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Essaouira surf school: learning to surf in Morocco

Essaouira surf school: learning to surf in Morocco

Morocco’s main surfing town, Essaouira, offers almost-perfect conditions for beginner surfers. Here we chat about what to expect from an Essaouira surf school and share our experience of learning to surf in Morocco.

The Atlantic waves rolling onto the shallow shoreline of Essaouira beach mean that the picturesque port town of Essaouira is one the the the best places in Morocco to learn to surf. From a one-off lesson to a month long course, and everything in between there are a handful of excellent surf schools in Essaouira to get you riding those waves.

However, due to the strong Atlantic wings, Essaouira is actually more well known for kite-surfing, rather than surfing, and is considered one of the best places in the world for kite-surfing.

But whilst kite-surfing is one of the top things to do in Essaouira, it’s not for everyone. You need to have a certain level of fitness and upper body strength for beginners. Plus, if you’re visiting Essaouira with kids, all Essaouira surf schools will say that they need to be at least 12 years old.

So if kite-surfing isn’t for you, but you still want to get active in the ocean, then we recommend you try surfing in Essaouira.

Where does the surfing happen in Essaouira?

The best surf along the main Essaouira beach is at the opposite end of the medina, close to where the camels reside for riding, opposite Beach & Friends. This is also where the Essaouira surf schools mainly teach (although they do sometimes head to quieter Diabat on request). The surf tends to get bigger the further you move away from the medina.

location of Essaouira surf lessons
location of Essaouira surf lessons (map credit: Google Maps)

It’s a lovely 2km walk along the corniche from Bab Sbaa (medina gate) to the surfing spot. Or you can jump in a Petite Taxi for a fixed fare of 7DH (8DH at night).

Choosing an Essaouira surf school

There are a handful of Essaouira surf schools to choose from and walking around the medina, you will notice quite a few activity centres where you can book. However, for the best price, we recommend going direct to the surf school.

We had been recommended Moga Surf by previous travellers to Essaouira, and as they are the only surf shop directly opposite the main surfing area, we thought we’d check them out.

I firstly contacted them via WhatsApp (very much the way in Morocco) and they invited us down for a chat.

Now here’s where I have to admit that these surf lessons were not for myself, but rather my two boys (aged 6 and 8 at the time). Surfing is not something that has ever personally enticed me, despite living in Australia for 5 years in my twenties. I’d much rather sit on the beach with a good book, occasionally glancing up to watch the waves and the surfers.

But my two boys, who had previously enjoyed a few surf lessons in France, were really keen to do regular surf lessons whilst we lived in Morocco as digital nomads. So a kid-friendly surf school was a must, and as we were in Essaouira for a couple of months, these surf lessons needed to be affordable.

Five minutes after arriving to the Moga Surf shop, the boys were squeezing into wetsuits for their first lesson! Yes, we had only popped in for a chat, but they said the boys could have a lesson right then and there, and as I got a good first impression, I thought, “Why not?”

What do you need for surfing in Essaouira

Essaouira surf schools will provide wetsuits and board. Do note that the wetsuits are rarely top of the range and may seem a little worn. But for first time surfers who just want a taste, they are absolutely fine.

Men / boys will want to wear speedos, and women / girls a swimming cossie or bikini underneath.

Make sure you slap on the suncream to your face and perhaps zinc on those very sunny days. The Carrefour sells suncream and you can purchase zinc from the Essaouira surf schools.

A towel for drying off after your lesson is handy. Don’t expect there to be showers.

surf kids wearing zinc

Can you surf all year round in Essaouira?

You can indeed! And the water is actually warmer in the winter months.

It’s the wind which may sometimes put off surfers. Essaouira is coined the ‘Windy City of Africa’ for a reason! The wind is often exceptionally gusty in July and August in Essaouira, and this is when the kite-surfers are out in force. On exceptionally windy days, it gets very difficult manoeuvring the surf board around.

In fact the best Essaouira surfing days are when the wind drops and the sea mist rolls in. This is when it feels warmer and you aren’t battling with the wind to control your board.

overcast surf day in Essaouira

Is the water warm in Essaouira?

Not really. This is the Atlantic after all.

Essaouira sea temperatures peak in the range 20 to 22°C (68 to 72°F) on around the 2nd of September and are at their lowest on about the 1st of March, in the range 16 to 17°C (61 to 63°F). Essaouira sea temperatures are highest in early September. Surfers should use a 2mm long sleeve shorty or a 3/2mm spring wetsuit if the wind is up. The lowest seasonal sea temperatures at Essaouira at the beginning of March lend themselves to a 4/3mm wetsuit or a 3/2mm suit and 3mm neoprene boots.

surf-forecast.com

Our experience of Moga Surf

We spent two separate months living in Essaouira (May and July). Essaouira in May was considerably quieter than July, and also less windy.

The boys had two lessons per week, for 1 hour, with Yassine from Moga Surf, one of the top surf schools in Essaouira run by Ismail Adarzane, a pro rider waterman and competitor of the F-One team. Yassine was absolutely brilliant with the boys. His English is almost fluent and he has such a fun nature with them. They instantly took to him.

Both boys were standing by the end of the first lesson, and by the second week they were learning to turn on the boards. My youngest (age 6) lasted about 45 minutes in the water, as he found the water rather cold (and it was remarkably always exactly 45 minutes, every lesson). Whereas my eldest (age 8) could have gone on for hours, and often did. It was the perfect PE lesson whilst we were travel schooling and living in Morocco as digital nomads!

Is surfing in Essaouira good value?

Compared to surf lessons in Europe, Australia, and the USA, surfing in Morocco is exceptional value.

Expect to pay around €‎60 for a private 2 hour lesson.

If you plan on doing more than one lesson, you should be able to negotiate a discount, especially if you’re planning to be in Essaouira for a month or longer.

Is the surf in Essaouira just for beginners?

Experienced surfers may be disappointed with the size of waves. If this is you, head further down the coast towards Sidi Kaouki or even on towards Taghazout. Both of these destinations are lovely day trips from Essaouira in their own right.

Otherwise, perhaps this is your time to try kite-surfing in Essaouira!

Do I need to book lessons in advance?

Well it really depends what time of year you go (check out our guide to the best time to visit Essaouira).

The summer months of July and August are the high season. This is when Essaouira’s main beach is exceptionally busy, as well as the surf schools. At least a week’s advance booking is advisable. Similarly over the Easter holidays, as this is when many Europeans visit Morocco due to the better weather inland.

However, outside of these times, you can even book a surf lesson on the day. But we recommend booking at least a day or two in advance, especially if you are only planning one day in Essaouira.

Although do note that the majority of surf schools close for January, so that all staff can have a break in the very low season. Also, the surf schools will either be closed or have very reduced hours during Ramadan in Essaouira.

Where to go after your surf lesson

Two of the best restaurants in Essaouira are handily right next to the main surfing area – Beach & Friends and Ocean Vagabond. Both are a more expensive that some of the restaurants in the medina, but you are paying extra for the superb sea views. Both serve both Western and Moroccan dishes. Beach & Friends also serves tapas.

These two restaurants also serve as beach bars and a two of only a handful of places that serve alcohol in Essaouira. The perfect spot for a sundowner.

Beach and Friends Essaouira
Essaouira surf views from Beach and Friends

Final thoughts on surfing in Essaouira

Whilst Essaouira is more well known for kite-surfing, it’s also a brilliant place to learn to surf. Plus lessons are much more affordable compared to Europe.

We thoroughly recommend lessons with the superb staff at Moga Surf. Aim to book at least a week ahead over Easter and summer holidays, or if you are only planning one or two days in Essaouira. Otherwise, out of season, you are fine just wandering into the surf shop and arranging your lesson in person.

Surfing is possible year round, although can be tricky on exceptionally windy days. Also, some surf shops will have reduced hours or be closed altogether during the very low season of January, as well as Ramadan.