Through the years, I’ve been called a cowgirl (I’m from Texas) and a city girl (Dallas, Texas). But I’ve always dreamed of being a surfer chick. When the opportunity to visit Morocco for a girls surf and yoga retreat arose, I jumped at the chance.
Girls Surf and Yoga Retreat in Morocco
But… Is it safe?
Until recently, I never thought I’d have the opportunity to visit Morocco. I’d heard stories that made me think twice about traveling there as a solo female traveler and just like that, the country was crossed off my bucket list before it even had a chance.
And then I heard about Azrac Surf’s girls’ surf and yoga retreat. One week in Tamraght, 14 kilometers north of Agadir, learning to surf and practicing yoga with women from around the world seemed like a pretty amazing introduction to the country.
The surf school arranges for transfers to and from the airport, accommodation, meals, a field trip to Paradise Valley and a Hammam experience. Oh yeah. AND surf and yoga lessons. At €590 ($675USD), this experience sounds almost too good to be true. But the experience was all that it promised online and more.
Sophie and Morad
The heart and soul behind Azrac Surf are Sophie and Morad. The married couple founded Azrac Surf in 2015 and have been welcoming travelers from around the world ever since. Now, they’re in the process of building a new home where they will live and welcome surf travelers in 12 ensuite rooms with a rooftop terrace for yoga.
Sophie is Welsh and speaks English, French and Arabic. From the moment I met her, I was taken in by her laid-back yet engaged energy. She’s caring, well-traveled and has a great sense of humor while also being the most zen person I’ve ever met. She teaches yoga, practices reiki and is the hostess with the mostess at Azrac Surf. When you book, she’s the one that answers all your questions and ensures you’re comfortable and ready for the experience.
Morad is Moroccan and speaks Arabic, English and German and has been teaching surfing for eight years. Every day, he ensures that surf boards are loaded up and everything is working as it should for the best day possible. At Azrac Surf, he’s affectionately known as the Mayor of Tamraght. He knows EVERYONE and everyone wants to stop and say hello to him.
Bella is their newly-adopted puppy from Morocco Animal Aid. She’s a former street dog and current mascot of Azrac Surf. And she’s adorable. When you visit, give her a cuddle for me!
From the moment I left the airport, I felt cared for and didn’t have to plan a single thing. The taxi driver took me straight to the homestay in Tamraght where the other four women had already checked in.
In this home, we stayed together, ate together and relaxed together. Rooms are typically shared with one other person, but single supplements are available if you prefer staying on your own. The activity of each day and the comfort of the beds contributed to the best sleep I’ve had in months (according to my sleep app).
I lived in Australia for two years and assumed that I’d leave the country a pro surfer chick. Three lessons in, I left the country as un-surfer-chick as I had arrived. Sure, I’d learned the “hang 10” hand sign and had even stood up a few times, but I had zero confidence on my own.
The Customs agent in Agadir asked if I was a surfer pro and I responded with a hopeful “not yet.” Morocco was my second chance.
I’ll admit that it didn’t come easy. If you’ve never been surfing, you may not know about a phenomenon called the nose drain. Essentially, while wiping out, your head turns into a giant Neti Pot which will inevitably empty on a borrowed yoga mat during downward dog. So not cute. But I suppose it’s all part of the process.
Throughout the week of surf camp, we had three different teachers. Morad offered us the basics at the beginning of the week and gave us a firm foundation. Munir stepped in when Morad was ill one day and thanks to his Crossfit background, instructed us in the art of burpees and paddling (and paddling and paddling). Ghazi, Morad’s little brother, finished off the week strong, encouraging us and offering tips to nail skills we were working on.
We split our time between Devil’s Rock (also known as 14 Kilometre Beach and Imoran) and Crocodile Beach. Don’t worry, it’s called Crocodile Beach because of the rock formation that looks like a crocodile. Our group is pushing for it to be renamed Platypus Beach. Much friendlier, don’t you think?
At Azrac Surf, small groups are a guarantee. While other surf camps have up to 40 students with one instructor, Azrac promises no more than six students per instructor. Less students means more opportunity to succeed!
By the end of the week, I experienced less washing machines and more successful waves caught. And less nose drains, which is good for everyone involved! I’m not a pro yet, but I’m certainly on my way!
Every day after surfing, we treated ourselves to fresh juice, coffee or msemen (Moroccan pancakes) at Babakoul. I looked forward to our time there each day as we immersed ourselves in the relaxation and relational culture of the town.
My yoga experience is a bit limited. I’ve attended classes here and there, drawn especially to the quirky (see Disco Yoga in London) but I’ve never really gotten into consistent yoga practice.
Sophie is trained in the art of Anusara yoga, which focuses on maintaining balance in practice. A bit like Newton’s third law, each pose has an equal and opposite pose. I left each class feeling relaxed and balanced and ready to practice shavasana for 8-10 hours in my bed.
Our days were spent discovering new muscles and paddling until our arms resembled cooked noodles. Evenings were a welcome respite of stretches and flow. Downward dogs and child’s poses eased the tension accumulated throughout the day and readied us for the next day’s work.
The new moon phase occurred during our retreat and Sophie arranged a special restorative session with her friend, Emily, to coincide with the special phase of the moon. The class ended with a special ceremony and each woman left having unburdened herself of something old and empowered to conquer something new.
The next evening, we spent our yoga hour on Devil’s Rock, casting rocks representative of old burdens into the ocean as the sun set. Sure, they’re just rocks, but the physical representation of an emotional burden leaving our hands was pretty powerful.
On our final evening, Sophie shared a bit of her reiki practice with us as we stayed in restorative yoga poses. This method of energy healing is completely new to me, but was really interesting to learn more about and experience firsthand.
I left each yoga session more relaxed, more open and more flexible than I arrived. Consistent practice has sparked a love of yoga and since it’s easy to do anywhere, I’ll be bringing it on the road with me!
A Visit to the Banana Village Souk and Cooking School
If you haven’t gorged yourself on tagines and cous cous, have you even been to Morocco?
Saadia is Azrac Surf’s secret ingredient. She arrives early in the morning to make breakfast, pack lunch and keep the place tidy. After meals, we would stack dishes in the kitchen and, like magic, Saadia had everything clean and clear in a matter of moments.
In the evenings, she would begin cooking as we left for yoga class and we would return after sunset to a veritable feast! Tagines bursting with flavor were uncapped at the table to oohs and aahs. And despite the mouthwatering aroma, the gorgeous presentation had us all waiting a moment or two before digging in.
On Wednesday, Aourir holds a souk with fruits and vegetables as far as the eye can see. Mounds of green oranges (greens?), pyramids of olives and mountains of spices are sold to the soundtrack of cars honking and locals haggling for the best price.
Our group loaded up on edible souvenirs, buying olives, harissa and spices for a fraction of the price at home.
That evening, Saadia and Sophie arranged for a cooking class using the items we’d purchased at the souk. In mere minutes, we’d chopped vegetables, sprinkled spices, poured (lots of) olive oil and artfully arranged the vegetables. It all seemed way too easy, but maybe I just need seven people in my kitchen assisting with dinner prep!
Girls’ Night Out in Taghazout
Although dinner at Azrac Surf is incredibly delicious, it’s always fun to go out to eat every once in a while! The benefit of attending a yoga and surf camp near Taghazout is easy access to the town’s dining scene. We loaded up into the SUV and took off for Le Spot. As we neared the surf town, the roads became smooth and we wondered whether we’d been transported to a resort town in Florida.
We parked the car and climbed steep stairs to the restaurant that made me grateful for the region’s no-alcohol policy. We ordered a feast of tagines, pizza and sandwiches, all for around $6 per person. I couldn’t help but order the American Coupe dessert and was impressed with its sheer largeness. (I guess that’s why it’s called American!?)
The highlight of the evening was a cat who joined us for the meal, popping up between women and eventually making off with a chicken carcass, never to be seen again.
When the waves are too big for beginners, it’s time to press pause on surf lessons for a day and head for the hills. We took our packed lunch and rode with Morad out to Paradise Valley. A lush, green, date palm-filled valley in the midst of desert hills truly was an opportunity to glimpse paradise. I couldn’t help but feel as if I was bearing witness to a mirage.
The best spot was a 15 minute hike up and over a hill, but the view once we arrived was worth the hike. We laid out on the rocks, worn smooth by thousands of years of rushing watch and cheered brave (read: absolutely freaking crazy) jumpers who plunged into the cool water from cliffs that were way too high for comfort.
This mirage was absolutely real and the perfect way to spend a day away from the beach.
I was sucked in by the Moroccan Oil craze a few years ago. This ‘mermaid hair’ isn’t easy to manage and I try any and every fad that will make it less frizzy and more shiny. Unfortunately, Moroccan Oil is expensive and is one of those perks that didn’t make it into my traveling life.
When I heard that we’d be stopping at an Argan oil factory near Paradise Valley, to say I was stoked was an understatement. Upon arrival, we toured the garden, learning about the anti-aging properties of prickly pear cactus seeds and the soothing properties of aloe. In the garden, Moroccan women crushed Argan pods to release the small nut which is used to make the oil.The women in the shop led a tasting of honey made with plants from the garden and amlou, a Moroccan specialty similar to almond butter. Afterward, we tried serums and oils made with argan. As I write this post, I’m catching a whiff of jasmine-scented Argan oil in my hair. I couldn’t be happier with my 140 dirham ($15USD) purchase.
I also bought a tube of magic lipstick. Green until applied, the lipstick turns a beautiful pink color with staying power, thanks to henna!
A week of surf and yoga is special on its own. But Azrac Surf is set apart from its competitors by the surprises arranged throughout the week. A trip to the spa for a Hammam treatment is one of those special touches.
My American prudishness showed a bit when I had a slight panic over the fact that we’d be going into a communal bath nearly naked. But the awkward subsided as I relaxed and enjoyed the uniqueness of the traditional Hammam experience.
If you’ve never had a Hammam before, here’s a little rundown of what happens. Since many Moroccans only have cold, bucket showers, the Hammam is a once-weekly experience to get scrubbed clean. In the tiled treatment room, two beds and a long bench allow for four women to be treated at once. The treatment starts with a hot shower and a scrub with a mitt. The scrub is followed by a mask that feels (and smells) a bit like grits. The mask is rinsed with a bucket of hot water and followed by a mud mask. To finish, the woman washes and applies conditioning treatment to your hair. All of that concludes with another hot shower and the feeling of being a whole new (squeaky clean) woman!
I chose to add on a massage for another 200 dirhams (approximately $21USD). It was one of the best massages I’ve had in a long time. And it was certainly the best value-for-money massage I’ve had outside Asia! By the time my day at the spa was over, I was clean, content and so very relaxed.
The week at Azrac Surf ended far too soon, but I left feeling physically and mentally stronger than I arrived. (I also left a whole lot tanner, so thank you Moroccan sun!) Sophie and Morad have created a special haven in this tiny surf town. Their small groups, special surprises and inclusion in local culture gave us a true taste of Morocco with the benefit of not having to worry about planning a single thing. I’m already missing my little home in Tamraght. I’m visiting Morocco again in January and hope to be among the rainbow houses, beautiful waves and friendly faces again soon.
If you’d like to book your own surf and yoga holiday with Azrac Surf, check out their website here. Choose a planned retreat or build your own package using the options on their site to plan your perfect getaway. The prices are reasonable and the experience is unbeatable.
Note: I was a guest of Azrac Surf for their girls’ surf and yoga retreat. As always, all opinions are my own and I’d never recommend anything to you that’s not awesome!
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Friday 23rd of November 2018
I loved reading your article it reflects your fun personality and the photos are just sublime. keep up the good work.
Tuesday 20th of November 2018
This place sounds so awesome. I love how they also showed you a bit of Moroccan culture as well as teaching you to surf.
Tuesday 20th of November 2018
Me too! They really put a lot of thought into making it a very special week! <3