Surf, Souks and T-Rex

North Africa’s best kept surf secret is out the bag, and just a three hour flight from the capital discovers Kathryn Clarke-Mcleod

 

Here’s the dilemna. Apparently, there is a strict code amongst surfers. If you discover a surf spot that consistently delivers to the highest standards, you are expected to keep mum to avoid having to share.

For the first time, this strange and rather selfish code makes sense to me. After a week at Surf Star Morocco basking in their signature blend of blissed-out sunset yoga, world-class surf lessons, eye-meltingly scenic drives along deserted coastlines and frankly unparalleled food I am torn between the desire to shout it from the rooftops, and the urge to keep it my own little Moroccan secret.

But some things are too good not to share.

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Home for the week is a rambling Moroccan house, with views of the Atlantic from three terraces. We are in the small coastal village of Tamraght just ten minutes’ drive from the more well-known and comparatively buzzing surfing town of Taghazout. Those few miles make all the difference, the air here is quiet and still and passing traffic is non-existent.

Surf Star describes itself in most unassuming way, labelled simply as a ‘surf camp.’ Don’t be fooled. With two yoga sessions a day, mountains of fresh fruit and vegetables from the local souk at every meal and the hours you will spend splashing around in the clean blue ocean under the supervision of highly-trained coaches, this is easily defined as wellness escape.

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My fellow sunseekers vary in age from 25 to 55, many travelling solo like me. Meals are taken together at a long refectory style table a la Hogwarts, and my dining companions include a junior doctor, an engineer and a retired textile designer. At least a third of them are on their second or third visit. Always a good sign.

Fast forward 12 hours and my eyes are full of the bluest skies as I arch backwards for the start of morning sun salutations. Owner and yoga teacher Lucie leads us through a gentle yoga session, fuelled by lungfuls of tangy Atlantic seabreeze. Lucie was born to teach. She radiates a calm playful energy and over the course of the next hour all the tension in my body is gently wrung out. I head to breakfast feeling two inches taller and filled with a real lightness.

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Breakfast, like all meals at Surf Star, is a source of great joy. Chef Ibrahim makes sure there is something different for us each morning, and standouts for me include a gloriously soft porridge with sultanas, dates and almonds (Bouille to the locals, pronounced boo-yay for you and me) and omelettes as light and fluffy as little white clouds. Baskets of fresh bread, still warm, line the table and I manage to find room for a slice smothered in salted butter and dark Moroccan honey. My bliss-ometer is already reaching new highs, and it is barely 10am.

After breakfast we all pile into a fleet of 4x4s loaded with boards, packed lunches and umbrellas and head to a beach a short drive away. Here we are split into groups according to our surfing ability. Some of the group have never touched a surfboard while others have been in the water for years. Conditions in Morocco are perfect for learning, with long easy rides, warm water and smiling instructors who redefine patience.

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Those of us who are a bit more seasoned have a guide who takes us to a spot in the next bay where crisp blue sets are rolling in off a point. After I catch my first wave I begin to understand why the best in the world choose this as their training ground every winter. This is impressive stuff.

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When everyone’s arms are noodle-like from paddling we reconvene under the umbrellas and the rest of the day is spent dipping in and out of books with a mint tea made fresh next to your towel, eating lunch (a box bursting with fresh salads, pasta, fruits and more), exploring the local cafes with a milky coffee, gooey macaroons and new friends, or petting the camels as they amble past.

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When we get home, Ibrahim’s latest offering is bubbling away in a row of terracotta tagines. Sunset yoga stretches out the day’s efforts and after a swift shower I am back at the dinner table, tucking in and ready to do it all over again. Afterwards, I lean back and sigh. With five more days ahead of me, the only thing fuller than my happy belly, is my equally happy heart.

 

For more information visit www.surfstarmorocco.com

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Kathryn’s Moroccan Musts:

See:  The fossilised footprint of a Tyrannasorous Rex (amongst other species) at Anza beach, just twenty minutes south of Surf Star. This beach is best for surf on the high tide, but if you stick around at the low tide you can see fossilised impressions of where a female T-Rex roamed the shores millions of years ago. Best part, it’s free. A local man is the self-appointed guide and gives an enthusiastic re-enactment of the giant reptiles scooting around on the rocks.

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Drink:  Avocado smoothie. A blend of avocado, milk, nuts and dates makes an incredibly tasty and refreshing drink. Great for your skin after a day in the sun and wonderfully nourishing for aching muscles. I recommend BabaKoul, a café just down the hill from the camp.

Eat: Buy a macaroon or an apple donut from the beach vendors, all locally made, and so good that I cleaned our man out on my last day.

Treat:  A full body massage at Targante Imourane, just a short walk from the house.  When I walked in my limbs ached so much I wasn’t sure I could surf the next day. 60 minutes later I was limber as an Olympic gymnast.

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Shop: Go to the local market/souk in Banana Village on a Wednesday afternoon. It is a local’s market so expect piles of gleaming olives, jewel-like strawberries, and impressive rugs at reasonable prices. You’ll be surrounded by Moroccans doing their week’s shop under the makeshift canopies. A must.

Explore: About a 90 minute drive from Tamraght is Imsouane, a tiny traditional fishing village that also boasts the longest wave in Africa. Work up an appetite paddling around in the picturesque bay before relaxing with a bbq lunch of fish or calamari caught by local fishermen, who probably rowed it right past you while you were surfing. Surf Star takes regular trips.

 

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