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Surf’s up, down-dog: a dual retreat in paradise

Surf’s up, down-dog: a dual retreat in paradise

Where can you surf, sunbathe and practise yoga throughout the winter without flying for more than four hours? Morocco, of course. The coastal town of Taghazout (pronounced Tarazoot) has become a much-loved location for upbeat, chilled-out and sporty holidays.

Just three hours’ drive from Marrakech, just over two hours from Essaouira (with its Unesco World Heritage site) and 90 minutes from the surfing hub of Imswan, well-informed hipsters have been riding waves in Taghazout since the early noughties. This influx of boardies was largely due to the launch of eco-friendly holiday and retreat company, Surf Maroc. Established in 2003 by a husband-and-wife team, Vicki and Ollie Boswell, the company’s initial focus was making surfing accessible to all budgets and abilities. But it quickly became apparent that surfers needed the mat and yogis wanted the board. As such, a dual-focus surf and yoga retreat was born.

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It’s a complimentary combination. All you need to bring is an open mind, friendly disposition and resilient abdominal muscles. “The quintessential nature of both yoga and surfing is unity,”” says Villa Mandala yoga teacher Kimberley Rosenberg, who’s been surfing for 18 months. “Both disciplines remind me of my greatest life lesson: I cannot change the world around me; however, when I focus on my breath – one of the things I can control – and shift my perception, the world around me changes for the better.”

More than offering guests a chance just to reflect, re-set and work on core strength, Surf Maroc and their staff also promise to keep things as eco-friendly as possible in all of their four locations, each of which differs in price, ambience and vista. It’s almost exclusively vegetarian, with all food locally sourced and seasonal. “When I first set up the retreats I wanted it to be completely vegetarian as I wanted people to experience it and also keep people feeling light to practice their yoga. But we do fish if people want, one night a week,” says Vicki Boswell.

This is in keeping with the yoga culture (based upon the principle of ‘ahimsa’ – non-harming to all beings) but hardly in line with local culture and has involved some re-education and training so that local chefs could be employed. Surf Maroc was also the first company in the area to start recycling; solar panels are used on their four properties and provide enough energy for all hot water. They also work a lot with local youth group to whom they provide plastic gloves and bin bags, asking the youth to collect rubbish in return for free surfing gear.

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So the only question remaining, surely, is when’s the best time to go? Mornings and evenings are fresher in winter (with temperatures reaching mid-20s during the day) and strong surfers will enjoy the bigger waves between October to mid-March, whereas beginners and intermediates will enjoy summer when it’s significantly warmer.

Holiday information:

Easy Jet flies directly from London Gatwick or Manchester to Agadir in Morocco: www.easyjet.com

Surf Maroc offers differing packages for surf and yoga holidays, both for groups and those travelling solo: www.surfmaroc.com