Travel: Morocco

Words & Images: Lauren Colton

April 03 2016

Morocco is probably not the first surf destination that comes to mind for most Americans; the decision to end up there just sort of happened. Our French buddy told us that he was going to be there with his uncle who had spent a ton of time surfing the country’s coast, and that we should consider meeting up. We were planning a trip anyway so we just changed the destination, gathered together some like-minded people, and set off.

We flew into Agadir, a bustling university city. The majority of our trip was spent 20km north, in and around a town called Taghazout, which is much smaller. We were able to spend a month there, splitting a gorgeous two level apartment with a roof terrace overlooking the ocean between seven friends who arrived throughout the month, sharing beds and sleeping on couches to make the luxury more affordable. After the plane ticket, day to day life was shockingly cheap. 15 oranges for $2 cheap. Fresh OJ forever! I was told by some locals that surf tourism has become the main economic driver there, with fishing being another industry that supports the small town. It was definitely a paradoxical place to be, and the culture clash was palpable at times. There’s a ton of development happening to keep up with the European tourism, and and feelings about future of the area vary greatly amongst the community.

It’s frowned upon to photograph people without their permission, so I held off on that until after I got to know someone a little. One afternoon our group decided to go to Boilers, a wave that wouldn’t be smart to attempt at my skill level. It breaks over outcrops of rocks and I had already done some urchin removal for my more daring friends and didn’t feel like doing it on myself. I don’t like getting hurt and went for a hike instead. On the hike I met a guy about my age, and we discovered that a language barrier doesn’t matter all that much. We walked together for a while and he took me down to where he and his friends had watched Dane Reynolds (a badass pro) surf the day before. We took pictures of each other with our cell phones, drank tea, sat by the fire, and watched his friends fish.

Hospitality was a recurring theme. On a day trip much farther north to check out other waves, we found ourselves exploring a remote farming area. A shepherd who we startled out of his zen-like solitude invited us into his tiny yet impeccably organized home. He made us tea (mint, of course), split open a few pomegranates, and took great pleasure in watching our companion, Mark, try to communicate with his own brand of sign language. He then gave us a tour of his irrigation system, showed us the ruins that had piqued our curiosity about the area in the first place, and sent us on our way with a bundle of coriander. Solid dude.

One of my favorite parts about the area was a little settlement north of Taghazout. All the buildings were painted perfect, striking colors. I caught some pictures right at golden hour and couldn’t have been happier. A guy saw us lurking around and, of course, invited us in. He told us everyone who lives there had agreed on the painting together, and that they want to make their town look bright and happy. We all agreed that they have succeeded.

By the end of the month, driving past grazing camels while getting passed on blind corners by trucks hauling loads tied down with impossible physics felt pretty par for the course. The trip cemented the idea that it’s important to travel places that you wouldn’t necessarily choose first. The only way to make this stuff happen is to create a separate travel savings account. Add $20 to this account from every check you get and after a while, spin the globe. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

Lauren Colton is a photographer based out of Seattle, Wa. To to check out more of her travels, find her on Instagram @lecolton.