March 2018

Understanding Surf Conditions for Beginners

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When a newbie first dives into the wondrous world of surfing, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the different factors that must align for a perfect day of surf. Below some surf terminology and surf conditions for beginners to read before setting the foot in the water.

The ocean is infinitely complex and always changing—each break is unique, and no two days are ever the same. Predicting the surf and reading the sea is a lifelong art form, one that only comes over time with lots of practice and patience.

In honor of the massive swell currently approaching our coastline (see photo at end!), here are the 5 most important factors one should understand to stay safe and score sweet waves!

       1. Types of Breaks

There are three primary types of surf breaks, or geographical seascapes that create surfable waves:

Beach Break – When waves break off of a sandy bottom. Where the wave breaks depends on the shifting contours of the ocean floor, which changes based on tides, seasons, and storms. Examples of nearby beach breaks are Devils’ Rock and Anza.

Point Break –  Waves that form as a result of the natural geography of a coastline jutting out to a point. A point breaks either to the left or the right, not both directions like beach breaks. The bottom might be either sand or rocks, depending on the break. Nearby epic point breaks include Anchor’s Point and Killer’s Point.

Reef Break – Reef breaks are when a waves breaks off a coral reef or rockbed. Reefs are often the most epic, world-class waves, and are rarely suitable breaks for beginners. Often creating steep, hollow, barreling waves, reefs can be both highly risky, and highly rewarding! If one falls, a bed of razor-sharp coral or rock is waiting just a few feet below the surface. Local reef breaks are Boilers and Draculas. 

       2. Tide Cycles

Local tides are a key factor in understanding a given spot. The tide effects the depth of the water, which exposes or hides the seascapes mentioned above, and thus changes the wave. Different spots work better at different tides. Even the direction of the tide – if it is rising or falling – can have a large impact on the wave.

Luckily, local tide charts are readily available on the internet. There is a tide shift every 6 hours, from high to low and back again.

       3. Wave Height

How big the waves are depends on the size, speed, direction and type of swell approaching your local break. You can check data from your local buoys, and there are many awesome surf apps that interpret how your breaks will receive a given swell such as Magic Seaweed and Surfline.

 

 

       4. Wind

Just because a massive swell is coming doesn’t necessarily mean there will be surfable waves!

Local winds make or break the wave. Understanding the difference between onshore and offshore wind is key:

Offshore wind blows toward the face of the wave, from the land to the sea. This is generally favorable for surfing as it holds the face of the wave up.

Onshore wind blows from the back of the wave toward the shore. This is generally unfavorable for surfing as it pushes the wave down, making it mushy and often unrideable.

       5. Seasons

The time of year plays a huge role in wave size and consistency, as swells come from different directions in varying sizes depending on the season.

Beaches that are facing the direction the swell is coming from will be more receptive to that swell and pick up larger waves, while beaches facing a different direction will generally have smaller waves for a that swell.


Remember, predicting the surf is truly an art form, and cultivating this skill doesn’t come overnight – practice patience, check the sea in person whenever you can, and remember there will always be more waves on the horizon!

Now, let’s celebrate the massive swell heading our way, and get some big ones!

Massive Waves Firing on the Moroccan Coast

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This past weekend brought a massive Northwest swell and big waves that absolutely pummeled our coastline, raising stoke levels to an all time high!

The swell perfectly peeled into a handful of nearby world-class breaks, firing with clean double-overhead sets.

Saturday morning brought the peak of the swell, it was far too big for beginners to make it out past the break almost everywhere!

 

Conditions aligned for an epic session at Anchor Point, a right point break that works best at low tide.

The swells drew a huge crowd of locals and tourists alike, cheering on the courageous surfers as massive waves pounded the rocky shores.

Anchor Point is an extremely high-risk, high-reward break – to paddle out, one must jump off the jagged rocks between sets with perfect timing. 

If the surfer times it wrong, or is not strong enough to beat the southward sucking current, these waves have the potential to smash you directly into the rocks.

We saw at least one broken board this morning snapped clean in half, and heard about a couple more. 

Watching surfers plunge into the risky paddle out was almost as intense as the rides themselves!

 

Our crew was extremely stoked and nervous for our own surf instructors to paddle out.

Together we watched him calmly walk out past the crowds to the farthest jagged point, waiting out a massive 3-4 meter set before diving head first into the oncoming swells. 

Utilizing all his strength to beat the current and duck dive underneath the waves, he soon made it out past the break and awaited the next set.

There’s only one thing that beats watching a friend catch a massive wave – catching one yourself!

With consistent practice, we get exponentially stronger and more capable of paddling out into bigger surf. Surfing is a lifelong practice that only gets more exciting and rewarding as you go, dedication is the key! 

The next swell is already headed our way. Opportunity for growth is infinite here on our sandy swelly shores of Morocco!

 

 

The Authentic Moroccan Experience

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Beyond the endless sandy shores and waves, what truly makes a stay here at Original Surf Morocco invaluable is the immersion experience into authentic Moroccan culture.

Our camp is run entirely by local people who grew up in this beautiful seaside village of Tamraght. They are indigenous Berber people, whose ties to this land trace back for generations.

They speak their native Berber tongue to one another, while communicating in Arabic to Moroccans, English to tourists, and often French, Russian, and bits and pieces of other languages from around the world. The fluid mastery of a handful of languages is commonplace amongst Moroccans – it is truly incredible and humbling to witness!

Being native to this coastline, our surf instructors have a sixth sense for which break will be working when – depending on the tides, swell, wind, and other factors that must align for a day of clean surf.

They graciously share the secrets of their home breaks with us travelers passing through, always bonding with people from around the world over the pure joy that is surfing. A love for the ocean and chasing waves creates a universal bond, that transcends any cultural or language barriers.

Our live-in chef, Omar, is a true artist of authentic Moroccan cuisine. He prepares delicious culinary masterpieces for us three times a day in his native style of cooking. Each meal is fueled by fresh produce regularly purchased from the local markets, or souks.

The Tajine dish is a classic trademark of authentic Moroccan cuisine – an absolute must-try  while traveling in Morocco.

The Tajine pot is made of earthen clay and used to slow cook vegetables or meat. The dish is served in the same pot it was cooked in, preserving the flavor in its’ richest form. We usually enjoy the Tajine dish each night at dinner.

Moroccan cuisine is infamous for its’ sublime use of delectable spices. Common spices include cumin, pepper, turmeric, saffron, ginger, paprika and cinnamon. 

In the classic Moroccan style, we always sit down to take our time enjoying the home-cooked meal together. Breakfast and dinner are served on our rooftop terrace, sporting sweeping views of the ocean and the whole village beneath us. We usually eat lunch on the beach, in between our morning and afternoon surfing sessions.

Each day living here, I learn a little bit more about what it means to be truly Moroccan – a culture centered around community, compassion, and spiritual devotion. I am so grateful to have at least two more months to sink in here, and to be able to share my experience with our readers!

Desert Trek: Sand Surfing in Morocco

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Once you catch the bug, chasing swells becomes a never-ending, lifelong quest. 

But when the sea is flat, it takes a bit of creativity to satiate the thirst – welcome the art of sand surfing, or shredding down the face of a steep desert dune. 

We started off the day at our home breaks in Tamraght, but everywhere we checked was flat, flat, flat as a flat thing could be.

So we embarked North toward Tamri, a magical stretch of coastline dripping with world-class reef and point breaks hidden around each bend. These spots often pick up more Northwest winter swell, but to our dismay we were only met by small, mushy waves, smothered by onshore winds.

“Well then,” smiled our surf-instructor Abdellah, a mischievous glint in his eyes, “Time for sand surfing!”

 

 

So the quest to gnarnia continued — but this time deep into sweeping desert fields, steeped on massive cliffs overlooking the dreamy turquoise sea.

We tromped through the fiery sand under a blazing Moroccan sun, winding our way up and down towering dunes until we finally reached our destination peak.

Removing the fins from our favorite foamie, gnar shredding commenced:

The afternoon lazily flowed by, sinking deeper and deeper into the endless expanse of the desert, not another soul in sight.

The desert has a piercing ability to make a human feel small as an ant. 

 

An eerie stillness permeates the throbbing landscape, holding the distant echo of waves crashing into the cliffs, howling winds swooshing through the valley.

One moment, all was completely still.

The next, a wind picked up with so much force it nearly swept us into the sea. At mercy to the elements, we quickly packed up our things and step by step, made the trek home.

The journey is endless, the destination an illusion… For the gnar, brah. For the gnar.

 

3 Ways Surfing & Yoga Become One

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When someone asks me if I’m good at surfing, I have a similar reaction as to when I hear someone say, “I’m so bad at yoga, I can’t even touch my toes!”. Surfing & yoga are both a journey to enjoy not a destination

My socially inept response is one of perplexed silence, a baffled head tilt and furrowed brows… The essential framework of this conversation is nonsensical to me.

With both practices, you never reach an end goal and say aha, I did it, it’s done! I have mastered all the waves of the sea, and I no longer need to breathe.

The only yardstick to really measure growth in either practice is equanimity – the ability to ride the ever-pulsing waves of life with internal ease and grace.

Sometimes these waves are literal – a double overhead set is rapidly approaching the razor-sharp reef, and you’re caught inside. Other times, metaphorical – your partner dumps you out of nowhere on the same day you got laid off.

Practicing yoga and surfing complement each other on every level. In my own experience of body, breath, and mind, I notice increasingly subtler connections between the practices the deeper I dive: 

1. BODY – Physical Strength & Flexibility

Through asana, or the physical practice of yoga, one cultivates a deeper integration of core strength throughout the entire body. This is absolutely essential to surfing, which requires full-body strength and endurance.

In ‘Vinyasa flow’ yoga, we find all the the essentials of the surf pop-up woven into the core sequence.

The classic flow of lowering from a high plank to chataranga and into a heart-opening backbend perfectly mirrors the buildup of paddling, catching a wave, and finally popping up to stand:

 

 

 

Practicing this sequence on the mat cultivates the muscle memory needed for the rapid pop-up on a wave.

Surfers that don’t practice asana tend to have extremely tight shoulders from all the muscular exertion, minus the stretching. By ignoring flexibility, a non-negotiable pillar of health, they hold themselves back from taking on the next level of surf.

2. BREATH – Pranayama & Staying Calm

In surfing, there is a time to dive into your deepest strength reservoirs and fight with all your might – perhaps when paddling out past the break, or going for a wave.

But there is also a time to surrender to the sea and let go of all the muscles in your body – when a wave sucks you under for an extended period of time and you have to calmly hold your breath and wait it out. It is only when one panics and struggles to fight their way to the surface that the danger of drowning arises.

Through pranayama, or breathing practices, we consciously harness and expand our ability to intake pranaor ‘life-force,’ manifested as breath. These practices enable one to fully utilize their lung capacity and hold their breath calmly for increasing periods of time.

There are also different pranayamas one can apply to specific surfing predicaments – kapala bhati to heat up the body internally when in freezing external conditions, or ujjayi to calm the mind when fear creeps in.

3. MIND – Awakening Intuition & Being Present

Through surfing you fluidly merge your being with the sea. This does not occur through the linear, rational part of your brain, but rather through the intuitive, feeling-sense instinct of your heart.

You can’t think your way on to a wave.

You’ve got to learn to get out of your head, drop into your body, and trust the flow of your intuition to guide you. Surfing reconnects us with our primal instinct, immersing in the raw unbridled energy of nature.

And the more time you spend in the sea, the more you become naturally attuned to her rhythms – I swear sometimes I feel a set coming before I see it.

In our yogic practice of meditation, we are awakening our latent intuition and deeper feeling-sense to navigate our lives. We cultivate patience and non-judgemental awareness toward ourselves and others. This is an essential quality to maintain a lifelong dedication to surfing, as often it can feel like we spend more time waiting for swells than riding them.

For me, just being in the ocean is meditation. The word yoga actually translates to union – union of the individual ego with the greater whole, of the limited individual being with the infinite ocean of existence.

So whether I’m in the sea or on the mat, the moment I catch myself thinking, ‘look at me, look how good I’ve gotten!’ I know my ego has crept back in and I’ve missed the point.

Sometimes I think of my time spent in the sea and on the mat as practice for real life. When difficult circumstances arise, as they are bound to, the only thing I can control is my own response.

Thus my surfing and yoga practice are one in the same, as they both enable me to connect with Source energy and go beyond my limited ego to embody my highest Self.

Inhale, Exhale~~~meet the waves head on, without fear~~~the only way to go & grow.

Journey to Paradise

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Nestled in the lush greenery of Morocco’s southern coastline lies the special nook of Paradise Valley, the desert oasis you thought might only exist in dreams. But these naturally carved out turquoise swimming holes are the real deal, encircled by swaying palm trees and all.

 

Usually the rhythm of our day here at Original Surf Morocco is centered around surfing. But when the sea is flat, windy, or just straight unmanageable, we take an excuse to explore a different side of Morocco–rare journey away from the sea, into the mountains and trees. 

The hike into Paradise Valley begins by winding up and down a series of steep mountains, dropping in to a lush river. Steep cliffs run along the water’s edge, which is vibrant and flowing after this year’s strong winter rains.

 

Massive palm trees frame the trail, gentle giants swaying with the breeze. As you trek deeper into the valley, secret get-a-aways begin to pop up left and right, where Moroccans have set up their own oasis hangouts of hammocks, cafes, art spaces and the likes.

After about half an hour of winding deeper into the valley along the river, the trail leads to a series of smoothly carved out turquoise swimming holes. The pools are deep and clear, the occasional school of fish coming up to nibble your toes. Small waterfalls connecting the pools make perfect smooth waterslides.

Every so often a dare devil climbs up the steep rock walls surrounding the pools, and makes the 10 meter jump into the crystal clear waters. 

 

As an adventurer begins to scramble to the top, the chilled-out crowd of sunbathers and swimmers begins to watch in anticipation, sometimes even erupting into cheers when the jump is finally made. 

Hours can seamlessly flow by in this relaxed sway of Paradise Valley. Stretched out like a lizard on the warm slabs of rock, dipping into the cool perfect waters when it gets too hot, time dissolves into the passing rhythm of the sun.

At the end of the day we slowly made our way back along the winding trail, feeling recharged, refreshed, and ready for the evening ahead – a calm sunset yoga session followed by a classic Moroccan dinner, settling in for the evening and preparing for the next day of surf.