Wish You Were Here: Imessouane, Morocco

by Owen James Burke

Morocco is always a popular spot with the international traveler on a budget—it offers world-class surf, generously affordable accommodations and fresh seafood—for myself, I could not have dreamed of a more suitable setting.

Imessouane (pronounced “Im-soh-han”) is a small fishing port located just south Essaouira, offering some excellent coastal cuisine and housing a very bohemian culture where Jimi Hendrix is fabled to have spent substantial time at the beach on camel-back while writing “Castles Made of Sand”.  Although much of Hendrix’ following has long since been diluted and dispersed, it is not difficult to find a local with an extra camel or two who is willing to give you the tour for a few Dirham.  And, although I cannot guarantee you he will truly point out Jimi’s old abode, buy the ticket, take the ride and you won’t be disappointed (I also encourage strapping a surfboard to the flank of your camel, if he does not mind, so that when empty surf is spotted along the ride, it does not go missed).

It has been said that the westward facing coasts of the world provide the best and most consistent surf, and it would be hard to argue that Morocco is any exception to this rule.  By the end of each day it seems a new swell will have formed and passed, sending swells anywhere from two to twenty feet, only to cease just as quickly as it had appeared.

There are three breaks directly out front of the village, offering excellent waves for the first timer on the inside sandbar, a slightly more pitching barrel over the reef and a reeling kamikaze drop-and-go point break on the outside.  If the proximate offerings are not working or providing enough diversity, a little exploration in either direction along the coast will unlock dozens of opportunities while also alleviating the crowd factor.  Just be aware that this is not southern California as the water is cold and the currents can be fierce. The Moroccan coast winds in and about, harboring just about every imaginable type of wave and substrate, so make sure to bring your booties as urchins and reefs, often where the better waves are, can be otherwise treacherous.  When a west swell sends 600-meter peelers into the bay of Imessouane, you will be sure to understand why it is that Morocco has been deemed “the land of rights” by surfers.

Moroccans, in most cases, are not party people; so don’t arrive expecting to relive your college spring break in Cancun.  In fact, there is only one liquor store in the entire village and it is not easy to find.  At night, the “party” can be found at the cafés serving Moroccan mint tea with orange blossoms, which has been dubbed “Moroccan whiskey” due to its nature as one of the few popular vices of the Moroccan people.  The others are extremely illegal, especially to tourists, so steer clear of locals offering copious amounts of cannabis products for your pocket change—a sting by the police is not uncommon.

It has been my experience that if you speak French, buy local art, and let the locals have their waves, then eventually you will be graciously accepted in the lineup with an encouraging “Allez!”  Of course, as settling as it is, just be aware that this is the juncture at which perils of immersion and ex-patriotism arise, often stealing many a great surfer from families and loved ones; consider yourself warned.

*via blue-morocco and sous4surf*

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