There is very little that compares to your first truly clean wave. The early days can be frustrating. Unfortunately you have to pay your dues fumbling around trying to get your balance on a board that feels far too unstable or the constant slipping off the board when trying to emulate those just sitting out back relaxing! Perseverance is key, and once you catch that first good wave the likelihood is that you will be hooked. For the most part learning is surprisingly fun – there is very little expectation on you and people are generally forgiving. However, although surfing can often look like an unregulated sport there are a few golden rules that are worth taking note of before you paddle out. The surf atmosphere here in Morocco is pretty darn relaxed and you don’t get a lot of the heavy localism like you do in parts of Australia or Hawaii. Regardless though, the rules are the rules. It also doesn’t matter how good you are at surfing, they should be obeyed.
Surfing 101, do not drop in on others. If you are a beginner you may have heard of this term but have no idea what it means. So here we are to explain what it means. Waves tend to break in a certain direction, left or right. The majority of surf breaks in Morocco are rights….that is to say that once the wave starts to break the white water will spread to the right as it goes along. The surfer on the inside always has right of way. As a result, if you are further away from the white water than a surfer that is already on the wave but you still catch the wave this is called ‘dropping in’. In effect you have dropped into a wave that is already occupied. There are a number of reasons why dropping in is the ultimate sin in surfing:
So what can you do? All surfers will be able to appreciate that when you are learning it is rather hard to concentrate on more than one thing at once. The idea of having to check for other surfers on the wave whilst you are furiously paddling is an alien concept. Your face is inches from the water, spray is in your eyes, the wave feels more akin to a cliff and all your mental strength is focussed on mastering the pop up. Regardless, you must use all of your multi-tasking talents to do check down the line before popping up. You actually have more time than you might think. Before you pop up, look down the wave and, if there is another surfer coming towards you, then the wave is already his/hers. Sit up, and pull out of the wave. They will appreciate it and it will not go unnoticed.
Wait your turn
This is often easier said than done, especially in crowded lineups. Don’t paddle for every single wave. The idea is that the person who has been waiting the longest has dibs on the next wave. Again….easier said than done and everyone seems to have their own interpretation of the rule. I personally tend to try to find my own little space in the water so that I am not competing for every wave. If in the occasion that I am sitting next to someone who has been waiting for a while and a wave comes along I tend to just ask him whether he is going to go for it. If he isn’t and nobody else is then I see no reason why I shouldn’t try! However, if there are already 3 people paddling with intent then there is very little point trying to make it 4. The likelihood is that you will just drop in on someone (see above).
Keep hold of your board
Unless you know that no one is around you, try your very best not to lose your board. There is nothing worse than paddling out near someone, only for them to bail their board just in front of the white water. The next thing you see is a surfboard hurtling towards your face being pushed along at a frightening pace by the white water. The potential for injury is high and as a result this can cause pretty high levels of anger. The larger the board the harder it can be to keep hold of it and is usually a problem with beginners. Just be conscious of who is around you and that a loose surfboard can cause serious damage.
Be Honest About Your Ability
Sure, in order to progress you need to be willing to push your limits. However, paddling out as a beginner into a crowded area with waves that are too big or powerful for you is a recipe for disaster. Surfing in crowds requires a certain amount of board control, which you are unlikely to have. If you can’t sit on your board properly, or are unable to hold onto your board in the whitewater try to find a more suitable break. This is not just for beginners, it applies to everyone. If the waves are too big for you then find somewhere else – Morocco has an awesome choice of breaks so there really is no excuse, if Anchor Point is pumping and above your ‘level’it might be worth checking out La Source for some smaller surf. Trying to surf waves that you know are too big or powerful is not only dangerous for other surfers but also for yourself.
It doesn’t matter if you are a complete beginner or someone who regularly stomps 360 aerials, enjoy yourself. Some people tend to take themselves a little too seriously in the water. If you are polite and obey these rules you should be just fine. Have fun – after all, why else would you be in the water?!
Post written by Surf Star friend Simon