December means Christmas, and for many of us that means time off of work. But while most people head home for the holidays, this can also be a great time to sneak away for a quick surf trip. And with the winter solstice also falling in December, most surf trippers will be looking north of the equator for waves.
While numerous zones in the northern hemisphere historically pump in December, Morocco is an option that many overlook. Storms blow out of the north Atlantic with regularity, setting up swell trains aimed straight toward the northern coast of Africa and Morocco’s fabled right-hand points.
In addition, Christmas isn’t widely celebrated in the Muslim country, so there won’t necessarily be tons of local holiday-goers taking to the lineup. And while Morocco is a popular destination for European surfers, many will opt to stay home with family this time of year, meaning that December can actually be a great opportunity to sneak a handful of low-key sessions right in the middle of swell season.
Combine that with a drive to sample Marrakesh’s colourful culture and food, set against the austere beauty of the desert, and you’d have to try pretty hard to find a reason not to head to Morocco for the holidays.
Morocco is technically open to north, west, and south swells, but the most common swell direction (and the one that works with most known spots) is north/northwest. The Moroccan surf scene is largely focused around a few wave-rich areas.
Taghazout and Essaouira are both very popular, both for experienced surfers and the beginner/surf school crowd, but for those with a good 4x4 truck and the gumption to explore, there are hundreds of miles of coastline filled with point-breaks and reefs galore. Local talent Ramzi Boukhiam has been popping up in edits and making a name for himself lately. Meanwhile, Jerome Sahyoun has been on a one-man mission to find the best waves in northern Africa, and may know the coast of Morocco better than anyone alive.
For those planning their first trip to Morocco, the following zones are a good place to start.
There aren’t many zones on the planet with more right-hand points per mile of coastline than Taghazout. Anchor Point, Boilers, Killer Point, Hash Point, Panorama Point, Banana Point—the list is virtually endless, and the waves range from beginner-friendly to expert only.
Hash Point and Bananas are user-friendly but likely to see a healthy surf school crowd, while Killers and Boilers have a bit more grunt and will attract the intermediate to expert high-performance crew.
Anchor Point is the most famous wave in the country, and arguably the most consistently epic wave. It’s rippable at head high, offers up barrel sections when it gets a bit bigger, and can handle massive (Spanish surfer Nagai Puntiverio paddled a monster there a few seasons ago). If you are a regular-foot and like to go fast, Taghazout is your Mecca. It’s time to make the pilgrimage.
Not quite as wave-laden as Taghazout, Essaouira still has a number of quality waves on offer, and a thriving surf scene. Essaouira Point is—you guessed it—another user-friendly right popular with beginner and intermediate surfers, and Sidi Kaouki is a nearby beach break in case you find you’d like a reprieve from endless points (although we can’t imagine why you would). There are other mysto waves in the area as well, although they tend to be expert zones, and only break a few times per year.
While the water isn’t freezing in Morocco, it isn’t exactly warm, so a good 3/2 wetsuit is in order. The country definitely has an exotic feel to it, but it’s important to remember that it is a popular destination for European surfers, so don’t be surprised if the waves can get busy.
While the waves are an obvious draw, the country and culture are worth a visit in and of themselves, so allow yourself some time to explore and check out cultural hubs like Marrakesh. And remember that this is a Muslim country, and likely has a different culture than you are used to. Be respectful of the local culture and societal norms, be friendly in the lineup, and have a merry blue Christmas.
Cover shot: Anchor Point by Surf Berbere.