Shifting Moroccan sands – Loco SUP on tour

Words: Joe Thwaites
Pics: Haley Parker, Pete Chamberlain (DTLPhotography), GoPro H2

After a serious wave skunking in Fuerteventura last year, Loco boss man Joe Thwaites was keen to check out other options for his annual winter escape. Some surfer friends suggested he gave Morocco a chance and being of ‘natural stance’ some initial online research suggested Maroc could be just the ticket!

Loco SUP on tour

After a snow-hampered start to the trip, Joe and girlfriend Haley landed in Taghazout slightly jaded and were appreciative of warm welcome (and cold beer) from Sam and Silvy at the Mountain Riad.

After some much needed sleep, Joe was keen to hit the surf and after chatting to some Germans at breakfast a plan was hatched to drive north and check out what Imsouane had to offer. After a meandering drive through the mountains the group rocked up at this fabled fishing village to find the notorious bay with it’s reported 45-60 sec rights as flat as a pancake and ‘the left’ over the reef (Cathedrals) had some unhelpful wind on it. A quick chat with some locals informed Joe that the bay worked best on an outgoing tide so they decided to grab some lunch and chill for a couple of hours.

Throng of surfers watching
The time soon passed and as the tide started to recede an influx of surfers appeared even despite the strengthening offshore breeze. In typical Loco fashion, Joe decided to don his wetty and get in there before it got too hectic. After an easy paddle out he stood at the peak waiting for a decent slab of brine to filter through. After all of about 30 seconds he swept into a solid head high perfect peeler and rode it all the way in arcing some slick and dynamic turns on his 8.9ft Comp Pro with a throng of surfers watching from the harbour wall. The rumours were true – this place was magical and had serious potential. It was no surprise when former ISA World Champion Antoine Delpero rocked up brandishing his longboard! It was a real shame not to see him ‘at work’ on his SUP but watching him dance around a 9ft plank was treat enough. The hours soon passed – as they tend to when you’re in SUP nirvana – but offshore wind became problematic so time was called and the guys headed back to Taghazout. Après-SUP refreshment full and carb loaded for the next day’s mission, who knew where it would take them.

Loco SUP on tour

The forecast had dropped over night so it was decided to stay local and check out some of the beach breaks Taghazout had to offer. Joe opted for Panoramas just outside the main town as it looked quite punchy on the push so there was some potential for his signature late smacks. After a couple of close out rinses, the big man positioned himself in the right spot to make the most of this lush right hander. As with anywhere close to Taghazout, the breaks soon get busy when the waves start working and etiquette just doesn’t exist in Maroc! Epicness soon became ‘oh for f##k sake!’ so the session was canned with Joe opting to take Haley for a nice lunch to reward her camera work in 28 degrees!

Lunch at a beach café near Devil’s Rock was a really good idea, as Joe got the chance to check out another couple of breaks, with Devil’s Rock looking perfect for some relaxed paddle surfing. Needless to say, a plan was hatched to check this spot out the next day. Not having seen many paddle surfers so far it was a pleasant surprise to see another sweeper dialling in some slick roundhouse cutbacks when they landed at the beach the following day. The guy was a real salt of the earth waterman type from Italy, which made it dead easy sharing a peak – unlike some of the more ‘aggro spots’ in the Canary Islands. Once again a nice predictable beachy with few real consequences if the lip caught you out, guaranteeing a great day on the water.

Loco SUP on tour

The forecast completely dropped off the next day so Joe and Haley decided to take in Paradise Valley, which is about a 30mins from Banana Village. Well worth checking out with beautiful views and cliff diving for the more adventurous! Frustratingly they had to wait another day before the waves switched back on so a mission was definitely on the cards. Up with the larks, Joe headed to Imsouane again but arrived to find 2ft dribblers, which was all manner of lame. The guys drove back to Imsouane with a view to check out Tamri and Boilers on route but sadly Tamri wasn’t working and Boilers was busy as hell with short boarders, as is often the way at the fabled reef breaks! Desperate to find something, they decided to drive past Taghazout and head for Anza about 15 mins away to the south.

Killer session
Finally some useable lumps! The spot has a reef that A-frames perfectly offering a left or right and it can get quite punchy if you have the stomach for leaving it late. This was a killer session albeit a bit busy. The wind picked up making the early scratch into the point break a real bind so Joe moved down the beach to access the right hand beachy which was great fun, although he did take a couple of spankings when it got dumpy close to the shore. Another 2hrs of maximum stoke meant it was time to eat, rehydrate and think about ‘double dip’ options for later that day.

Loco SUP on tour

Mysteries or Killers
The guys from Down The Line Photography suggested a sunset session at Mysteries or Killers so Joe met them at the spot just after 4.30pm. Mysteries was saying Jack so it was decided to paddle out to Killers, which takes a good 10-15mins on a SUP. The tide wasn’t really low enough when they got out back so there was some inevitable mincing but once the slabs started working the place lit up even at 2-3ft! The setting sun in Morocco is something to behold – simply breath taking with bright oranges and purply pink skies and silhouettes of fishing boats on the horizon to drink in! Doubtless Killers would be amazing with a touch more size but those with less experience should precede with caution. Joe reported that even at 2-3ft one late lip smacked the air out of him! By no means is this an exhaustive list of SUP surfing spots, more an outline of what’s possible around Taghazout when the forecast is average. Morocco definitely has potential for all levels of paddle surfer and with predominantly sandy beaches it’s less hassle than lugging gear over jagged volcanic rocks – although some of the reefs can be an urchin-fest! For the more experienced paddle surfer, Joe suggests waiting for the aftermath of a storm in the Atlantic to see things really firing around Taghazout.

That said if you hired a camper for a fortnight (as Joe may do if he goes back) it would be fantastic to check out some of the waves further north (which often get a bit more size). Check out Essaouria for a couple of days of windsurfing or kiting before heading down to Imsouane, Killers, Anza and hopefully catch Sidi Ifni about 2hrs south from Adagir which regularly delivers standing barrels.

In sum Maroc – certified Loco!

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