Waves in the Western Sahara

Western Saharan point break
Van life

As I write this I'm sat on a plane on the way back from the Western Sahara following a spontaneous surf trip to the arid Moroccan coastline. Spontaneous is perhaps slightly misleading in that it suggests I happily threw caution to the wind and just went! In reality, it was a painstaking decision at 11 o'clock the night before my girlfriend's flight to meet her sister, her sister's boyfriend and Tony the Ozzie. Could I justify a week of saline paradise in the place of selling, printing, designing and being a productive member of society. Yes. Yes I could.

Booked. Train to Manchester and then a quick hop across to North Africa. I will advise you now that I will be keeping the names and locations of the trip deliberately vague. We were by no means surfing secret spots, but they were certainly uncrowded and only the reward for those who make the long arduous journey.

Following a lengthy bus ride we rendezvoused with Peggy and Rupert and their trusty steed - the Iveco Daily which has been so lovingly converted to a perfect adventure van. The guys reside in Portugal and for the last few years have embarked on a journey south for the winter. The journey is long and pretty wearisome - Iz and I were grateful to have been able to half their journey time. When we finally made it we headed to our camp for the week which was nestled on a small cliff overlooking Moroccos main export - a good looking right hand point. Waves were hard to come by that first day but a week of swell lay ahead of us.

The next morning saw a good 3-4ft swell wrap round the point; conditions we enjoyed for the rest of the week. The strong cross offshore meant it wasn't perfect but the bigger sets were almost breaking through to the beach. It was a stark contrast to the wet, green landscape of northern Scotland before Christmas. Being the lazy goofy footer that I am it was good to have no choice but to go right and having Peggy (surf instructor at Surf Experience, Lagos) critique my sloppy technique was a nice bonus.

Moroccan point
Van life

The locals were super friendly, one of them had kindly lent me his board for the week to save making the journey that much more complicated and expensive. There isn't what one might call a pedigree surf culture here and the result is beautifully odd techniques and  guys who are stoked to share the lineup with you.

We settled into that dreamy routine of get up, cuppa, surf, breakfast, surf, lunch, surf, dinner, bed. As a lover of good food and good waves I was in paradise. Tony, long friend of Rupert is one hell of a chef and was grilling up fish, cooking beautiful tagines and mouthwatering couscous most nights. It was such a simple setup with just the van, 2 tents and the sea - I couldn't have been more content.

I have many friends who have been to Morocco for both short and long stints and the recurring theme always seems to be how much they are hassled when out in the towns. Perhaps it was because we were off the tourist trail or because I just have over sensitive friends but there was not one bit of this where we were. We could head to the market for our fruit and veg, some snails to snack on or grab some dinner with just a smile from the locals. Granted one guy tried charging us £25 for a jar of honey which we swiftly declined but it was as relaxed as one could hope for. 

Town life in Western Sahara

We surfed the above point everyday only venturing up the coast to another spot once. Again, it was decent and uncrowded, only sharing it with some French old boys on their longboards - they had some style. The landscape is not what one would describe as beautiful but it has its own charm and certainly adds a sense of adventure. Besides, experiencing actual sunshine beats off the seasonal affective disorder the grey drizzly English skies bring.

A particular highlight has to be our weekly wash. All that dust and salt had left us pretty crusty after a few days and Peggy had found the perfect solution to the showerless van. As she pointed out, it is to Peggy and Izzy's great credit that they are willing to 'wash' themselves in a grimy gutter and I have to admit I was highly sceptical of the plan. However, once we had arrived at said gutter and removed the breeze blocks and wood we sat in the 40 degree sulphur water happy as pigs in s**t. The gutter was an overflow of a nearby oasis and we carried out our beauty rituals as if we were in our own homes - unsurprisingly we drew quite a crowd. I will never question Peggy's judgement again.

I feel I should insert more about the waves here but hesitate in doing so in fear of repeating tired cliches and revealing too much about the spots. So I'll let you use your imagination with the help of some pictures. I'm also in danger of spouting some philosophical bollocks about simple pleasures and sounding like one of those surfers. But I will just point out that between the Western Sahara and north west Scotland I've enjoyed unbridled joy at having good waves, good food and good company. Whilst me and Iz only stayed a week and experienced a momentary romanticised vision of van life it has confirmed that upon my return to the UK I will be purchasing a Gnarly Tree adventure wagon and pursuing the nomadic lifestyle which Pegs and Rupert enjoy each winter.