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29|05|15 +++ FBC MOULAY - A TRAVEL STORY
TRAVEL STORY - ONE WEEK IN THE DESERT OVERDOSING ON WAVES AND THE GOOD LIFE – FBC MOULAY 2015 - YANN PESTKA FBC PRODUCT MANAGER
This year my lovely wife Lynn decided to mark my birthday by sending me away to satisfy my hunger for waves in one of my favourite places: Morocco, namely, the real thing there, in Moulay Bouzerktoun. It happened to be at the same time as Tom Brendt’s first week of camps this year, certainly not an accident as I believe Lynn hopes that someone will finally be able to bring some radicality to my wave riding (lack of) style! I could not have dreamt of anything better, and my friends, was I right !!!
THE START / THE TRAVEL: After an uneventful short direct flight with Condor from Frankfurt (less than 4 hours), I was welcomed by my taxi driver in Agadir after flying over the escarpments of the Atlas, still covered by a bit of snow, and admiring the greenery and cultures surroundings this coastal town in full expansion. The drive itself, which lasts 3 hours, was enough to plunge me into the atmosphere I love so much about Morocco; going through local villages with their merchants stalls on the side of the road, the donkeys and the goats roaming free, the smells of food and the sounds of the muzzin calling to prayer at the nearby Mosque, and of course kilometers and kilometers of rugged coastline where I could just watch line after line of perfect waves breaking. I had not even arrived yet and I was already in paradise !
Essaouira was the first place I visited outside the EU for windsurfing back in 1996, and I had fallen in love with the town, its harbor, markets, the Medina and its bustling activity, the lifestyle and hospitality of the Moroccans, as well as the sailing conditions in the bay. I was lucky enough to come back regularly in the following years, always staying in hotels or Ryads in Essaouira. Soon I discovered the spot of Moulay Bouzerktoun, 25km North of the town of Essaouira itself, during some “surf safaris” organized for the day. Already then, the spot and its waves got me totally hooked. When Bruno from Magic Fun / FBC Moulay took me to this small place in Moulay, I knew that the true wave and nature lovers would absolutely love it. I tried to spend much more time on the water in Moulay, where the length of the waves and their quality is in my opinion way superior, with a nice constant side shore wind to make the best of them. However, in all honesty, being dependant on a taxi to go and return from the spot every day (20 to 30 minutes each way), and sometimes depending on other people to join in that taxi, took a bit of the fun away for me after a while. I wanted, as in so many spots around the world, to jump from my bed onto my board, ideally with a bit of SUP before the wind kicks in and, at the end of the day, enjoy a nice cold drink (or two…), watching the sunset directly at the spot before a nice dinner and going to bed listening to the sound of the waves and of the nature around. Sounds OK to you too ?
Bruno and Cecilia have been working like mad and have succeeded in building the set-up that finally allows it all: A great little center superbly equipped directly at the spot, a café/snack/restaurant now open all day to serve you breakfast, lunch and dinner, and since last year some brand new rooms also directly at the spot. The perfect combination for those who want peace, a total change of environment and a true wave experience in the desert.
DAY ONE: Day one started with a magic sunrise at the spot and as promised by the forecast the swell was already rolling in big time. The day here is as influenced by the wind as it is by the tides, and this first morning presented an extremely low tide, perfect for the newcomers to see what would be under their feet (and fins…) later in the day. Perfect also for the many local women who walk the bare reef and collect seaweed that is later sold to international cosmetic companies around the world. Boys and girls, a day on the beach in Moulay does bring a lot more to light than you think.
The whole group for the camp arrived fresh and highly motivated for a week full of improvements, great time on the water and on land. It was nice to see 3 girls in a group of 8 participants in total ! After a well deserved welcome mint tea (you can get quite addicted to these), the tide started to fill in, the wind picked up to soon reach a fair 25 to 30 knots to go with the waves. The rest of the day was spent between power sailing, jumping, catching and riding waves, everyone at their own pace and having a sweet time while building a solid appetite. As a result, a fair part of the day was also spent chilling out on the sun deck and terrace of the center at the Café Resto, enjoying the scenery and the action while gorging on all the tasty, healthy, organic dishes and pastries prepared by Cecilia and her magic team. As the day came to an end and the sun prepared to set, the wind dropped a bit, generating some absolutely beautiful waves ... not the biggest, but with just the right amount of power, height and length for everyone to really have an awesome time. Down the line bliss in perfectly glassy waves and many more turns that one can imagine to be feasible on a single wave, so close to Europe ! Good thing the center closes at 20h00, even that early in the season ! After a fair 3 to 4 hours on the water with 4,5m² and 4,2m² totally maxed out, it was more than enough for one day ... but watching the sun set on the horizon right in front of you is a must.
After a totally deserved dinner and lovely local dishes (yes, the water is fresh, the wind is strong, the waves keep coming and you do end up burning quite a lot of calories down here ), there is not much left besides falling asleep with the sound of wind and waves as a lullaby. Magic Moulay has already delivered and kept its promises, and the week has just started!
DAY 2: The second day started with quite a few sore muscles including some I forgot existed at all. Some light fog on the horizon at sunrise was announcing less wind and the day unfolded on a more chilled pace. The boys at the center (Bruno, Alex and Nagi) doing some repairs on some boards and re-checking (as per every day) the trim of all the sails. These guys invest a lot in their equipment and they sure take care of it. I had the choice between any and every size in the Fanatic Quad range, as well as the TriWave, and if you still like them, you can also find twinzers and single fin boards. The sails are all rigged on RDM gold masts 80% carbon, and are freshly unpacked brand new for the start of this new season. You can choose the length of harness lines that you want, there are wetsuits available, and the team is there for you all the time to prepare, trim, rig and de-rig everything for you. Hard to expect more. That is the windsurfing bit ... and then you hit the open kitchen area of the café Resto where Cecilia, Radisha and Nourdin serve breakfast while cooking fresh dishes for the day with fresh products and tantalizing smells (do not miss the home made chocolate and coconut pie, any time of day or night, it is a killer).
After checking a few mails and watching the photos from the day before (I was sure that wave was well overhead), we all decided to make the best out of the conditions and grabbed some SUP´s. There is now a serious choice of boards from the Fly 10’6 on which anyone can learn, down to the latest Allwave 2015 in 8’5 and 8’10. The waves were once again more than great (and of course bigger once on the water than when you watch from the terrace of the center). What fun that was again – Tom Brendt had his whole group out with a few guys who can already ride well and were just catching one long ride after the other. One girl preferred to take a surf board which she had already tried before, while some others were having their very first experience on a SUP. After a few useful tips and demos and a few gentle washing sessions in the white water, everybody made it to the line up. There is nothing better than surfing or SUP to learn and understand the waves; how to read them, where their real power is, how they break and of course how much fun they are. Nothing compares to that gliding feeling that you have when there is only you and your board and you feel this incredible energy running through you. Needless to say, the session lasted much longer than expected, almost 2.5 hours, everybody firmly deciding to “just catch a last wave and I’m going back in” … yeah, right..
I remember seeing SUP boards for the first time some 5 years ago and thinking, who needs that really ? Since then, SUP has literally changed my life and saved my mental health on many occasions. We don’t always live in a place close to the ocean, in a windy spot or in a wavy spot and there are certainly not many of us who live in places that offer all three on a regular basis (not even mentioning good quality waves!). Since the arrival (shall I say explosion) of SUP, I do not care anymore whether there is the sea, a lake or a river will do. I am content to see weather forecasts announcing zero wind and if the waves are small, very small and mushy, I still know that I’ll catch some and have fun. Bruno has understood this and stocked up on SUP and surfboards so whatever happens with the wind, if you want to improve your skills in waves, you can be assured to do this on any given day.
DAY3: Day 3 marked the moment where you realize that you are not really a guest in a surf center or a client in a Café Resto anymore, but that you are simply at home. The relatively small size of the center, the maximum amount of surfing guests plus other walk-ins who come to enjoy the vista and a drink is small enough that you soon get to know everyone. However, the place has been built in such a smart and cosy way that if you want the company of fellow windsurfers, you find it, but if you want your peace and quiet, there are tons of little corners, alcoves, sitting areas and chilled spots so that you can be totally on your own, while never really far away from the kitchen (did I mention that chocolate coconut pie? …). So after two days, you are simply at home and life takes its comfortable easy going rhythm, following the sun, the tides and the wind. Just as it should always be, the whole rest of the year, but never is possible. Moulay once again delivers something badly needed before hitting the office for a few months of non-stop full power work. Should you get a really bad feeling or wish to check a few mails, there is always the possibility to use an internet USB key at the center to stay connected. Forget video Skype or downloading videos, the connection will not be good enough for that, but you can stay connected with the outside world…if you really want to. I personally tried to avoid it as much as possible and it was a super important and pleasurable part of the holiday !
DAY 4 … AND THE REST; Life gets into its own sweet rhythm down in Moulay, regulated by the arrival of the wind and the tides that keep delivering some beautiful waves reaching up to a good overhead size and with enough power to guarantee you some nice washing sessions, some healthy swimming and of course some memorable and addictive adrenaline rushes. Even when based in Moulay itself, The “Bled” as they call it (“village” in Arabic), one has to at least go and spend a day walking the small cobblestone alleys of Essaouira, its vibrant fishermen harbor, its historical and perfectly maintained fortifications, and all the various markets that the town offers, from marqueterie arts and craft with Thuya wood to leather products, silver Berbère jewellery, carpets and of course the souk of the Medina where all go shopping for fresh products, fruits, spices, meat and all the delicious natural ingredients that make Moroccan food so incredibly tasty and delicious. You still have to time to get back to the center to enjoy an afternoon session and make the best out of your day, once again.
Generally, if you have never been to this area and want to truly experience it, you should really split your time so that you spend a few days at the beginning living in Essaouira which has plenty of choice for all budgets and all options from self catering to international luxury hotel chains. You can then truly enjoy the bustle of this magic town which shows a new face at every passing hour of the day, and sample a wide variety of restaurants, some bars that sell alcohol and a generally very cosmopolitan flair, while also feeling the oriental irresistible charm of the place. Then you can head back Moulay and stay there without any bad conscience and start the holiday for good.
The rooms at the center (there are only five) are simple, fresh and functional. There is a common bathroom that is always kept spotlessly clean, as is the rest of the whole place. Even when it has closed, you can still enjoy the terrace and its comfort, checking the last waves and reflections on the water. You can also make use of the salon, a chill out room with view to the spot, comfy couches, big screen TV and tables. You can decide to have all of this on a bed & breakfast basis or half board at an extremely reasonable price.
The fact is that staying at the center itself is a must. You anyway already feel at home after a few hours as a normal guest, but having the luxury to spend 24/7 with that view, admiring sunrises or sunsets and then staying over for the night is the cherry on the cake in my opinion. The village soon becomes super quiet and dark, you only hear the occasional children playing or a few dogs reminding you who’s the boss here. You fall asleep with the music of the waves and have some of the most restful sleeps you will have enjoyed in years. Let’s be honest, a holiday should be a chance to really escape, regenerate, and spend quality time in a perfectly adapted environment, so in that regards Moulay is amazing. What’s nicer than the From Bed to Board lifestyle for a while? Should you miss the town, taxis are very affordable to link Moulay to Essaouira and can be organized by the center.
Since time does indeed fly in good company and when life is treating you sweetly, the week passes too quickly. However, finishing on a high, we all got to enjoy some absolutely killer wind conditions again after a couple of days dedicated to SUP.
LAST DAYS and more SESSIONS: Moulay often looks more radical than it really is. The wind can be super strong and the chops can be tough especially around high tide or if you surf several hours in a row, but the waves normally do not have too much speed or power, which makes it a great spot to learn how to jump and surf.
Once the waves reach more than 2.5m they get a lot more powerful and you will end up doing some serious swimming and probably breaking some equipment, so let us all keep in mind our real level and never under-estimate the conditions and Mother Nature’s power.
Generally, the more you go towards the summer (July and August), the windier it gets and the less waves you have. Winter is the time of monster swells (but the center is closed) so if you want the perfect mix of decent to big size waves and good wind, April, May and June as well as September and October are just right.
My last 36 hours were basically spent windsurfing, testing various boards and some new sails and spending all the energy I had on the water, making the best of the tide to ride the longest possible waves on the bottom of the spot at high tide, while trying to get a bit of style and radicality and some added spray and snap in my top turns all the time. I cannot say that I am fully satisfied about the result yet, but the practice itself was amazing and I could happily do it for another couple of lifetimes without getting bored!
OK, time to head back home with several sore muscles, some nice calluses in my hands, a fair tan (until the level of the collar at least), lots of great memories, some new friends and already the feeling that I need to rebook and come and see the guys soon again.
A massive thanks to the whole team, compact and fantastic: Bruno, Alexis and Nagi at the windsurfing, and Cecilia, Radisha and Nourdin at the café-resto: You guys absolutely rock and the name MAGIC FUN MOULAY has never deserve its name more!
Massalama and shokrane bezef,