A brilliant beam lasers through the blue wooden shutter. Now awake, I push open the window to catch the sun rising slowly, then bursting boldly from behind buildings on the beach. I’m singing Cat Stevens. He loved the Moroccan coast as I do.
Morning has broken like the first morning…
Mine is the sunlight,
Mine is the morning,
Born of the one light Eden saw play.
Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning,
God’s recreation of the new day.
The afternoon before, I’d been picked up at the bus station in Agadir and driven along the coast to Taghazout. The stretch reminded me of the route my kids and I took one summer in a convertible from Santa Monica to Malibu. We’d stopped to watch surfers at Zuma Beach. This time my destination was Surf Berbere to practice yoga, learn about surfing, and live in community with the people who do it.
As we rolled into town I smelled fish sizzling. Minutes later at reception I met a friendly blond girl the age of my daughter. She, like everyone, was dressed in shorts and a tee shirt and radiated sunshine. In Marrakech it was sweater and boots weather, but here, just three hours south, it was summer (my favorite season) again. Since moving to Morocco I’d gotten serious about yoga, and when my instructor spoke of retreats on the coast, I added another destination to my Bucket List. I’d wanted a fertile climate where my inner flower child could bloom. Here banana trees abound, the sun shines 300 days a year, and people relax. Seemed I’d found the place.
She led me to the Vista Apartment all shiny clean and spacious. Flinging my suitcase on the bed, I turned and was stunned by the sight of nothing-but-sea out my window.
As on my first beach solo trip to Costa Rica, I felt broken by beauty. I’d planned to rest or write before yoga class and dinner, but thoughts began churning within like the waves without.
Reliving our California trip had made me again miss my children in Nashville. Simultaneously experiencing this amazing Moroccan place made me again realize how much I’ll miss this country one day. My thoughts were like the tide mightily pushing and pulling me in two directions. How can I live abroad much longer so far from people I love across this ocean? How will I go back after all I’ve seen and felt here? How will I give up the beauty and adventure of this place?
Thankfully, by morning future fears robbing me of the present had washed out to sea, leaving diamonds—not smoke– sparkling on the water. The night waves pounding the shore below my balcony had somehow soothed my soul as nature and its creator always does. I woke rested and ready.
As the campers of Surf Berbere had gathered around burgers on the rooftop grill the night before, we shuffled toward breakfast from our apartments to the café terraces that morning. Under clear, blue skies, fat cats chilled and a cute puppy begged as beginners and intermediates wondered which beach our instructors would choose for the day. The pros—many who had lived there for months—mapped their route for chasing waves as well. Van Morrison sang “Into the Mystic” as I finished my coffee.
I’d loved summer camp when I was a teen, so much so I became a counselor. I’d learned to ski on Kentucky Lake as many learn to surf on Hash Point. Nights at both places we circled up to tell tales of days on the water. Here some seemed to be old friends, but most campers were traveling solo and had only recently met. It seemed they, too, had decided to stop waiting for someone else to rock their gypsy souls and had shown up confident they’d find what they were seeking with strangers who’d bond over shared passions for sea, surf, and yoga.
By nine we were grabbing boards and suits at the surf shop, then bouncing on Taghazout’s main street (really only street) toward Anza Bay. In our van the campers were as eclectic as the playlist. Two girls from Cologne, Germany and another from London—aged 27-31—were excited for their first lesson. A guy from Ghent, Belgium had surfed the Great Barrier Reef. New friends from Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland were in the other van. All were on holiday from careers or retired from public service, as was the man I met from the same area of Wales as my grandmother’s family. All identified me as the only American but were surprised I now live in Marrakech—a city all travelers described as too intense and frenetic.
Later that afternoon two experienced surfers traded stories of battle scars–one a West Australian travel blogger whose fin sliced open his butt. Though it still hadn’t healed completely, he had recently gone swimming in the Nile.
“So you have a gnarly scar!” laughed the UK girl who’d been in wine sales, moved to Surf Berbere, then Sri Lanka, now Surf Berbere where she is taking the surf instructor’s course. She’d had a friend whose board rope wound so tightly around the tip of his finger, it popped the joint off. Both were energized rather than afraid of injuries, but when he said he was traveling a year, she sighed and said the same words another woman spoke at lunch the day before: “I don’t know if I can ever go back again to the western world.”
The Moroccan surf instructors, Imad and Rashid were patient, skilled, and fun. After warm ups and the lesson, they stayed in the water for one-on-one coaching throughout the day. I quickly understood the close relationship between surfing and yoga. Upper body strength, flexibility, and balance are key. Like dancing, surfing can be graceful and beautiful once techniques are learned and practiced. Like life, it’s about being in the moment rather than over thinking. It’s about catching the wave when it comes and riding it out.
Fueling us was Chef Mohamed who served huge portions of home cooking including the best burgers and spaghetti (packed for lunch) I’ve had in Morocco. Friday I enjoyed the international fusion of favorites– traditional cous cous with apple crumble for dessert. Managing with Hamza and Beth for James, the warm and welcoming London owner, is Marie. Like many creative campers I met, she is a travel blogger from Frankfurt (where I’ll go next month as well as to Cologne thanks to the girls who said the Christmas markets in their hometown are must -sees). When Marie isn’t custom planning each guest’s daily schedule, she’s writing her Masters thesis in Brand Management. She gave me a sneak peak of her uber-cool line of surfing tights. You won’t see her without a smile.
As for all the campers, they were tenaciously teachable, grateful, and kind. Truly some of the nicest people I’ve met in one place. Wherever I am living a year from now, I’ll remember beginning yoga with sun salutations that were literal goodnights to the golden orb as it turned orange and melted into the sea. I’ll remember ending class with Savasana under a navy-black sky of stars above. And I hope I (and single empty nesters like me) remember the words of the instructor: “It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. It’s not selfish to love yourself. It’s necessary.”
Thank you to Surf Berbere for an amazing retreat. As always, the opinions are my own.
And thank you, Marie, for my first Christmas card of the season. Peace to all from another traveler, Odysseus:
“Come, my friends, It is not too late to seek a better world.”–Tennyson