Youness on the shore, jumping up and down and pumping his fist in the air.
• Surf Maroc (01794 322709,surfmaroc.co.uk) provided the trip. A one-week package, including transfers, accommodation, surfing guides, breakfast and packed lunch, costs from £275, excluding flights. Coaching sessions, including equipment, start at £20 for 212 hours. EasyJet (easyjet.com) provided flights from Gatwick to Agadir – returns from £58. For more information on the region contact the Moroccan Tourist Office (020-7437 0073, visitmorocco.com)