Waking up in an apartment with the sun shining on the tiled terrace and the waves gently breaking on the shore under 100 m away, the smell of spice in the air, it’s hard not to believe you’re in paradise. Tagazhoute, on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, is the country’s surf capital and it’s the most exotic surf capital I’ve ever seen. Forget the hell waves of Bell’s Beach, the Grand Plage of Biarritz or the lure of Jeffrey’s Bay, where you’re more likely to see herds of skinny black goats, orange sellers and highly decorated camels on the beach than ice-cream sellers, posers and surf shops. And it’s all the better for it.

For 60km of the coast between the brash package holiday destination of Agadir and the boho-luxe town of Essaouria, there’s a point around every corner to surf. And there’s something to suit everyone, from those coming in groups to Surf Maroc (, the only surf camp experience in the area, to those looking for self catering options, independent trips and those splitting their weeks between surfing and yoga tuition.

The small town of Taghazoute gained its surf reputation back in the sixties, when the country was discovered by hippies. Marrakesh was one of their hotspots, around four hours’ drive away through the Atlas mountains, and they weren’t immune to the charms of this coastal area either. But while these days the town of Essaouria up the coast is regularly featured in interiors magazines for its boutique hotels and bijoux shops, Tagazhoute is its plainer and more basic cousin, with not much more here now than there was 50 years ago. There’s only one surf hotel in the town itself, The Auberge, right on the main town beach, while just set away from it, Surf Maroc have several properties for their surf and yoga schools. The rest of the town with its narrow streets, dusty white and red buildings and small handful of surf shops, is more functional than fashionable. But hey, if you’ve got a bed for the night and some waves to surf in the morning, what more do you really need?

I’m out surfing with my brother Ben and his friend Will, and with boards strapped to the top of the hire car, we set out to explore on a dawn patrol. The first stop is La Source, a five-minute drive from the town, where a fast right hand wave crashes right into the rocks. Further out is Killers, so-called because Killer Whales have apparently been spotted there, the most famous break along this coast. I can’t see any Orcas, and anyway, it feels a bit too close to land to be true. But it’s fun – the water’s warm (but not warm enough to go without a wetsuit) and after a little while, there are about eight or nine of us in the water, a couple of Germans, some Aussies and some Londoners. We’ve clearly picked the spot of the day – this is crowded for Morocco. Even the little Moroccan hermit who lives on the beach seems to think so – he’s jumping up and down in excitement watching.

Drying myself off in the dusty red sand by the side of the road, I nearly cause a traffic accident getting out of my wetsuit. Oh yes, I remember. This is Morocco, they’re barely used to seeing female flesh let alone a blonde girl nearly falling out of a bikini at the side of the road. Oops.

We head back into Taghazoute for a coffee and a chance to regroup over brunch. It might be the most developed village along this stretch of the coast, but there’s still not much going on. There’s a couple of expert ding repairers – handy if like Will you flew with a budget airline that seems to have a problem with surfboards – and a handful of surf shops hiring out boards with anything from NSPs upwards from 150dhs per day. They also sell a great line in djellabas – the traditional Moroccan robes worn by men, normally beige or brown in colour and draping down to the ground with a pointy hood. All the local men wear them and look like some kind of mystical elf; these particular ones on sale from the surf shop have pictures on the back of surfers, and that blend of surf and tradition looks even odder.  And apart from a couple of grocery stores, piled high in the front with oranges, that’s just about it.


Our apartment was rented from a Moroccan surfer that Ben met on the beach, and it’s nothing special, apart from the tiled sun terrace and the view. In the lazy afternoon, we watch a longboarder struggling to catch a mini wave from our balcony out at Hash Point. This is the closest spot to the village centre, just a stumble away from it really, where a tiny wave is breaking this afternoon. Apparently the spot is so-called because it’s the place to surf when you’ve smoked too much to be arsed to go somewhere else. In this fella’s case, I think he should have stayed in and smoked some more!

Further up the coast and away from the village, there are several other spots worth seeking out. Dracula’s, so someone tells me, is gnarly and rocky and can be responsible for a bit of blood, so we bypass that and head for a gentle unnamed sandy beach break with a long wave that peels to the left, about twenty minutes drive north of the village. Leaving the car at the top of a cliff, watched over by two small Moroccan boys, we climb down the red sand rocks and down to the water. As the sun starts to set, the wind is getting up a bit and it’s colder than before, but the waves are a mellow chest height and regular as clockwork. The sun turns the sky bright orange at the bottom as we glide on the silver waves. Ben points out a small round black head in the water about 150m away from us, thinking he’s seen a swimmer. It’s actually a curious seal, come to see who’s messing about in his backyard. He bobs about for a bit then eventually disappears. It’s not the kind of audience we’d expected, but is a fun end to the day. As night falls, we head back to Tagazhoute.

Following the narrow dusty streets to the sea, there’s a new strip opening up along the fishing beach where a couple of snack stalls have opened next to the Auberge hotel. It’s run by Jo Boswell and her friend Lily, both from the UK, and has become the place to sit around in the sun, swap tall surf tales and enjoy a cup of coffee or sweet mint tea. It overlooks the fishing beach, where around 25 wooden blue boats are pulled up above the high tide line. Jo gives me the heads up about the area.


“We’ve just opened up here,” she says, “and it’s pretty cool. This place is really undeveloped.  Banana beach is a nice place to start – it’s popular with the beginners and is very mellow. There’s also a nice restaurant on the beach there too.” Bananas is only a short walk or drive down the coast towards Agadir, so it’s really easy to get to and tends to be the first stop for the Surf Maroc crowd, so can be busier than the other beaches, particularly with learners. Though the definition of busy in Morocco is definitely different to what it’s like everywhere else in the world!

You’re bound to bump into other surfers in the Auberge. In the evening, the restaurant area, decorated with low sofas and cushions, is ringing with the sound of Kiwi, Aussie and British accents and talk of the best waves of the day.

“You can’t drink in Tagazhoute,” says Jo, identifying one of the major differences between surfing here and the rest of the world, “and there’s no particular après surf culture because of it.” But even though you’re in a Muslim country, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get hold of any beer. The supermarket in Agadir is a vital stop for anyone self-catering in the town, and you can buy beer by the slab and spirits there if you want to bring some into town with you. And while there’s no established surf culture in the evenings in Tagazhoute, for those not travelling as part of a surf package, the girls are putting on regular surf film nights at the hotel to try to create a bit of a scene. We settle down to watch North Shore, a cheesy 80s surf film set in Hawaii, starring Laird Hamilton as a baddie, and a lead character who is the surf champ of Arizona. Along with a delicious chicken tagine and copious cups of mint tea, it goes down a storm.

There are a couple of other girls in the bar, both from Wales and travelling together around Morocco. They give me some recommendations about the country. “I would really recommend wearing a cap or getting some kind of scarf for your hair,” says Mel. It’s not a fashion thing, she explains, but being blonde in Morocco really does attract attention, and it’s not always desirable. Jo agrees: “You need to be cover up sometimes too. I was in the souk last week in my shorts and I felt really uncomfortable. It’s a good idea to cover yourself up in public really.” That’s not to say that it’s dangerous to be a single female in the country at all, but you do need to be respectful.


Listening to all the tall tales, I wonder how Jo bears working here every night, hearing the same banter again and again. If I’m honest, it’s doing my head in already and I’ve not even been here very long!

“The differences between men talking about surfing and girls talking about it are funny,” said Jo. “When boys say they’re ripping it up, they never are. Girls are the opposite – they always talk themselves down. It’s a typical female thing.”

“I surf well,” she says, “But I’d never say I’m ripping it up!”

But while Tagazhoute continues to attract surfers in the know from Europe for the winter sessions (it’s best Oct-April), it looks like this surf paradise isn’t going to be around in this state for that much longer. Morocco is an impoverished country, but its one big money-spinner is tourism. And while Agadir just down the coast continues to pull in package tourists from across Europe, developers are starting to look up the coast for more opportunities. It’s rumoured that big five star hotel chains have been looking at Tagazhoute as a location for new spa and golf hotels which will bring much needed money to the area, and foundations are being put in at points all along the surf coast as we speak.

This is horrifying news for surfers. The gentle laid back ethos of this coast is going to be changed forever with these new developments, so you’d be wise to get there now when you can have it all to yourself. In five year’s time, it will be too late.



FLIGHTS You can fly to Morocco with all major airlines via Paris or London. It’s best to fly into Agadir if possible, which is a shorter drive away, while Marrakesh might offer cheaper flights through budget airlines easyJet ( or Ryanair ( From Marrakesh it’s a four-hour drive through the Atlas mountains to the coast.

VISA: You do not need a visa to enter Morocco if you’re coming from New Zealand or Australia.

MONEY: Moroccan Dirham. It’s roughly 5dh to the NZ$. You can’t take money into or out of the country and will have to change money directly at the airport. Make sure you have either Euros or Pounds to change into Dirham – the small banks don’t take many other currencies.

Remember to keep some spare change on you – you will have to pay a little baksheesh to park and in various situations around Morocco. And when shopping, don’t take the first price offered – haggling is the name of the game.

GETTING AROUND: A hire car is the best option, and don’t forget to bring your board ties. Try easyCar ( from £281 (NZ$728)for seven days.

ACCOMMODATION: We bargained for an apartment, sleeping three, for 300dh per night, or else you could try the Auberge for 150dh per night for a double room and breakfast. Just turn up.

PACKAGES: For surf packages, contact Surf Maroc ( Prices start at around £360 (NZ$934) for seven nights including board hire. Wetsuit hire is £5 (NZ$13)per day and surf coaching is £15 (NZ$39)per session.

By Laura Dixon – originally appeared in Curl magazine





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