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I flew from Dakar via Lisbon to Casablanca on January 19th. I didn't spend a single night in bustling Casablanca. Instead, I took a train from Casablanca's airport to Marrakech and spent a few days there before I eventually settled in Taghazout, a little fishemen's and surf-oriented town in south-west Morocco.

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I had no idea who it was when I first met him about three weeks ago at a little shady hostel in Taghazout. He showed up for breakfast one morning and happened to sit across from me at the table. We then had a chat just like what everybody else would do when meeting new people for the first time such as "where we are from", "where we've been to" and "where we've surfed before", etc etc. He was quite soft-spoken and humble. Nevertheless, in our morning chat I sensed something a little different in him from other travelling surfers who I'd come across in the past.

His name is Kepa Acero from the Basque country and he used to compete in the WQS.
Honestly speaking, meeting a former or current pro surfer isn't very surprising to me (unless it's Kelly Slater) because I've met quite a few pros in the water or on land before, but it was the places which Kepa told me that he'd gone surfing stunned me a lot.
The below are just a few of the countries where he's surfed before:

1) Japan
Don't you forget that I am Japanese?! Kepa came to Akabane in Aichi prefecture, my home-break in Japan, when a 6-star WQS contest was held there in August 2006.
I clearly remember this event not only because I was there (Not to compete but to watch some heats, of course!), but also because we had to move the whole venue to a left-hand pointbreak called Sentan for the semi-final and final heats as the main beach started closing out due to a massive typhoon coming closer then. It was such a good wave on that final day and I'm stoked to hear that Kepa was there and enjoyed the waves as well as our utmost hospitality.

2) China
He didn't tell me exactly where in China he went surfing, but he basically said that he didn't enjoy Asia's biggest country much. Despite the fact that I have never been there before, I kind of understand why he didn't.
I actually advised him that he should go and check out a few small islands off the mainland China, one of which is my all-time favourite destination for surfing. And if he ever intends to explore them one day, I'll be more than happy to show him around then.

3) Alaska
Yes, Alaska is surfable, only if you have proper equipment. I mean "real proper equipment" such as the thickest wetsuit, hoodie, gloves and boots. Moreover, you'll probably need pure guts to motivate yourself for a painful face-lift surgery in one of the coldest waters on earth.
Kepa's story in Alaska was a little pitiful: he one day hired a fisherman's boat and headed off to a super remote spot where human-inhabitants were non-existent and only hungry bears were roaming. Yet he still found plastic bags floating in the water there.

4) Namibia
Kepa went there in 2011 by himself and I went there in May 2012 with two Hawaiian guys. And such a lucky bastard he was as he scored "the sickest left" and had the waves to himself while we were absolutely skunked at the same spot in the following year! Furthermore, Kepa once surfed that filthy and notorious spot called Main Break in Cape Cross. Whereas, we cowardly moved on and surfed a safer and cleaner spot called Factory Point.
I could not believe him when he told me about his surf in Main Break, but later he showed me a video of him surfing there with thousands of playful seals around.

5) Angola
This country seemed so obscure to many surfers including myself until a few videos started circulating on the Internet recently with a title like "the next Skeleton Bay" and such. Obviously, Kepa scored "that left" and I only envy him....
A funny thing is that he was cruising around in Africa's most expensive country with a famous South African water-photographer with whom I went surfing in Sodwana Bay along with my friend Jeremy and some ZigZag members (South Africa's surf magazine) in July last year. Such a small world!

6) Antarctica
You see, many world-maps don't actually display this no-man's land for some reason (maybe, just lack of some space?), but it is situated at the farthest south of our planet and I went there in January 2011 by a seemingly reliable ship from Ushuaia.
Antarctica is still, as of today, one of my top 5 favourite destinations except for that ferocious Drake Passage. Strangely enough, I did take one of my surfboards with me down to Ushuaia, but abandoned it at a hostel before boarding my vessel, which I utterly regret doing these days. Whereas, Kepa took a tiny sailboat from Ushuaia last January with his surfboards on board and crossed that meanest Drake Passage with a captain and his crew members (What the fxxk? That's insane!)
Mind you, I tried "swimming" in Deception island one day, but ended up in a fiasco: I only had board-shorts on then. Kepa, on the other hand, had real serious equipment with him - more than what he needed for Alaska - and he tried to catch waves amongst icebergs and cheerful penguins. He actually could not catch any waves in the end. But it doesn't matter! The fact that he sailed to one of the world's most extraordinary places and tried to surf there is overwhelming enough to me and it only makes my experience in Antarctica sound very tame....

So the above is a little introduction of my recent fellow surfer from the Basque country.
Kepa was actually on his way to west Africa (possibly up to Guinea) by his secondhand Nissan 4x4 and just stopped over in Taghazout for several days when I met him.

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While Kepa was in town, we cruised around and surfed together. He even kindly let me use two of his quivers (5'4 and 6'1 Pukas) because my standard board - the super fragile 5'8 Firewire V4 - was under repair for a while.
Funnily enough, Kepa and I never surfed Anchor Point - arguably, one of the most famous pointbreaks in Morocco. We intentionally dodged the crowds there and went surfing somewhere else every day: well, literally every day for Kepa, but not me because of my cranky belly with a suspected food-poisoning for a few days.
The photos below show a spot called Bouilloire (or Boiler?) and Kepa was riding quite a few waves all the way to the inside section.

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Luckily, we had a couple of days with swells over 4 meters and of 15 ~ 18sec periods. We hurriedly drove past Anchor, Killer and Desert Point and went surfing at a spot called Dracula one morning.

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It was my first time to surf Dracula and I must admit that paddling out from a big rock whose surface resembled Dracula's sharp and spiky teeth was not very inviting and looked quite sketchy to me. In the meantime, a super-experienced Kepa just calmly let himself be drifted away by the current and got out there so easily.

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The waves were about 5~7ft on sets with light cross-shore winds at Dracula and I actually saw Kepa catching a couple of triple-overheads on this day.
The current was quite strong as there was a lot of water moving, but I was still able to catch a couple of good ones, one of which was photographed by a Portuguese onlooker on the cliff as shown in the photo below. Lucky me!

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Kepa left Taghazout about a week ago as soon as the swell was gone. He is currently driving into Mauritania - another obscure country for many surfers including myself. It was such a great pleasure hanging out and sharing a few crazy on-the-road stories with him.
Kepa's humbleness and openness were always evident and I'd like to look up to him for that. Furthermore, he was feral as a travelling surfer; such a spirit is what I might have lost over the last couple of years.
There was a lot that I learnt from him.

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Hasta luego, Kepa!


A saying for travellers goes; you never know what the place is like until you get there. And a similar saying goes for surfers; you never know how the waves are until you paddle out there.

Last month I rented an apartment in Taghazout with Andre whom I often surfed with in Senegal. We were actually kind of stuck in Taghazout for the whole February due mainly to the fact that we didn't have a car: my international driver's license was stolen in Lombok in April last year and Andre was not old enough, he was only nineteen, so neither of us could rent a car legally.
My surf in and around Taghazout this past February was nothing superb. Apparently, a super-storm called Hercules which devastated the coastline of Europe about two months ago completely changed the sandbank for Anchor Point. Thus, I often had better waves at Killer Point, La Source and Mystery than Anchor.

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Honestly speaking, I was not satisfied at all about the wave-quality in Taghazout and the town of Taghazout itself: it was like Kuta, Bali without loud Aussies. Therefore, as soon as Andre flew back to Germany, I took a coach bus in the early morning of February 27th to the north, to a city where very few tourist attractions are and many ugly chemical-producing factories are built up along the coast.

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There is only one surfable spot in this city, and I went there because a rumour amongst experienced surfers was echoing in my ears - this spot has world-class waves if it's on. "If it's on...."

And lucky me! It turned ON not only once but twice during my stay in this city.
The first one was last Saturday when the swell was 6 to 8ft with very light offshore winds. I was totally blown away by the waves I caught at this spot - clean, fast, hollow and powerful. It was such a quality wave that made my whinging mouth shut and kept me just grinning for the rest of the day :-)

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A very little interval after this first swell last Saturday, the second swell jetted in this Tuesday. And with no exaggeration, as all major surf-forecasts showed insane figures such as 12 to 15ft with 18 to 20sec periods, it turned out to be twice bigger than the first swell.

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The photos below only show the beginning of my session on this day: I stopped taking photos in a short while as some serious bombs started coming in with the pushing tide.

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I found the waves at this spot quite similar to those in Tofino, Mozambique - the bottom is rocks covered with a lot of sand, and a proper barrel is guaranteed as long as there is a huge swell with moderate or strong offshore winds blowing then.
During this session I saw a couple of guys making a real stand-up barrel and also a few nasty wipe-outs. I started to feel undergunned because my board was only 6ft long.... I unwisely underestimated what this spot was being reputed to be. It was indeed a world-class wave without a doubt and even having a semi-gun out there might not have been a bad choice at all to thunder through those intimidatingly big hollow waves.

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What a score in Morocco after anchoring myself way too long last month in Taghazout with shabby Anchor Point. I'm now happy enough to dry up my wetsuits and pack up my boards.

So, some of you might now be wondering where the hell this spot is, right?
Well, as much as I take great advantage of one of mankind's best inventions so-called the Internet while I'm on the road, I have a strong feeling against today's ease of finding everything in this cyberspace. Yes, you will soon find out where this spot is if you spend a few minutes online. But remember the saying for surfers? You'll never know how fast, hollow and powerful those waves are until you paddle out there.

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My stay in Morocco turned out to be for two months in total. Here are some tips for other travelling surfers who may consider to visit and surf in Morocco in the future;
(Note: All prices mentioned below can be converted with EUR 1.00 = MAD 11.25 and USD 1.00 = MAD 8.25)

1. Money
I was surprised that most restaurants, cafes and shops all around Morocco didn't accept credit-card payment. Even a surf shop with brand-new surfboards over 300 Euros didn't take credit cards either.
Many banks offer relatively good exchanging-rates for major foreign currencies. Otherwise, ATMs can be found everywhere, but they quickly run out of money, especially over weekends. If you head off to a remote place for a while or if your payment to your hotel-owner is due on the weekend, make sure you have enough cash in Dirham - the local currency of Morocco.

2. Trains
Trains in Morocco are nothing like those rusty old ones in India. Moroccan trains are 100 times cleaner and better than them and are also punctual enough.
I travelled both in the 1st class and 2nd class and I didn't have any problems at all apart from getting a little hassle to find a space for my bulky board-bag (6'3ft long with somehow three quivers in it!)
Keep in mind that when it comes to boarding any public transport in Arabic countries, Arab people don't line up, don't wait and don't care who you are!

3. Buses
Morocco's bus network is quite thorough both domestically and internationally. There are two major companies - Supratour and CTM, both of which are somehow regarded as "public" in Morocco and run best quality buses. Whereas, private companies run quite shabby-looking buses.
The downside of taking these buses is that they charge you extra for your luggage. For instance, I paid 5 dirhams for my backpack and 15 dirhams for my board-bag for a Supratour bus from Marrakech to Agadir (the fare itself was 150 dirhams).

4. Other Means of Transport
Taxis are plentiful wherever you go in Morocco. You normally have to negotiate the fare before getting in unless your taxi has a functional meter on. Some places like Agadir, however, have fares set beforehand, so I couldn't haggle the price for a ride from Agadir to Taghazout. It was 150 dirhams for a 20-minute drive.
Renting a car for yourself and for your buddies is definitely the best way to move around and check all surfable spots in Morocco. Be very careful with police officers checking the speed limit on major roads. They position themselves outside every single city and town.

5. Accommodation
A strange thing in Morocco is that many hotels and hostels don't have any ads or signs outside. So if you've made a booking for the night, you should know how to get there in detail.
The below are 5 types of typical accommodation for travelling surfers in Morocco.

I. Hostel
There are quite a few hostels in big cities and most of them have hot-water showers, WiFi, and free breakfast. Make sure you stay in the right hostel though: the one in Marrakech I stayed in was only 80 dirhams per night, but I ended up getting badly bitten by bed-bugs (AGAIN!)
There are also a few hostels in Taghazout, but they all cost at least 150 dirhams per night for a dorm, which is way too expensive by Moroccan standards.

II. Riad
Riads are more or less equivalent to guesthouses and hotels. They are usually run by Moroccan families and are normally clean, safe and inexpensive.
Andre and I rented a whole top floor of a Riad in Taghazout for three weeks and we had a bathroom with a hot-water shower, two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room with WiFi, and a balcony where we could check waves of Anchor Point and Hash Point 24/7. It was only 250 dirhams for two of us per night and definitely the best deal in town for sure.

III. Surf Camp
I never stayed in any surf-camps while in Morocco. First of all, I didn't want to. And second of all, they were all bloody expensive!
I actually walked in three camps in Taghazout just to see what they were like. And I think staying in a surf camp might be a good choice if you don't have a car and if you can afford it (at least 30 to 40 Euros for a dorm per night). It must be really fun to hang around with other surfers, most of whom only want to surf NSPs at a beach break.

IV. Camping
Camping is possible in Morocco (not in big cities, though.) I didn't do it, but I met a Japanese surfer who was camping around Taghazout.
You basically have to set your tent at a camp site which is usually located outside the town and it is often dominated by those luxurious camper-vans from Europe. Be well-prepared for sleeping because it can be freezing outside from dusk till dawn.

V. Sleep Wherever
If you have your own car, why don't you sleep inside the car just like what Kepa did? I saw other surfie dudes doing it, too. Do not worry. It's safe enough.
Otherwise, Moroccan people are generally very hospitable. So if you make tons of Moroccan friends, some of whom might offer you to crash at their places for a couple of nights.

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6. Food
My initial idea of typical Moroccan dining was cous-cous after cous-cous. But No! The reality is that they hardly eat it except on Friday. Many local people, especially those in the southern regions, are crazy about Tajin. They have it for lunch and dinner every day with bread. I liked it but got bored after a few days. Whether it was fish or meat or vegetables, all tajins tasted more or less the same to me in the end.
The below is a list to show you average prices for food in Morocco (All in dirhams):

- Bread: 1 ~ 2
- Mineral Water (1L): 5 ~ 7
- Soft Drink (500ml): 5 ~ 10
- Mint Tea: 8 ~ 10
- Coffee: 5 ~ 15
- Soup: 10 ~ 15
- Tajin: 20 ~ 40
- Sandwich: 15 ~ 30
- Burger: 20 ~ 40
- Pasta or Pizza: 30 ~ 60

7. Surf Culture
Despite the long history of surf-exploration in Morocco since the 70s, I didn't find local surf communities in Morocco big. Even the mecca of Morocco's surf scenes - Taghazout - seemed to have a very small number of local surfers with only a handful of surf shops in town.
It seems to me that most local guys are busy either tour-guiding rich Europeans or chasing blonds. You can find heaps of badly maintained or repaired surfboards in shops in Taghazout but very few brand-new boards. It was very unfortunate that I more often encountered super-pale European surfers than dark-skin Moroccan rippers in the water.

8. People & Localism
Amongst Japanese backpackers, Moroccan people are said to be one of the top 3 most annoying people in the world: the other two are Egyptians and Indians.
I personally found Moroccan people (adults) very friendly and very helpful. But I found kids - both boys and girls - really annoying. Not only because they always called me "Chino!", but also because they so often chuckled at me and walked away. On a couple of occasions I could not put up with what some kids did to me, so I seriously told them off (in English, of course!)
That was my story on land, but in the water it was all different. Despite the fact that some of my friends warned me about harsh attitudes by Moroccan locals towards visitors, I never experienced such a thing in the water. Honestly speaking, quite a few local guys stopped before paddling past me, asked me about my nationality and always said to me "Welcome!" as soon as they found out that I was from Japan. I don't know if their attitudes could be different towards Caucasian surfers.... I hope not.

9. Health Issues
One great thing about my stay in Morocco was that I got no mosquito bite, absolutely none during my whole stay! Nevertheless, I became sick at least twice in this country. The first one was a stomach-ache which lasted for a few days with many emergency landings to be made. The second one was very acute flu-like symptoms, it was nearly mistaken as Malaria in the beginning because it was that bad!
I have no idea if both were caused by the food I ate or the water around Morocco's coastline. In fact, what should be very alarming to all surfers in Morocco right now is not really a dodgy chicken sandwich or a rarely cooked hamburger sold by street vendors, it is the quality of sea-water as a report I saw about a month ago showed the toxic level of contaminated water with the high degrees of Mercury, Phosphorus and even Uranium.... I'm not joking. This information came from a reliable source.

10. Overview
Some people think that Morocco is Africa. Technically yes, because it's in the African continent. However, I personally don't call it Africa. My reason is not simply because of the absence of lions, giraffes and elephants. There is actually so much more Arabic influence than Afro influence on the people of Morocco. I'm not trying to judge which one is better than the other. This is just factual.
Having said that, I still genuinely enjoyed travelling and surfing in Morocco. And this country is one of the very few Arab nations in the world where we freely go surfing without having to worry about any terrorist attacks or kidnapings.

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