Friday, November 25, 2011

Trip Summary - Intense

Been back nearly a week now and the trip is beginning to feel like some surreal experience that happened to someone else. Red summed it up succinctly on the way back on the plane.

 'That was bloody intense'.

 He was right. From arrival at Agadir airport and for the next seven days we were totally immersed in the hospitality that was Moroccan Surf Adventures. The routine, although clockwork :
 Sleep - wake - eat - surf - eat - surf - eat - drink - sleep
 was relentless BUT never intrusive or regimented. We instantly fell in with the easy going manner of the Surf camp and with the minimum of fuss got into the groove.

 We came to surf and that's exactly what Denny and the surf guides and drivers, Hicham (who took most of the pictures) and Rashid enabled us to do even when it seemed unlikely that we would find any swell.
They always put us on waves.
The Moroccan Perfection that is Machine Guns

The mix of surfers that we found ourselves with helped a lot and during the week we met some great people and had a barrel of laughs. There were a couple of couples that were novices and some independent travellers that very quickly found themselves part of the overall house group along with the three of us and another group of five (KernowSurf Doc that were always on 24hour call out), that also happened to be from Cornwall. Small world surfing.

(Man stumbles into the Doctors office in a blind panic, trousers around his ankles , rushes up to the desk and flops his old man down between the stapler and the stethoscope. 

'My God man' Exclaims the doctor with the fear of god in his voice. 'What's the problem?'

'Nothing - beauty in'it')

Not so far from the truth that.!

 As far as me being the only Stand Up paddle-surfer, Denny's crew accommodated me and the board with the minimal of fuss and bother and apart from a couple of sessions when I felt that it was prudent to sit out a session (down to busier more focused peaks rather than conditions) I don't think that I was too out of my depth. Even during the post surf decontamination process people would still talk to me.  I was generally able to get stuck in most days with the advanced party, and don't think that I let the Stand up crew down too much. In fact several of the house guests seemed genuinely curious, once they stopped sniggering!

"See that Muppet on the Paddle Board getting Nailed - that's what happens when you get old"

 Anyone riding a standup, with some time on their hands and looking for a reasonably close, warm surf trip would be well looked after on a daily basis by Denny and his house-crew, Sophia, Russell and MoMo the cook, could he cook? So much so in fact that the distinction between staff and guests was often subtly blurred.

Denny said at the outset

'Make yourself at home'.

And you do.  The camp has claimed some mighty scalps, Taj Burrows, Taylor Steele, Sam Lamiroy to name but a few. It's easy to see why. I don't think anyone would argue if I said that the stretch of beach from Banana Beach to Taghazoute was not exactly a pristine piece of coastline, but the area does enjoy some cracking and consistent swell, especially if you know where to look.

Water temperature when we were there was supposedly 20'c , to me it felt more like 15'c. I was fine in boardies and a rash vest and occasionally a tube suit (2mm shortie john). The other guys needed their 3/2 full suits. First session at Devils Rock and I went in without my Vibram's - my feet were pretty much shredded on the rocks in the shore break. My shins caught it inside at Machine Guns. One week later and the itching as the scrapes and cuts heal is driving me nuts.

 The practicalities of taking a Stand Up are only limited by the airlines. I think I was lucky with mine. I double bagged my 9'Mana and slipped my one piece Werner Nitro in it's case in between the two bags. Total weight of the board bags and paddle was 19kgs, having booked a surfboard I had a total allowance of 32kgs. No problem.  BUT officially the maximum length should not have exceeded 2.5meters(8'2 1/2"). MMnnn. My 9' Mana in the Nash bag inside a 10' bag should really have had me going back to the car for my ULI Munoz. I reckon I just got away with that.

Had we been gone for longer than a week I think that I would have taken my ULI Munoz by choice anyway. The board is lighter than the Mana and possibly a tad more lively. It does take a little more adjustment and acclimatisation to get the best out of it so a week would be iffy whereas the Mana is instantly doable. Next time however there is the distinct possibility of taking a custom 7'10 . . . more of that later. All in all  fantastically, selfish, fun packed trip, that does not leave you wanting. Big thanks to all who put up with me and especially Charmaine for springing the surprise.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Moroccan Montage

Little taster video of what we had during our trip.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Machine Guns

Wow what a day - after a fairly heavy night it was decided to get up and on the road for seven am as we were going South to a spot with the slightly worrying name of 'Machine Guns'!

Denny had been giving us the lowdown throughout dinner.

'Yeah it's totally sick, a slab that you get onto by holding your leash and jumping off the rock between sets.'

He then looked at me and said

'Can you lie down and paddle your board?'

"Why would I want to do that?'

I asked, I was getting fractionally more nervous with every description that Den used to paint the picture that was Machine Guns. Words and phrases like, Slab, Reef, Firing and f'ing mental sprinkled with timing and insane were being used liberally.

He then dropped the bomb

' I just think that I would just prefer if you got going and got out quickly'

The other guys in the group lept to my defence Stating that I could probably paddle just as quick on my knees or standing, it was good of them but the seed of doubt had been sown in my mind. The counter to that was that it was Friday and almost certainly our last surf of the trip. So I was going in shit or bust.

So after an early start and an hour and a half or so on the road we pulled off the main road and headed down a desert track to a cliff overlooking Machine Guns. It was exactly as Den had described. The sets were stacking up well out to sea and were being focussed over a series of reefy lava outcrops up and down the coast. Our outcrop had been named as Machine guns.

Not wanting to spend too much time thinking about it I pulled on my rash vest and Vibrams and mooched off down the cliff. To be fair getting out was fairly painless - wait for a lull pushed through and over the wash and knee paddled quickly out behind the reef.

The sets when they came through were amazing and heeding Hishan's advice of 'Take the last wave Steve' I picked off the last wave of a set and paddled in to a steep drop and a rolller coaster ride down the green face before taking the high line and exiting cleanly as everything beyond shut down.

That was allright and the session that followed saw me rack up my wave count considerably. The break was mainly rights but a few lefts presented inside of me that the guys were on.

A couple of rides ended up with me holding on too long, ending up well inside in the washzone and I touched down a few times but really no great drama. If i had to go behind someone paddling out I would get caught if I cut across them I got away with it.

We all had a wave fest at machine guns and again credit to the Moroccan Surf Adventures team for once again placing us in perfect conditions and on a break all to ourselves.

As one or two decided to get out the real fun began. The wind which was virtually non existent when we paddled out had just gone slightly onshore, the swell had jumped up a bit and the tide was dropping back down the reef, all pretty small changes but together they were enough to change the character and atmosphere of the place from a benign, glassy break into something a little more grey and snarling. With the dropping tide the inside was hard enough for the guys with 6' shortboards - my Mana was going to take some holding on to. Three tentative attempts later, one involving me bailing inside and duck diving into three feet of water and six feet of wash saw me struggle to my feet and scramble up the reef carrying my board, desperately trying to hold on against the surging back wash.

All in all a great session and an experience to remember. Can't quite believe that the board came away unscathed from that but it did.

It's now Saturday mid morning and everything is packed up ready to leave at three. The offer of another surf this morning was tempting but it's great to finish with a good one under my belt.

As soon as I get a decent connection I will upload the pics - the whole guided surf camp thing has been a new experience and great fun. Imagine staying in a hosted ski chalet and you sort of get the picture. As Denny said it's not five star but if the alternative is camping or just taking pot luck and ending up in a scruffy guest house in Taghazout this is luxury. Always plenty of food, fun, hot water and waves. Perhaps recording the morning call to prayer on an iphone and playing it back over the outside house sound system at one o'clock in the morning was not exactly what Apple had in mind for itunes but it did make us smile and give the stray dogs some competition.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chasing waves

Quick update today got some pictures but will add them all in one go when I get back the internet is slow here.
The swell had dropped off overnight and the plan for this morning was to go South to get out of the swell shadow, however a last minute change of plans saw us drive up the coast past Boilers and on to a reefy point that broke over shallow flat rocks. A couple of the shortboarders in the party braved the descent down the cliff whilst the rest of us wnt on to Tamari Beach.

Got to say having Hishan and Rashid with us as drivers and guides has been a godsend. Driving away from where we are staying we followed the coast and it was sheer glass with hardly a ripple even Boilers was quiet. Crest the headland and there were the swell lines, not huge but waist to head high with a suprising amount of punch. Left to our own devices we probably would have fannied about and ended up not surfing at all. As it went we all gottwo sessions in on the beach. Net result totally knackered - feels great.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day Three

The wind had dropped off and with the forecast predicting a bump up in swell we all piled into the two 4x4's and headed north to check out mysteries and then on to the headland that looks down on Killers. With perfect lines bending around into the bay it made sense to get stuck in. Duncan Red, Mark and Jim joined me shortly after although they struggled a bit with the paddle out against the rip that kept taking them back to the beach. All in all a good session for me and to finish the day off Andru and myself paddled out into Banana beach whilst the others took the windier and bumpier option of Devils just around the corner.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Moroccan Day Two

Sorry bit light on the picture front - the guys went in this morning at a very heavy and busy Devil's rock. Thought that it might be best to sit this one out but the heeby jeebies were well and truly laid to rest in the evening session. Managed some head and a half reeling rights to keep the Stand up flag flying high.
The wind was howling offshore and the sets were stacking up proper.

Wind dropped off overnight and wewent to Croco beach clean Head high plus with some Monster closeouts. All in boardies Couple of sessions. Arms are now officially toast!

Got a lot of Naish Mana 9 love going on.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Curry Night

Easy Jet got us in an hour late - 17 hungry bodies from Cornwall to Copenhagen all made to feel incredibly welcome by Denny and the crew at maroc surf adventures


Guess which one is the paddleboard?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

One week in Morocco

Hopefully there should be a flurry of short, sharp posts over the next couple of weeks. Charmaine surprised me with a weeks surf camp in Morocco flying out with Andru and Red next Saturday. How cool is that? That's the joys of an impending 50th birthday.

So the big decision was board choice. The sensible option would be the 8'11 Uli Munoz. However with  the fact that hard boards had been already been booked with EasyJet I opted to take my 9'0 Mana. Ticking away in the back of my head though was the notion of taking a shorter board not least for the convenience during travel - so why not just take the ULI? A circular dilemma.

Shorter boards were already on my radar for this year anyway, not to replace my current boards but to make more of less than optimal conditions. I sort of regret getting rid of my old Nah Skwell 7'8 and would probably take that with me if I still had it, the only downside with that board for me was the number of sharp edges that had my name on them.

I had been following Dwight's home shaped 7'10 and 7'8 Dumpster inspired boards with interest and envy and had tentatively made some enquiries both with Dwight and locally with a view to getting something home grown. I had also checked out a couple of Gong boards, the Mutant and Faking and had my eye on the Starboard Rush 7'4" which was coming out favourite on paper. The new 2012 Starboard Squirt also looks do-able but would it be viable? None of this however was going to help me with this trip.

Until Rich rang -

"Hey Steve - fancy a demo on our 8'6"?"

"Urrgh - funny you should say that Rich - how do you feel about me taking it to Morocco for a week?"

'Joking!' Got to say though the board does look good and following a quick pre-brekfast bash in super clean but close-outy conditions this morning I was sorely tempted to take it. As stable as a rock, just a tad less nose rocker than I think I'm going to need. Looking forward to getting some more mellow sessions on it when I get back though.