Posted on 15 May, 2013 by Gareth
Surfing can often be a fickle mistress, but James Anderson gives us first hand experience of how a bit of flexibility and ‘going the extra mile’ really pays off when the conditions won’t play ball...
We arrived into Agadir to howling wind, storm clouds and the aftermath of two days of torrential rain, which are not exactly the conditions you would expect to begin a surfing adventure into the Sahara desert with.
As we met up with Den and Nige from MSA in the airport café, along with our newly met friends who we were to undertake the adventure with, it became clear just how severe the storms had been, and that our plan of camping for a week on the desert coast was going to have to be re-thought. We set off southward for a town that was the gateway to the desert to see what we could find.
Many hours’ drive south flew by as the landscape changed, and the time passed with Nige’s encyclopaedic DJ’ing selections and Denny’s banter. We arrived at a deep shelter wave which was our only option in a huge raw swell driven by a SW devil wind. Triple overhead sets were regularly closing out even the sheltered wave, so we all retired to comfortable rooms above a local little café which had been arranged for us, and headed to the local beach front hotel in search of a cold beer, a check of the charts and a Saharan Sunset.
We spent the next few days based in this southern town, exploring the waves in the surrounding area hoping for a drop in the swell and change in wind. So much potential was obvious to be seen, but the swell was relentless and conditions impossible…with a drop in size were able to surf our sheltered wave daily, although still at easy double overhead plus, but as conditions began to slowly settle some good waves were made, and the rhythm of life on the road began to set in.
Every evening we would check the charts and it became clear that we would have a window of opportunity of a day or two in the south as conditions settled. After that a huge groundswell, 13feet at 17seconds, was forecast to steamroll out of the Atlantic and slam into us head on. Over our evening beers it became clear that there would be nowhere in the south that would handle this swell due to the exposure of the coast, so Denny and Nigel put an amazing option on the table that no-one would have expected when booking a trip to the Sahara. They would drive us the 10hours north towards Casablanca and the legendary point break at Safi. A brief discussion later the call was made and plans were laid to head north. The mission was on to end the trip in perfect, world-class barrels.
We surfed in the south over the next two days in improving, solid conditions. More and more spots opened up for us with point break headlands working their magic in the evening glass off, including a particularly memorable session full of big open faced rights and sand dredging barrels. The crew got stuck in despite the currents from the huge W swell making most spots an endurance test to stay in position. Some great waves were had and stoke levels rose steadily. Our final morning surf at our now ‘local’ wave in the south was like a golden handshake from the desert - the wind finally turned offshore and groomed glassy double overhead lefts roped down the sandbar, providing the whole team with long open walls to tear into in the sunshine. With big smiles on our faces we loaded up the 4 x 4s for the long drive north, bidding farewell to the south as we once more hit the road with the prospect of something truly epic to come.
After a heroic, marathon drive by Denny and Hicham, through winding, dark and dangerous roads, we finally arrived in Safi late that night. It had been arranged for us to stay at the beautiful Riad belonging to Medhi, one of the top local surfers and head of the Safi Surf Club. We were warmly welcomed with a 3 course meal, a cold beer and a comfortable bed. We all turned in after a very long day and dreamed of the waves to come.
The morning came quickly and we woke to find the tough port city of Safi blanketed in cloud and with a local onshore wind blowing. We nervously headed to the point and sure enough the swell had arrived, as 4-6ft waves ran down the point, sectioning at times due to the wind but still perfectly surfable. We surfed all day in the constantly improving conditions, getting to know the wave and preparing for the day we’d been waiting for.
The next day broke still and calm and we arrived at the wave to see perfect 5ft drainers running from the take-off spot and reeling down the point flawlessly. The mission had paid off and we had scored big time. The day became a blur of long open walls, barrels, wipeouts, broken boards, more barrels and tired arms as we gorged ourselves on a truly world-class experience. The mission had truly paid off and the last surf of the trip was one I will remember for a long time. We surfed until it was dark, and decided to get up at 4am to make the 6hr drive back to Agadir to catch our flight at midday.
We woke as planned and hit the road, with Denny at the wheel again clocking up the miles through the early morning half-light down the coast towards Agadir. As we made progress as fast as we could, traffic and lorries slowed us down and as we got closer to our destination it became touch and go that we would make it to the airport on time. A nerve-wracking last 45 minutes which resembled a car chase sequence from an action movie and some more heroic driving from Denny got us to the airport check in desk just in time before it closed. As we flew out of Morocco and back towards home and reality, we reflected on the week that had just passed, and agreed that sometimes surf trips aren’t easy, sometimes the conditions aren’t perfect and things don’t go completely to plan, but when the script gets torn up and the plans go out the window – that’s when the truly memorable things happen…