Want gorgeous empty waves? Capitalize on world Islamophobia and score!
The Eiffel Tour stood powerfully in view from my Airbnb. It was lit in the Tricolour of blue, white, and red because terrorists had just fired assault rifles into and blew up 130 people for living free. Drinking if they wanted to, rocking and rolling if they wanted to. The Parisian motto Fluctuat nec mergitur that was illuminated beneath translates fittingly to, “She is tossed by the waves, but not sunk.” The attack happened three days earlier yet sirens still pierced the night. Residents not living by #JeSuisEnTerrasse contemplated never going out into public again. The city was in shock. All my friends in Paris knew victims. My current flat mate – infamous trouble magnet Chris Binns – had been trying to get us tickets for that fateful Bataclan concert. For no reason in particular I instead flew to Berlin hours before to do a strike Berghain dawn patrol. It was one of those decisions you don’t give much weight to that by chance saved us from the guns of jihadist militants.
Before it got morbid, we began this journey in Paris alongside Surf Europe’s gem-of-a-bloke Paul Evans to attend the View From A Blue Moon premiere. After scattering Binnsie and I were now reunited in the City of Lights trying to make sense of the close call. When faced to stand before the mirror of life what can you do except keep living? No point in questioning it. Although rattled by the randomness of fate the reality was that nothing had actually happened to us. That didn’t stop The Sydney Herald from writing about what almost was. Riveting Aussie non-news.
We had to get out of Paris. Belgium was under siege and there was still talk of closing the French borders. Confusion was in the air and there was swell on the way. Decisions had to be made. Being in Europe everywhere is a stones throw away. That’s true anywhere, but especially advantageous in central Europe. Binnsie had his own demons to deal with having just survived a serious head-on collision in the South of France days prior to almost attending the slaughter. His second home of Bali was now on the agenda and a session with a Shaman would be his first appointment. I’d narrowed my choices down to the familiar – Hossegor – or the more exotic – Morocco. The decision was simple; as I’d now be travelling alone… take the unknown every time! A flight into Casablanca was booked that departed in 8-hours. Enough time to pack my Rimowa, sleep a few hours, and sip an espresso avec croissant sur la terrasse.
The North African country of Morocco is 99% Muslim. Who, for fear mongering racists, are on the shit list right now. Any man pairing a beard with Islamic clothing or woman in hijab risks being mistaken for a radical in certain parts of the world. It’s dangerous thinking to lump a small percentage of wacko terrorists to an entire religion. Trump is making headlines for making Hitler-esque claims and continuing his transition to demagogue. The entire situation only seems to be escalating. Shockingly the further he infuriates the rest of the world the stronger his polling gets and the more guns American’s stockpile. It is indeed a strange land.
Thankfully I don’t think like that as I was the only tourist boarding a full flight to Mohammed V Airport from Charles de Gaulle. Much of the tourism to Muslim countries has dropped off since the attacks. Security was increased, but barring Moroccan’s differing outlook on personal space it was a smooth flight. They even clap when the plane lands like in the old days. So cute!
When bouncing around Europe without an itinerary it’s a blessing to travel “carry-on only” light and leave the board coffin at home, but bring everything else. Having a wetsuit, fins, and a leash assures easy access to anyone’s leftovers. In 14 days of mostly hedonistic behavior around Europe I visited 9 major cities in 4 countries. Only one of which was surfed in. Board fees and coffin stress would have been astronomical.
Casablanca sounds like the sexiest place. This is a lie. It’s hard to find a drink and there are too many men everywhere. A mean tajine can be found in the right restaurant though and the Hannan II Mosque is a structure of beauty. The final destination was the wave rich coastal city of Agadir, so I hopped on the first train to Marrakech which lay somewhere in the middle. The intention was a quick breeze through the market there before continuing on, but I was forced to get a hotel near (not in) the prestigious La Mamounia as terror threats meant no short-term luggage storage anywhere. The night was spent in the madness that is the medina and Jemaa-el Fnaa. There were monkeys and snake charmers and mint tea and dates and magicians and thieves and no tourists because they were all scared of Muslims. I was Indiana Jones!
Upon leaving my petit taxi was hit by another, which happens often here. For a population of mostly sober people they drive like absolute maniacs and commonly kill one another. Once in Agadir I rented a car and was now in control of navigating around these psychos. A murdered out Benz passed me doing no less than 170 km/hr on my way north to the dry surf town of Taghazout. I would later have to grease a cop for doing 65 in a 60. Typical gringo tax.
My home was now Sunshine Surf Morocco headed up by the legendary Reda. He’s a killer local surfer that knows all the spots and when the slabs get psycho he pulls out the sponge. Sometimes he flies around the world competing in world championships. Be nice to the boogies because they might save your life one day. There’s more to this region than the Sipping Jetstreams spots and Dane’s cover. Reda made sure we were on them. The first morning we surfed an epic little beachy when a massive caravan of camels strolled through. “That’s a million dollars worth of camel,” informed Reda. Who knew those humped creatures fetched such a sum?
Over the course of the swell we surfed constantly on every type of wave, spear fished our dinner, drank local beers, and OD’d on couscous. The locals are a passionate bunch: overly conservative while changing into wetsuits (so cute!), but aggressive enough to get a massive desalination plant development shutdown that threatened the future of their most iconic wave.
While exploring the Muslim culture there was never a moment of intimidation or fear. I propose that anyone unwilling to open their borders or hearts to those of a different background should book a flight into Morocco – solo and preferably unarmed – to absorb the culture, and gaze upon their perfect waves… but not be allowed to surf them.