Surfing Out Of My Comfort Zone
When we (friend and fellow skier, Kim) booked our surfing holiday to Tamraght, not far from Agadir, Morocco, I wasn’t sure what I had signed up for, and to be honest, didn’t give it much thought. All I knew was that I wanted to lie on a beach, read my book, eat good food and to not do an awful lot. I thought a surf holiday would encompass all those things as well as learning to do something I’d been meaning to do for a while. However, I was in for a far more active holiday than I had bargained for and it definitely took me a couple of days to settle into the routine and the setup of the camp.
We found Moroccan Surf Adventures online and were very well looked after by an awesome team at the camp.
With very little knowledge of surfing at all, Kim educated me on ‘surf etiquette’ so I didn’t look too much like a punter (and so she could still be seen with me on the beach). I also observed the other lodgers’ burnt faces, feet, hands and wrists, making note to apply A LOT of sunscreen specifically to these areas.
The day began with yoga at 07:30 with Rosannah. Deprived of a lie in on holiday seemed wrong, but after a few days of surfing the hour’s routine was a welcome wake-up and stretch. This was followed by an egg-filled breakfast before heading to the beach at 09:30.
Laura, a friend from when I did winter seasons in Saas-Fee, joined us on the camp last minute. I was concerned that she and Kim, who had both surfed previously, would abandon me and I’d be left spluttering and beached like a whale whilst they looked super cool and smooth surfing away. Though, I wasn’t impartial to swanning about on the sand should I fail epically.
However, the first morning was pretty much that. Our lovely instructor, Rachid, assessed the girls and told them to practise ‘popping-up’ in the white waves whilst I got taught the basics. That afternoon Kim and Laura were sent ‘out back’ with Omar. I was told to practise popping up whilst being battered about in the white waves. As Laura kindly said, being in the white waves ‘is like being stuck in the baby park on skis when you can ski down a piste.’ My competitive spirit kicked in. There was no way I was going to be stuck in there all week.
The following day, I was yet again sent to the white waves but tried so hard to prove that I could stand up and hold my own for at least a few seconds so I could join the others ‘out back’. Whatever that was. That afternoon, Omar paddled past me and shouted ‘come with me!’ Yes! I’d made the grade. This was much to Laura’s annoyance, but not entirely her surprise, as she had a bet on with a mutual friend of ours that I wouldn’t have much of a problem being ‘une sportive.’ Reading the book Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Mattew Syed (a very good, interesting and thought provoking read) whilst away, I decided it was of course all down to some very productive practice in a short amount of time.
The Franglais spoken all week was fairly entertaining. Omar, when asked which language he preferred to speak in replied with ‘well, actually I like to use a mix of both’. Right, Franglais it was.
That afternoon I had my bum constantly smacked as I stuck it out too much, but I caught my first green wave and I think caused others some mild amusement as a result of my squeals of surprise at actually getting up before crashing into the water or on top of some poor soul. I suddenly felt a little of what surfing was about and loved it.
My confidence on day 2 was on the rise. I was told I had good balance (ha!) and had to reiterate it was my first time surfing – oh, what a natural…
Boom! Friday, day 3, and I should have known better from teaching clients to ski that day 3 is always a tricky day. Tiredness takes a hold leaving technique, concentration and consequently confidence wavering. The plan was to go to Paradise Valley later that morning, so we had a pre-breakfast surf (I insisted on some sustenance before heading to the beach – never unleash the hungry Rottweiler). Sadly I just lacked some ‘oomph’. Even Omar kept saying ‘what’s happened? What are you doing?’ Well, I didn’t really know, but it was a stunning morning and amazing to be the only ones in the water. The moon was still up, the sun was rising and not managing to surf wasn’t really an issue.
The trip to Paradise Valley was a great break from the beach and gave Omar the chance to show off by jumping off cliffs in to pools of fresh water.
Saturday afternoon, Laura, Kim, a new friend, Tatiana and myself went off to the Souk and then on to experience a Moroccan Hammam. What an experience it was! A lot of nakedness and a lot of giggling was had, especially from the ladies buffing us up. We feel we all know each a lot more intimately now. Our taxi back had four seats and the driver’s seat. The driver had already picked up another guest so we were confused as to how we were all going to fit in the car.
“What do you mean? It fits 6!” He insisted.
“Er no, 4.”
“Oui six! Deux in the front et four in the back.”
Okaay…. And he was right as we drove past many taxis with 6 passengers crammed in.
Thankfully on Sunday my mojo returned. A pleasant surprise as I started the day tired. Kim was having some disturbing nightmares (she is more deranged than would appear) and had to wake me up to be consoled, and Laura kept giggling in her sleep. It was also hot, and the call to prayer at 5am had lost its charm. With no yoga on, I chose to get up and have a refreshing/very sweaty run along the beach. It was also a chance to burn off some of the incredible food that I had eaten in incredible quantities.
That morning the sun came out and I was catching waves again. The atmosphere in the water was relaxed and fun. The support from all the instructors, regardless of what camp they were working for, was great. I was beginning to learn how to turn both ways and Laura was learning how to dance with fellow surfers when she held her hand out to a baffled girl as they were drawn closer to each other on the same wave. Banter was hence provided for the rest of the day.
On Monday we drove an hour to Imsouane (I learnt there are many variations on the spelling) to a gorgeous little bay with lovely waves that you could ride right into the beach, even for a beginner. It’s a fishing town and involves walking down the fish scale-covered slipway to get into the water. With it being our last day we insured we stayed in as long as we could despite the amount of arm-ruining paddling required to get back to the unbroken waves; the downside of riding a wave in all the way to the beach. It was nothing that the magic-handed masseuse back at camp couldn’t fix; the best massage I have ever had. Without me having to utter a word he found every little niggle and fixed them almost instantly.
We were lucky with the conditions all week and the surf team did a great job of choosing good spots and at the right times so we weren’t battered about too much by the waves and always had some good ones to ride.
On day 1, I never thought I was going to last the 6 days of surfing. The week made me experience what it is like for beginners to learn skiing for the first time. It’s all very well learning to snowboard and telemark in order to try something new, but staying in an environment that I am at ease in does not provide me with that vulnerable feeling when you do something completely new. Although I love water and swimming, learning to surf took me out of my comfort zone and experience the learning process afresh again. As snowsport instructors though, we did empathise with the surf instructors’ frustrations but also their elation when we succeeded, too.
I am thrilled with what I achieved over the week and thank all those at Moroccan Surf Adventures for a really fantastic holiday – we’ll be back!