Loco’s boss man has recently returned from visiting Morocco for the first time so we wanted to catch up with him to get the low down on the place, the people and of course the surf. Over to Joe for his top 10 tips for SUP surfing in Morocco…
After a slightly frustrating start to our trip due to inclement weather and a five hour delay at Manchester Airport we landed in Agadir slightly jaded before powering on to Taghazout where we were booked into a traditional Riad situated up in the mountains away from the hustle and bustle of the main town. We’d effectively missed a day of SUP surfing so we decided to crash and save what energy we had left for the following day.
Taghazout by day was certainly a culture shock with the poorest people rustling through tourist trash and beggars hounding you for Dirhams. That said the town itself had a shabby chic surf village kind of vibe, it felt friendly and pretty safe as a couple although my better half did feel a bit objectified by some of the indigenous guys so something to consider if you’re female and travelling there alone.
Taghazout itself has an array of shops and restaurants alongside a multitude of hire and repair shops for all things surf and SUP. The selection of SUP surfing equipment was a bit dated and tended to be at the bargain basement end of the spectrum or was in pretty rough shape after several seasons of use but it was still perfectly serviceable as a small wave or flat day alternative to prone surfing if that’s your main thing. As an experienced rider I was glad to have taken my own equipment so read into that what you will.
The forecast was looking a bit slack for our time there so we soon realised that travel would be an integral part of the trip which leads me neatly on to my first tip…
1) Hire a car! Sure you can walk to Anchor Point, Mysteries, Killers and Panoramas from Taghazout and some of the Surf Camps do offer minibus shuttles to and from their teaching locations but for ultimate freedom and flexibility pay the £150 and get yourself a car. We were lucky getting one with roof rack bars fitted but many of the internet options don’t have them as standard so it’s a good idea packing some foam or a soft rack to cushion the board. Petrol is cheap compared to the UK so motivated wave hunting is far less painful than a round trip to Thurso from Newcastle per say. Make sure you have change when surfing the breaks close to Taghazout as there are parking inspectors seemingly everywhere looking to charge you for the privilege of parking on some rocks! They’ll chance their arm at 20 Dirhams but locals only pay 5 as did we. If you’re leaving kit on the roof and want it to stay there payment is a wise. Whatever you do don’t leave stuff visible inside your car especially at some of the more remote spots as some of the less scrupulous toe rags will break a window as soon as breath and you may end up with a 500 Euros excess for a £100 bit of glass!
2) To fund your trip you’re going to need Dirhams that you can’t buy outside of Morocco which can make paying for your car on arrival tricky if the exchange in closed at the Airport. We lost out on the ‘paying in English deal’ so we suggest paying for your car up front. The best place we found for changing money was the bank in Banana Village which is about 5-10 minutes South from Taghazout where we got 14.6 Dirhams to the pound versus 13 with other options. If you just draw out cash from the ATM you’ll get charged for each transaction so cash is king!
3) We were quite lucky on the upset tummy front but it is a good idea to take some imodium if you’re keen to sample the local food. Anti-bac gel might also be a good idea for those prone to sickness or have a leaning towards OCD.
4) Wetsuit-wise a 3/2 is more than sufficient for winter trips to Morocco and in the warmer months boardies and rash vest is the order of the day. We didn’t opt to take booties but for some of the more challenging reef breaks this is definitely a good idea due to a multitude of urchins which can put an untimely end to a killer session!
5) Even in January the sun is HOT over there so sun cream is a must especially if you’re fair skinned. It’s easy to get caught out on a windy day and if you decide to check out Paradise Valley covering up at altitude is sensible.
6) For those looking for improver to intermediate waves you don’t have to travel too far from Taghazout to access some relatively friendly beach breaks. We enjoyed a couple of days at Devil’s Rock, Panoramas (on the push) and Anza (which also has a cracking reef which A frames left and right). For 95% of these spots an incoming tide or high tide creates the best conditions although be warned these spots get busy with all kinds of watercraft and surfing etiquette doesn’t really exist in Morocco.
7) For those looking for a bit more size and shape to their waves the reefs at Anza and Anchor Point are probably the closest and most easily accessible spots from Taghazout. Unsurprisingly they can get very busy with short boarders so if you like your SUP surfing mixed with an obstacle course this could be for you. The surf was pretty slack for most of our stay (3′-6′) so Anchor didn’t look particularly appealing due to the numbers of bodies in the water so we opted for Killers a couple of bays along from Anchor which also works best at low to mid tide but due to the 20 minute paddle out seems to put off the majority of short boarders. This spot can be magical (especially at sunset) and is definitely worth the paddle although it can be a wave of consequence so those with less SUP surfing under their belts are advised to avoid it when it’s BIG as rider and equipment damage are common. Those looking to travel a bit further Boilers is about 30 mins North from Taghazout and probably picks up the most swell out of all the spots. That said it’s always busy with short boarders and it’s not for the faint-hearted on a big day! The urchin situation up there makes booties a must unless you have a local to guide you in and out.
8) So you’ve trashed your board on the rocks or snapped your paddle (as I did on day one) that’s your holiday screwed right? Surprisingly Taghazout has a plethora of ding shops and the prices aren’t to painful as might be the case in the Canary Islands! I snapped my paddle blade clean off in beast mode and within 24hrs it was glassed in and probably stronger than when it came out the factory. Sure it wasn’t pretty and had gained a bit of weight but considering the alternative I was happy to pay 100 Dirhams (£7-8) to the friendly guys at Surf Berbere.
9) So where’s the must visit break which anyone can access safely? You need to travel North about 90 mins to Imsouane which has a choice of a left over the reef which can be pleasant enough but the show stopper wave is found in the harbour at low to mid tide with a long peeling right that seemingly goes on forever! Catch this right and you’ll have a perm-grin slapped on your face for the rest of the holiday. We bumped into former ISA World SUP Champ Antoine Delpero there although he was styling it up on his longboard as opposed to his SUP. To make the trip worthwhile check the forecast as this place needs a bit of size to work as it’s best. Also check the wind as when we went up the first time it was howling 25kts offshore which lead to me snapping my paddle Asylum style.
10) What’s there to do for fun? Taghazout is ‘dry town’ so we opted to grab some duty free on the way over although after a couple of nights on the gin and vodka we were both craving a cold beer which you just can’t buy. Again another good reason to have a car and if we go again we’ll score some beers in Agadir before making the drive up to Taghazout. In fairness there’s not much of a nightlife scene from what we could glean. Most people seem happy surfing/sunbathing all day and winding down with a couple of joints and some duty free of a evening so it’s no surprise it’s a hit with surfers and hippies alike. In terms of sightseeing opportunities Paradise Valley is definitely worth the 30 minute drive East from Banana Village. Those with more time may wish to travel up to Marrakech and breath in the culture. Those looking for windy fun we suggest heading North to Essaouira. For surf widows Taghazout sports a variety of yoga options and Banana Village has a weekly Souk (market) where you can practice your bartering skills. If you want to go full tourist there are quad bike options, organised tours and the obligatory camel rides!
In terms of accommodation Taghazout has a variety of options from luxurious villas to cheap flea pits aimed as dudes on a budget. If you’re looking for a full package including surf lessons and would prefer to stay with an English-run company then Surf Maroc are certainly worth a look. We were lucky to be put in touch with Sam and Silvy at the Mountain Riad (about 3kms out of town) which is a great little hideaway for singles/couples and at just £25/night/room inc breakfast it ticked all the boxes for us.
So would we go back? Without doubt Morocco has potential for all levels of SUP surfer although for my level I’d probably wait for an Atlantic storm and try and catch the aftermath at Imsouane or Killers. Outside of surfing the weather is great, the people are largely friendly and the food was better than some places I’ve been to in Europe. It’s impossible to spend money over there which is always nice with us struggling to spend £150 each which included a professional in water video shoot!
With cheap flights readily available there’s no better time to pack up your SUP and venture over and check it out for yourselves. Stay tuned for a little video from our trip!!