The Early Bird Catches The Surf

If you keep your eyes peeled over East Sands at dawn, you may catch sight of them. They sit in the water, breathing in the salt air, legs immersed in the cold North Sea, waiting as the orange sun begins to spill light over the horizon, dyeing the sky pink. These are the surfers of St Andrews, a rare breed that only have the opportunity to emerge once every few months, when a swell comes in, big enough to turn the meek Scottish waves into white-tipped curls.

Come December, when the water is colder and the sun barely makes an appearance, their visits become even less frequent. And so, they pack up their wetsuits and boards to head south for the winter – namely to Morocco, to catch some winter rays with the University Surf Club.

Surf Berbere is the destination of choice, located in the small surf town of Taghazout, a few kilometers up the Atlantic coast from Agadir. It is probably the only town in the world that has a surf shop attached to the town mosque. Apart from surfers milling around with their boards and tousled hair, it’s populated by market sellers and goat herds, dressed in local gowns called djellaba, making them look oddly like Obi Wan Kenobi. 

The surf camp itself is made up of a mish-mash of apartments, set right on the waterfront, overlooking the azure ocean. Climb the steep steps to the top of the camp and you’ll find a rooftop terrace, where a three-course dinner is served every night under the multi-coloured Moroccan tent, cooked on the open barbeque or in tagine pots, balanced on the alcohol-free bar.

Morocco is a dry country, but this doesn’t mean nighttime entertainment is limited to playing Scrabble and singing along to the guitar. Beer-runs to Agadir happen every few days, and vodka is not in short supply, you just need to order it in advance. Parties on the rooftop are never a quiet affair, with the surf camp organisers and Moroccan guides joining in with the reveling until the early hours of the morning.

Breakfast is held on the café terrace, where you can bask in the morning sun with a cup of Moroccan mint tea and fill your boots with fresh baguettes covered in Nutella, boiled eggs and fruit before bundling into the vans with your surfboard, leash and wetsuit for a day at the beach.

The forty-five minute drive to Tamri, one of the local breaks, is a sight in itself. The winding roads hug the coastline as you head north, with maniac drivers overtaking on every bend. Tamri is for more experienced surfers, whilst just south of the camp is Crocodiles, supposedly named after the crocodile shape of the headland, a much tamer sand-bar with slow rolling waves, camel rides and beach doughnut sellers trawling the shoreline. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a pro, Surf Berbere caters for all. The accommodating guides are always there to give you a few tips, in case you’ve forgotten which foot you pop up on.

For those looking for relaxation post-surf, Surf Berbere organizes daily yoga classes at sunset. For just 80 DH (£6) for an hour’s class, you’ll find yourself in an idyllic glass-walled studio perched on the cliff edge. As you sit crossed legged in half-lotus, the instructor is silhouetted against the setting sun; it could not be a more perfect location for a yoga class.

If your muscles need a day’s respite, head up to Paradise Valley, a mountainous region up in the hills, described by the guide as “like Jurassic Park but without the dinosaurs”. It’s a 45-minute drive away from civilisation, where you can clamber across sandy rock faces and dive into cool freshwater pools.

Visiting Taghazout is not just about broadening your horizons and visiting a new culture; it’s a chance to get a taste of the surf lifestyle and leave behind the pressures of life back home. Spend all day in the water, and come back with chipped nails, stubbed toes, red raw kneecaps, yet still wanting more. Ceilidh dance with Moroccans on the rooftop under the stars. Get up early, even when your muscles ache like you’ve run a marathon, throw on a t-shirt and bikini, and plunge into the salty water to wash away the morning’s hangover. Days are dictated by the tide and the sun, rather than clocks and deadlines. Once you get a taste of Surf Berbere, you’ll never want to leave.

For more information, visit the Surf Berbere Facebook Page.

Images by Nina Zietman, Nina Haanes Hessen and Surf Berbere