Morocco's Atlantic coastline has a good selection of mostly uncrowded surf breaks, and when combined with the country's culture, cuisine, and other attractions, they make for a fascinating "surfari." Although surfing in Morocco was initially introduced by Americans and Australians in the '70s, Europeans and Moroccans are now the most common of those out in the water. In the past decade, the sport has gained in popularity, assisted by King Mohammed VI, who is patron of the Oudayas Surf Club in Rabat. There are now surf schools, shops, and camps dotted along the coastline, as well as a number of domestic competitions and surf riders' associations.
Although September through April is when you'll find the most consistent swells, decent surf occurs throughout the year, thanks to swells generated by the North Atlantic depressions combined with light offshore trade winds. Localism is yet to rear its ugly head in any great fashion, at least by Moroccans anyway, who are still rapt to share their waves with "cool" foreign surfers.
Point, reef, and beach breaks are to be found all the way from north of Rabat (Mehdiya Plage) to south of Agadir (Sidi Ifni). Between El Jadida and Safi are some excellent right-handers, as well as the beginner-friendly lagoon at Oualidia. Farther south there are quite a few breaks between Essaouira and Agadir, including Imessouane (another long right-hand break and a personal favorite) and the world-class wave at Anchor Point, just north of the surfer's village of Taghazout. As with most exotic surfing destinations, the most convenient way to access Morocco's surf breaks is by renting a car.
Recommended surf schools include Surfland (tel. 0523/366110), overlooking the Oualidia lagoon; Kahina (tel. 0528/826032; www.kahinasurfschool.com) at Imessouane; and Rapture (tel. 0662/879389; www.rapturecamps.com) in Tamraght, near Taghazout. In Essaouira are Club Mistral (tel. 0524/783934; www.club-mistral.com) and Magic Fun Afrika (tel. 0661/103777 or 0661/170410; www.magicfunafrika.com), which offer lessons and rent, sell, and repair equipment.
The Stormrider Guide Europe -- The Continent (Low Pressure, 2006), by Bruce Sutherland, includes the best available write-up on Morocco's surf spots, while the site for Global Surfers (www.globalsurfers.com) offers plenty of specific information on most of Morocco's breaks and has a handy forum where current localized information can be sourced.
- Nomad Surfers (tel. 971/306992; www.nomadsurfers.com) is a Spanish-based company offering surfaris worldwide, including Morocco, where they have an operation in Tamraght, near Taghazout.
- Pure Vacations (www.purevacations.com) is a U.K.-based travel specialist offering holidays worldwide, and has recently commenced an Ultimate Moroccan Surf Tour. The 7-night tour begins and finishes in Agadir, and includes return flights from London, all accommodations, meals, transport, and an accompanying surf guide and life guard.
- Surf Maroc (tel. 01794/322-709; www.surfmaroc.co.uk) is a U.K.-based operation offering surf holidays, lessons, and yoga retreats from their Taghazout operation.
- Zoco Boardriding Adventures (tel. 0871/218-0360 in the U.K., or 020/8144-1035 from elsewhere; www.zocotravel.com) offers surfing holiday packages, including a 7-night Morocco tour specifically for groups (school, surf clubs, university), which includes accommodations, surf tuition, meals, and transport.
Essaouira's wide bay offers a variety of conditions for both kitesurfers and windsurfers, and annually hosts a leg of the Kiteboard Pro World Cup. The "Windy City" experiences almost daily winds ranging from 20 to 35 knots, and with no reef or strong current, the shallow 3km-wide (1 3/4-mile) bay is perfect for all skill levels. June through August, morning conditions can range from flat to a slight wind chop -- and is usually when beginner's classes are taken -- while wind speeds in the afternoon can reach up to 35 knots. For the rest of the year, particularly in spring and autumn, the North Atlantic swell, assisted by wind speeds of between 20 and 30 knots, makes for particularly good wave-sailing conditions, especially on the southern side of the bay. This end of the bay is generally considered the kitesurfing zone, though wave sailors also congregate here, while beginners of both sports may feel more comfortable in the relatively calmer waters closer to the port.
The small beach of Moulay Berzouktoune, 20km (12 miles) north of Essaouira, offers one of the best wave-sailing locations outside Europe. Known simply as Moulay, this is only for experienced wave sailors, as both the current and cross-shore wind here are stronger than those at Essaouira. Similar in wind strength and wave size is Sidi Kaouki, about 10km (6 miles) south of Essaouira. Conditions here, however, can vary, and stretched along the beach are a few different entry points for both intermediate and experienced wave sailors.
Kitesurfing and windsurfing schools in Essaouira include the beachside Club Mistral-Skyriders (tel. 0524/783934; www.club-mistral.com) and nearby Magic Fun Afrika (tel. 0661/103777 or 0661/170410; www.magicfunafrika.com), both of which also rent equipment. Note that most schools will only rent kitesurfing equipment if you are experienced enough to ride upwind and can perform self-rescue, generally considered IKO level 3. Less experienced kitesurfers can sometimes still rent equipment, but there may be a 30% surcharge for supervised rental.
Essaouira surf shops Gipsy Surfer (tel. 0661/947092) and U.K.-owned No Work Team (tel. 0524/475272) both sell kitesurfing and windsurfing equipment.
Tour Operators -- Most international tour operators offering kitesurfing holidays to Morocco contract their ground operations to Skyriders, the Moroccan branch of Club Mistral , including Planet Kitesurf (tel. 0870/749-1959; www.planetkitesurf.com), a U.K.-based travel operator specializing in kitesurfing holiday packages.