The t-shirts in the local surf shops read “Surf Africa” in neon lettering, while others had a logo of a man in a traditional Arab robe and a board underneath his arm. This was Taghazout, Morocco.
At the time, much of the town was shut down for the off-season. The cafes and juice bars were closed and no one was renting boards. After asking the owner of one of the shops where we could find a some surf, we were told to head north for some small waves that would be rideable.
On our way out of town we saw the layout of Anchor Point – an incredible setup for a long right-hander. The photos of the break that we had seen on the walls of the surf shops in town earlier that morning didn’t quite match the flat ocean we looked out on.
The Moroccan coastal highway is an amazing scene. African desert runs along the road with a few scarce trees scattered throughout the dry terrain. Mountain ranges line the sky in the distance. Turnoffs from the road lead you out to rocky cliffs overlooking pristine blue water. Every 70-kilometers or so the highway runs through the main street of a local town where kids play soccer in the street and fruit vendors line the road selling melons and spices.
There never seemed to be many people driving on the roads. Most kept to the bigger cities, like Marrakech and Casablanca. Having no cars on the highway certainly made it easier for a girl who never learned to drive stick. I quickly found myself in the Moroccan desert behind the wheel of a standard, wishing my dad had taught me to drive with a clutch years ago. Needless to say, I didn’t do well and ended up riding shotgun most of the trip with a map that led to nowhere laid across my lap.
After driving about 30 kilometers north of Taghazout, we arrived in Timri. A dirt road off the highway led us down to a beach along with the other surfers who were looking to get in the water that day.
Most of the people were tourists from the surf camps in Taghazout. We were able to score a few boards from a guy in the parking lot looking to make a few extra dirham by renting out his board along with his brother’s. Being spoiled by the warm Caribbean ocean, I sadly froze my ass off in the 65-degree water without a wetsuit.
Another 20 kilometers and we came across a sign that read “Plage Lalla Fatna.” It pointed to a road that looked like it drove straight off a cliff. We turned left and took it. The winding road led us 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 curly haired Moroccan behind the counter, Yassine, asked if we surfed. Twenty minutes later we had boards (a wetsuit for myself this time) and were in the water. It was a nice beach break setup and free from tourist surf camps trying to give lessons.
Continuing along the coast we come across many spots for kite surfing and what seemed like 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. Most roads led to the ocean.
I found one thing to be different about the surf in Morocco. There were no local women in the water. Not one. Even after surfing, I looked around to find that I was the only woman in any of the cafés. Sometimes I was the only woman on the streets. I got looks for wearing shorts and a tank top. I got denied a hotel room. It was a feeling of isolation in a unique culture I wasn’t accustomed to.
Sitting out on the water in Puerto Rico now, I am more aware of the privilege I have here as a woman. To connect with the ocean. Something that is free, yet an experience some women will never have their lifetime.