Every year the Association Taghart Taghazout pour le développement et la culture et l’environment is organising an event for kids, usually a surf competition, usually for boys only.
At last year’s competition Abdellah noticed that there were some girls at the event, but only watching, and maybe thinking, hey could we also try that? This year he initiated a different approach. ”Let’s make it a girls only event. Boys in Taghazout get plenty of tools and help to start surfing or bodyboarding, while girls are often shy to ask for help and try something new."
So let’s teach them Taghazout's most offered activity: Surfing.
After lunch time, we meet the girls at Hashpoint surf shop to fit them the right size wetsuits. The girls, from the age of 12 to 18 started their day early with yoga on the beach followed by a long walk. A lot of giggling and some nervous faces, today they will surf.
Surfing, a sport that most brothers of these girls have tried before or do every week, but for them it will be their first time.
Morocco is still a male dominated country where most girls have a very traditional childhood with housework, cooking and mostly playing at home. One of the girls that joined us on the beach, enthusiast about surfing, told us that her brothers most of the time run of to the beach without her and don’t really support her to come and surf with them. For many Moroccan families surfing is associated with hippies, drugs and partying and it’s alarming when their daughters want to learn to surf as well.
The girls from today do play in the local basketball team and are number 1 in the region. So they are sportive and know how to work hard to reach the next level. But maybe because basketball is played on courts in school playgrounds and far away from beaches where bikinis and swim shorts dominate the scenery, basketball is more condemned. Mostly parents are a bit afraid of the unknown and worry that their daughters will get hurt in the water.
But we see a change, this year, on the 24th of march, for the first time the surf competition Agadir Open was hosting a women's division surfing and bodyboarding. Ten women in the age of 13-38 were competing for the first title on surfing Morocco’s famous right handers, around 150 boys were competing in the men’s division. A big difference, but a great turnout for a first time competition. The event is run by the Imourane Surf Association, a local nonprofit that counts pro Moroccan riders Ramzi Boukhiam, who is sponsored by Quiksilver, and Othmane Choufani among its members.
Tamraght’s 20 year old local female surfer Miriam El Gardoum won the title for the surfing division. In a recent interview on Outsideonline.com about her victory and women surfing she states;
“We are strong,” El Gardoum says of the women who surf competitively. “It’s really hard for girls to surf because of religion.” El Gardoum says she wishes more Moroccans were open-minded about women surfing. She believes if more women were involved, the negative stereotypes surrounding the sport would dissolve. “As a Muslim, if you are a true Muslim, you have to do things with your heart,”
With last week Agadir Open still in our minds were are determined to get more girls excited about surfing so hopefully in the years to come the amount of girls and women joining the competition will be higher.
The car is packed, 21 soft tops, 21 leashes, enough drinking water. Once everyone has their wetsuits we are good to go. The car with Abdellah and Cimo drives to Panorama Beach and I am walking with the girls. As we walk to the beach the girls get more excited and let go of their anxiety. Everybody seems active and happy. With their sportive background and young age we are not worried they will get tired soon.
We start with a warm up and let them have their first experience with a glide on the board, down to the beach. 21 local girls in the water, all trying their best, no fears. They listen to Abdellah and Cimo explaining about the safety rules in the water, how to carry the board, how to lay on the surfboard and follow the white water. After their first contact with the board and waves we teach them the technique to make the pop up, how to protect your head when you fall off and how to position your feet on the board.
We end with many attempts to stand up and some girls have a talent, the sun starts to go down and soon we have to go back to Taghazout. We hope they keep trying and we took some hesitation away to come to the beach and have fun in the water.
We take a ton of pictures, they already the Shaka sign and all we see is happy stoked faces when we walk back. Its was a good day.