You cannot go to the Moroccan coastline without trying out surfing. It’s one thing I have never done in my life – lots of body boarding and mucking about like that – but not surfing – so why not I thought. Karen, my long suffering wife, has also never done anything like this either (and is actually a bit scared of the sea…) so what could possibly go wrong!
In Morocco, surfing is almost a religion, so there is no trying – you do or you don’t. Everybody talks about it, everybody stares longingly at the waves all the time and just love it, so get used to that first. Secondly, most people are young and very fit – again we are the opposite of all this so this was going to be a challenge.
Before we left England, we got lots of tips and help on buying boards and wetsuits from a great shop down in Bournemouth called Wetsuit Centre, who we would highly recommend, so we loaded all this lot in our container before we came.
Our first lesson was with a good Moroccan friend, Lahoucine, who is quite chunky (more my shape!) so my thoughts were if he can do this so can I. The biggest issue was that he is 20 years younger than me and super fit – he has grown up on a surfboard so has 30 years of experience and technique, but he was willing to give us a starting point.
So armed with our nice new wetsuits and surfboards, we went to a favourite spot called “12” to have our first lesson. Turns out this is about a mile walk from the villa across rocks and all sorts, so by the time we arrived, we were both knackered! Then the lesson begins, talking about feet positioning, boards, sea conditions and so forth – a lot to take in before we even got wet. Then we attached our boards to our ankles and set off into the waves.
The first thing to note is the sea is so powerful and you don’t have a chance – it throws you all over the place, especially with a massive board to manoeuvre as well. But we laid on the boards as we were told, paddled out into the white water and picked up a few waves laying on our chests and riding them in – a brilliant feeling I have to say.
The next stage is to try and raise up off the board on our knees and squat before falling off. We both managed this to a degree but after an hour or so of fighting with the waves, we were wiped out. Our eager instructor was keen for us to practice with the constant mantra of “slowly slowly, balance balance” so we carried on until we could take no more. Our instructor got so frustrated watching us, he went off to play beach football, leaving us to it!
At the debrief, Karen could do no wrong (such a teacher’s pet!) and he suggested I took up Stand Up Boarding instead – cheeky sod!
Since these first steps, we have persevered and with help from our German friend Ulli and a few lessons with him, we are standing up consistently in white water and I have caught my first few green waves. This is the next challenge and we will then be proper surfers. The “pop up” is still evading both of us – this is a technique where you go from laying to standing in one smooth action – great if you are twenty and fit as hell, but not when you are 56, a bit overweight and not too fit – I just can’t get my feet to do this.
I do get it now, surfing is awesome. I crave the waves too and miss being out there, I am obsessed. Karen is not quite so keen but still enjoys it a little bit. I am still rubbish but everybody around you is so encouraging and helpful (especially Ulli and Lena) that I know we will improve.
Our Fitness is getting better as is our stamina, you have no choice, it is a full body workout. We have both had a few big wipeouts (being smashed into oblivion by a wave that just grabs you) and Karen has struggled to get out on a few occasions and had to give up – but that’s all part of it – you have to love the wipeouts as much as the rides.
I have also been caught out beyond the breakers and not able to get back in – that is pretty scary not only for me but also Karen. I really did get worried I was going to be out there for a long time, but the relief when a small set comes and you manage to get back in is unbelievable. There is nothing you can do about it but wait your moment and go for it – you know it’s going to hurt and you will get a bunch of sea water in your lungs!
The sea is awesome – with such power you have to show it total respect.
I long to be able to ride a wave properly, but until then we just keep practising, watching the training videos and doing “dry” pop ups in the living room at home (still can’t do it BTW).
One day my friends, one day!
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