Today marks my two months in Morocco and there’s almost a month to go. It’s been a fairly interesting time learning to surf. We have 8 of us in our student group. 5 girls, 3 guys. Some of them in their late teens, most of them in their early 20s. I am the oldest in the group. Most of them are from England, one is from Germany, one is from California (who already surfs better than our instructors).

View of Agadir city

View of Agadir city. Photo: Alex Franklin

paradise valley1

Paradise Valley in the Atlas Mountains, about 2 hrs drive from Taghazout

The first week was spent getting used to standing up on the board, in white water (the foam). We went to Tamri beach every day, which is about 40 minutes north of where we stay. The waves at Tamri is pretty messy most of the time, with a strong rip. I was given an 8′ foam board, which, for someone who had hardly lifted anything much in her life, was very heavy. My arms more or less didn’t seem to have any strength. I have never liked swimming before (now I do!), so the challenge was to put some strength in my arms, pushing the board over the white water over and over again. I even kept repeating a mantra in my head “My arms are getting stronger and stronger every single day”. It was frustrating to say the least.

I am glad to have switched to a 7′ foam board. Makes life so much easier.

"Yalla Yalla"

“Yalla Yalla” meaning ‘Let’s go, let’s go’ in Arabic

Ni

Some where on a wave! Photo: Helen Hill

It helps a lot that we have daily yoga first thing in the morning (at sunset too if anyone has the energy to do it). Our schedule is like this: 7:30-8:30 yoga, 8:30 breakfast 9:00 load all the boards on the minivan and leave. Come back to the camp by 16:30ish.

By the end of the second week, I found some strength and courage to venture to the back where the line up is. Sometimes it is so hard to go back out again, just because the waves are always crashing from all over the place and you can’t duck dive on a foam board. I kept saying to myself ‘ This is so crazy. What is the point in all this?’ and I will sigh, and try and try again. Imagine about a hundred people on a beach. Trying to get through white water or stand up on a board. Learning to surf is pure craziness. But what else is there to do in life? I can’t think of anything else I want to do right now, so I am sticking to it.

Crouching surfer?

I seem to be a crouching surfer. Photo: Helen Hill

We started English teaching classes from the second week onwards. A whole day of surfing and then teaching English. This is twice a week at a school and at the community centre. We taught in pairs to kids aged 11-15 at the school. At the community centre we all taught together to a mixed group of kids and adults.

Moroccan mint tea and cookies at the school.

The famous Moroccan mint tea and cookies at the school.

Then there are the bi-weekly French lessons. It used to be interesting at first, but I am finding it less challenging now. It is no fun when the majority of the class have no clue about French and they keep talking in English. I have decided now that the best way to practice my French is to go somewhere they only spoke French and hardly any English. It is still nice to know that I can understand most of what the French teacher says, so there is still hope in being fluent in this language someday.

The Moroccan landscape is really really beautiful. Not to mention the sunsets and sunrises. Especially the sunsets.

Sunset and full moon rise. Moroccans love beach football

Sunset and full moon rise. Moroccans love beach football

moonset

The setting full moon at sunrise

sunset2

The sun setting into Anchor point, one of the most popular surf spots in Taghazout

Goats are a common sight on the streets

My neighbourhood in Taghazout town. Goats and all.

We have our dinner at the roof top of the Surf Berbere hostel. Dinner is set on a kind of a roster. Moroccans certainly know how to bake their bread. It is so addictive. I have never eaten so much bread and butter in my life before. We spend a lot of time on this roof top after dinner. Meeting new people and getting to know them.

tagine

Tagine is a Berbere dish popular in North Africa. It’s a stew slow cooked in a clay pot. Lots of Moroccan spices and herbs. Yum!

Pretty sweet rooftop

Pretty sweet rooftop. Photo: Flic

It is incredible that with time and effort you can achieve anything. My paddling has got so much better, my swimming has improved, my stamina has increased and my arms are stronger. And even a few days of being inactive (due to being ill), seem to put you back a few steps, but you can always catch up. A lot of patience is needed. Patience, Perseverance and Practice! The 3 P’s in life!

Surfing is not as easy it looks. You have to be fit, you have to have the upper body strength, you have to have the guts, you have to have the patience. Sure, I got up on the first try, but just standing up on a board isn’t all there is to surfing. When I first came to Morocco, I was scared of waves (I am used to calm waters of the Maldives. Not that we don’t have good surf there). One day we had to swim through the surf. I couldn’t do it. Even the second time. But the third, fourth and fifth times (it was a lot calmer though), I managed to do it. I am still nervous about it but it’s definitely easier now.

surfing

I am also finding it that having fun while surfing is much more important than being frustrated about the technical aspects of it. We are under a lot of pressure to perform better because we have an assessment coming up and we need to learn everything quickly. More paddling. Quicker take off. Better this, better that. Sometimes I forget to have fun, because I am too focused on getting it right.

I have also come to accept that, like everything else in life, the waves might  not be ‘perfect’ for surfing every day. Which brings more pressure and frustration. How can you progress when all the waves are closeouts? The waves here are either for complete beginners or for the advanced surfers. Not for the in-between and the progressive. And then there is the crowd. So many people in the water and so little breathing space. Now I can understand why surfers are so keen on finding uncrowded waves.

tamri

Beautiful landscape, Tamri beach

The water temperature went down a few notches after the first few weeks. When we first started it was already about 18 degrees cold in the water, and I have a 3mm wetsuit. Anything colder than that and I get the brrrs and the chattering teeth. How does someone from a tropical country with year round sunny weather adapt to this?!

One of the more fun parts of surfing is wiping out. It could be that I get to hold my breathe and go weightless. It could be the lack of control you feel tumbling underwater. Or the relief you feel when you come up alive.

Although I still don’t understand this surfing thing. Why do people want to learn to surf? Or why do they keep surfing? I don’t understand why I am doing it either. But I know how much I love how healthy and fit it makes me feel. Also the speed with which you travel when you drop in from a steep wave is exhilarating (maybe I should go into big wave surfing, ha ha!). And the random moments while you sit on your board waiting for a set to come in, like seeing a flock of flamingoes flying above you, or some fish jumping in front of you. Or a lone duck waddling about in the horizon. Totally random things. It is just you and nature.

us caving

Exploring a new beach. Photo: Flic

Exploring some caves

Found some cool caves. Photo: Flic

Into the sixth week, I hurt my knee while surfing. It was kind of an unusual incident. I was trying to avoid crashing into another surfer who was coming towards me, and my hand went and pushed my knee off the board. There was a popping sound and this intense pain. Ouch, I sprained my knee! A few of us are now down with different injuries.

The days which followed have been frustrating and rewarding at times. I’m understanding a lot about myself, about people, about life. Remembering to let go, accept things, accept people, be non-judgemental, to be kind to myself and to others, to appreciate the little things in life and most importantly, to face my fears. I guess this is why we travel and do new things. To understand ourselves more, so we could make some sense of the world.