Air Wind? F--k Air Wind!
Generations collide in Morocco
By Justin Coté
Morocco is renowned for its legendary right pointbreaks. Waves like Anchor Point, La Source, Safi, and Killers have been in the surfing spotlight since the 1960s when Vietnam War draft dodgers smoked hashish and aimed their single fins toward the shoulder. The place has seen the whole gamut of surf travelers since then and is a well-worn path for European surfers and tourists. And while the famed points are still there and as good as ever, today's surfing has taken on a more progressive, aerial approach, which doesn't always take kindly to offshore winds and long, mushy pointbreaks.
You read that right. Dudes go on surf trips looking for blown-out surf. And not just any surfers--the best guys in the world scour the charts looking for light onshores and two- to three-foot wedges. Okay, maybe it hasn't come to that, but the day is quickly approaching. From what I understand, a bit of onshore wind allows you to land more airs and therefore gather more "clips."
It wasn't always like that. Not when I was a kid. But then I thought about it. Some of the best times I've had in Puerto Escondido were after the wind had come up--around 11:00 a.m.--and Playa Zicatela became a skatepark with 10-foot ramps strewn about. Muy divertido. And at the end of the trip, you'd buy all your waves off this Canadian chick who had them on a VHS tape that she sold to you for 60 dollars. Got the clips.
So I get it. Kinda.
Kids these days are looking for air wind--five- to 10-knot gusts that blow side onshore, thus pushing the board into a surfer's feet as he or she hucks themselves into the stratosphere. This is best practiced in out-of-the-way nooks and crannies where said surfer can hurl themselves into the air in hope of being the next to grace the cover of magazines and get footage good enough for a movie (all without getting "poached," but that's a whole 'nother story).
Anyone can get a web clip.
I hadn't been to Morocco in 10 years but had always longed to go back, and I kept in touch with our Sipping Jetstreams trip host Denny from Moroccan Surf Adventures. After years of across-the-pond bantering via e-mail, it was decided that TransWorld SURF would make its triumphant return to Morocco in early 2013. A crew of hot young rippers was assembled and despite a horrid surf forecast, off we were.
Not so fast.
Like most trips, things don't always go as planned. Conner and Parker Coffin were nowhere to be found after missing a connection in NYC. Their surfboards were even more lost and wouldn't be seen for days. Their filmer, Ryan Perry, was armed with an iPhone, tripod, and Polaroid camera to document the action and gather clips for TransWorld SURF's guaranteed-to-not-win-an-award-at-Surfer-Poll movie Tropically Yours. After a few missed sessions (and several days of wearing the same clothes) the trio was like caged lions and ready to unleash when their equipment finally showed up.
I'd never seen two surfers happier to see their board bags. Parker even slept with his.
The central coast region of Morocco is an amazing place. There are hundreds of miles of surfable coastline, all exposed to swell, with a ton of spots waiting to be discovered. Due to convenience, skill level, and lack of transportation, most everyone surfs in the same zone between Agadir and Taghazoute. That left us a huge swath of the SoCal-size region wide open for daylong strike missions with nobody around. Our base camp in the sleepy and dry (i.e. no bars or liquor stores) village of Tamraght was perfectly located for these pre-dawn raids.
While I was hoping for leisurely surfs at one of the famed points, the pros had other waves in mind. They were looking for that damn air wind and a wedgey type of wave. Outnumbered and outvoted, every morning we'd fly through the dirty surf ghetto of Taghazoute, passing by packs of stoned-out-of-their-mind German surfers trying their best to lug around soft tops and egg-shaped beginner boards. Many of them had those god-awful "I'm on vacation" braids in their hair, and like catatonically high sheep, they would gather at Anchor Point and nowhere else.
Every morning as we'd drive by, I'd stare at the long, fun-looking lines, amateur hour crowd, and yearn for a session at Morocco's most famous wave. At first I'd be like, "Hey, that looks like fun!" only to be shot down with "no air sections" and "too offshore."
After a few days I stopped commenting on how fun it looked. They weren't going to stop anyways. The offshore wind was wrong.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for kids doing crazy airs. It's just not my game. So we'd blast through town, around a bend in the coastline, and into what our hosts called The Dark Side. The Dark Side was badass. Facing due west, the Dark Side gets the brunt of Atlantic Ocean swell, and when the points in town are two-foot, The Dark Side is six-foot, colder, and windier. Suffice to say, German surf tourists don't go to The Dark Side.
We spent days on The Dark Side. Joined only by the occasional Berber fisherman, we'd crawl down cliffs and leap off rocks into the surging ocean and then wait for the best show of all--watching Oliver Kurtz do the same.
Oliver would do fine on the trail that leads down the sandstone cliff, but his guile would fizzle once he had to negotiate the sharp, slippery rocks covered with sea urchins that stand between surfer and wave.
I took great pleasure in watching Oliver struggle and scream his way over the jagged rocks. He's younger than me, surfs better than me, has a better body than me, and makes more money than me. So yeah, I enjoyed watching him get blasted on the rocks. I helped him remove sea urchin spines from his foot, so I'm not a total dickhead.
The Dark Side has a treasure of a wave, simply called "The Slab" to those in the know, or, "The Grassy Knoll" if your name is Shane Dorian. After studying the Morocco section in the Taylor Steele surf movie Sipping Jetstreams, our crew was chomping at the bit to get some waves at The Slab.
Despite the lack of it, the air wind seekers would not be let down. Apparently the only thing better than air wind is a thick, meaty slab that ends on dry reef. It wasn't for the feint of heart or those who surf with their right foot forward. Mix in muddy feet and a red wine hangover and the office guy was not gathering clips by any means. Meanwhile, the guys who, you know, get paid to surf, were absolutely killing it. Conner and Peter Devries were particularly impressive on their frontside, weaving in and out of barrels, and escaping out the doggie door or punching out the back with ease. For our two goofies who were on their backside (Oliver and Parker), it was a bit tougher--but they proved worthy of their respective paychecks.
After few days of getting kegged at The Slab (where the crew didn't mind an offshore wind), it was time to seek out Air Wind. A slight bump in the swell shut down The Slab but opened up a slew of new spots, including The Wedge. It was to be our next location to gather clips and hopefully get enough photos for a print article. In other words, get some work done!
Where's the Air Wind?
So we're sitting in this beautiful little cove with Sebastian Inlet type of wedges coming through consistently. But something wasn't right--it was sheet glass. "Man, it'd be so fun out here with some air wind," Parker said to nobody in particular. "I know, it's just not quite doing it, hey," the Canadian Peter said with his funny "hey" that he attached to the end of every sentence. I couldn't take it anymore and had to ask, "Are you guys serious? It's perfectly glassy out there. You actually want the wind to come up?" They just looked at me like I was crazy. After an awkward silence, Parker held a moist finger into the air. "I think there's a little air wind coming."
At just 17 years old Parker is a real character and a founding father of Fat Boy Surf Camp, or as it's known in social media circles, #fatboysurfcamp. If the waves, and of course, air wind, weren't up to his liking, he'd go into a state of imagined hunger that was unbelievable. "I want an omelet. I want an omelet. I want an omelet. I want an omelet. I want an omelet. I want an omelet. I want an omelet. I want an omelet," he'd mutter from the back seat until we couldn't take it anymore and had to pull over to feed the beast. He'd eat his body weight in local breads smeared with honey and dipped in argan oil, take down a three-egg omelet, and wash it down with a cup of coffee. Needless to say the 45-minute ride back to camp was a gas-filled affair. Despite his disposition to overeat and affinity to fart bare-ass in one's face, Parker proved to be a pleasure to travel with. I'll say this about the kid: after cutting his teeth on the North Shore of Oahu for several years now, he's not one to pull back on a six-foot closeout at The Slab--which will make for good fodder in the Tropically Yours wipeout section.
After a week or so of the same routine--wake up early, surf all day, and make it home after dark to the camp--we'd come to realize how lucky we'd been. "We're in Africa," Oliver kept repeating as prayers rang out from the local mosque. And we were lucky. Our in-the-know host, Denny, nearly called me to cancel the trip because the forecast looked so horrible. "Mate, I was shitting meself," he told me one evening over an overflowing glass of red wine. "It was meant to be flat the whole time you were here, but this little bump came out of nowhere," he added. But that's the beauty of the region--you don't need a ton of swell. In fact, we'd come to the conclusion that, for the waves we were surfing, a two- to three-foot groundswell was ideal. Down south picks up generous amounts of swell as it faces in a more northerly direction, and The Dark Side must have some crazy offshore canyons that funnel swell into it. Any bigger and the only game in town is the crowded points with ze Germans, hardly a bummer option.
Days had passed and the boys hadn't had a proper air wind session. I quietly laughed at their misfortune. But as fate and Allah himself would have it, on the last day of the trip, we surfed one of the few places where local Agadir guys hang out and regulate. It's a Lower Trestles-like setup, with a long rippable right and shorter left, replete with a cobblestone beach entry. Because we were with a local guide and surfer himself, we had a hall pass to film and shred their spot, but a couple bars of wax, hats, stickers, and tees went a long way and ensured that we wouldn't get hassled by the locs.
The session kicked off without a breath of wind, but as it wore on, lips began to crumble, a texture appeared on the surface, and whitecaps could be spotted out the back. "Air wind!" someone shrieked. And so it began. Punts, airs, full rotators, fins flying, boards spinning. The air wind had arrived.
And then it all made sense.
Seeing the guys throwing themselves haphazardly and stomping huge airs was damn fun to watch--and obviously even more fun to actually do. This bloated desk jockey even got into the spirit of things and attempted a backside jump (it was so far from an air that to label it so would be an insult to aerialists worldwide).
The following night, the Coffins and Oliver packed up and left with ear-to-ear smiles and a hard drive full of clips and banger photos. Tropically Yours director Dave Malcolm and I had some unfinished business to tend to--another morning to surf--so that next day we went back to the local boys' spot and were blown away. It was three- to four-foot with light offshores. Yes! We went on to shred the lights out of it without the shame of getting ripped by teenagers. Good times. That afternoon, as we drove by the spot on our way to the airport, the air wind had shown up, and, I shit you not, one of the local boys popped a little air as we passed by. Stranded at some random airport and getting charged 700 dollars for his board bag, Parker Coffin laughed at me.
Frequently asked questions to someone who just got back from Morocco:
Q: Was it sketchy?
A: Not at all. People are cool as long as you aren't a total idiot and follow local customs and procedure, i.e. you don't walk down the street in a g-string while drinking a beer.
Q: How do you get there?
A: It's a five-hour flight from New York. If you live on the East Coast of the States it's a no-brainer.
Q: What are the chicks like?
A: The waves are great.
Q: Did you bring back any hash?
A: Have you seen Midnight Express?
For the adventure of a lifetime--and perhaps a nice Air Wind--book a trip with Moroccan Surf Adventures at morocsurf.com