Surf’s Up Dudes!
‘Surf’s up dudes, let’s go shred some waves!’ This is a statement I’d never made but always wanted to, in my best Spicoli impersonation (remember Sean Penn’s stoner character from Fast Times At Ridgemont High?), principally because I never knew how to properly surf before. Sure I look like a surfer with my long curly blonde hair. Sure I’ve hopped on a board a few times here and there in India, Bali, and Lima. But I’d only caught a wave out of pure beginner’s luck and never for longer than enough to think ‘Holy shit, it worked!’ before the board shout out from under my feet and I plunged into the water. Spending a lot of my time near the ocean that had to change. Learning to surf was high on my priority list this summer, and it’s been a great ride doing so.
I decided to wing it, catching a bus from Essaouria towards Agadir along the west coast. I asked the driver if he could drop me off at Tagazhout and he counter offered the nearby town of Tamraght, which is also home to a lot of surf schools. Sure thing, let’s see what Tamraght has going on.
I saw online that a school called Solid Surf House offers packages for surfing and yoga so I thought why not take a couple yoga classes while I’m at it? It’d be nice to take classes for a change, especially after the rigors of paddling past the breakers and battling strong currents for a few hours.
When I arrived at the house to check it out it had the feeling that this was a place I could chill out for a while. A beautiful big villa with a pool, hammocks, pool table, drums and guitars lying about; my sorta scene. I began talking with the manager Ayoub who just so happened to need a yoga teacher to cover classes until the end of the month, the time period I had left in Morocco. So I agreed to teach a class each morning and evening in exchange for surfing, food, and housing, no amount of planning beforehand could have worked out better.
The first couple days we spent on large foam boards catching the white water of waves that have already broken. Much of the technique to surfing is similar to yoga. Keep your chest up and your hands close to your chest when getting ready to stand, like performing a full cobra pose. Keep your eyes where you want to go, like using your drishti in balancing poses to find stability. Find your lunge when you stand, put a smile on your face, and enjoy the ride or the wipeout! I had my fair share of nose dives and wipeouts the first few days (and subsequent days as well) but also was able to stand up with consistency and graduated to the lineup and a 7’6″ hardboard.
Out in the lineup we began catching green waves, the unbroken waves that you see actual surfers riding. The feeling of timing a wave correctly and cruising along the wave’s power is addictive, especially if you catch the wave’s open face for a nice long ride. As soon as one ride ends you hop back on the board and enthusiastically paddle back out to catch another, diving and turtle rolling under the breakers, sitting on your board and scoping the horizon for that next wave to begin cresting.
Throughout my two and a half weeks we hit up a bunch of different surf spots. One of the coolest was two hours north, the famous Imsouane. Here during great conditions you can ride a wave for over four minutes as the right handed waves curl around the coast line. We had two unexpected visitors that day, a pair of orcas breaching the surface about three hundred meters from the coast. No need to free Willy because he’s already free! Their dorsal fins stood strong and erect, no captivity curl to mar their impeccable beauty, only the open ocean to enhance it!
Back at the house there was a lot of turnaround among the guests as most people stayed for about a week. (My boy Woo, an absolute legend from South Korea, stayed for three weeks. Watching him catch waves in his Power Ranger-reminiscent wetsuit everyone rained down shouts of ‘Wooooo!’ or ‘Woo let the dog’s out!’) I had a great time especially with the first group of new surfers, most of whom were from England, Holland and Germany, and a really awesome girl from Rabat.
I got the opportunity to introduce more people to yoga and Thai massage for the first time in those few weeks than the past year in total, very different and equally as rewarding as teaching advanced practitioners on teacher trainings to become teachers. Different stages of the same beautiful journey that like everything begins with that first experience (‘shit this down dog thing is hard work’ and ‘this shavasana thing is my favorite part!’) It was great to see people coming back to class curious to learn more and exploring their body and mind in new ways (although sometimes that 7:00 alarm seemed really early after battling the ocean all day and hanging out at night.)
The staff at solid is just that, a solid group of cool cats. The instructors Yazid, Yassin (aka Snoopy), and Mo are fun guys whose love of surfing is palpable. They make surfing look easy and sometimes ridiculous, like when Snoopy rides a wave in a scorpion style handstand. Damn dude, that’s on another stratosphere of awesome!
My boy Said makes some delicious food each day and his chocolate lava cake is the bomb diggity. Plus he looks like a stud holding a butcher’s knife! Fatima the housekeeper is one of the sweetest souls. She took me and my friend Emily* (who took a bunch of great photos for everyone and is the coolest thing to come out of Delaware since I left four years ago. Just kidding about myself, but not about her, she’s rad) to the markets in Agadir, filling our bellies with cookies and donuts.
I had felt a bit ungrounded from bouncing around so much in Europe and then Morocco. Finding the surf school was an ideal way to reconnect with the always purifying ocean, with challenging myself in new and different ways, with having a ton of fun each day, and with sharing my passions with cool people.
Now the waves of life are taking me out of Africa (after a fun stopover in Rabat) and back to Mama India. It’s been a great six weeks in Morocco experiencing Arabic culture, wild nature, and friendly people. As I head back to familiar territory I’m keeping my eyes up, putting a smile on my face, and enjoying the ride!
*Thanks Emily for a lot of the great pics in this post! Check out her blog at http://www.wildbeachdog.com