Last month, Wavelength headed to Morocco for the Taghazout Surf Expo, situated in prime position right in front of the jewel in the country’s surfing crown, Anchor Point.
Billed as ‘the international hub of the surf ecosystem,’ the event saw 60+ brands, manufacturers, federations and travel operators from all over Europe pitching up in the Expo’s pop-up village, transforming the Anchors car park for the weekend.
The familiar crew of mint tea sellers were on hand, but with a few more potential customers to sample their sugary delights than usual; over 30,000 people were estimated to have attended across the four days.
At times, it looked like nearly all of them were in the water, paddling under/over/through each other, trying to sneak a wave from a perfectly timed swell that delivered consecutive days of pumping surf. To get waves, you had to pick your moment and your spot.
Luckily for us, the world’s best media office was situated right in front of the peak, and we had a man on the inside who knows this spot as well as anyone, Vasco Ribeiro. Between runarounds back to the point, we sat down with Vasco to talk surfing in Morocco, sustainable solutions and the joy of the ocean.
We’re here at the Taghazout Surf Expo, sitting in the prime spot in front of Anchor Point. How often do you visit?
I get out here a lot. I’ve been coming here since I was 12 or 13 and it’s one of my favourite places in the world. Obviously because of the waves, but I also have some good friends out here, and it’s really close to home.
When it’s stormy and big in Portugal, you can take a two-hour flight to get out here, and it’s perfect; I love it! (Looking out to the point, with waves still coming through despite it being high tide, on the biggest day of the swell.)
You’ve already had two surfs today, at Anchors and Anza. What’s your favourite wave in Morocco? Are you allowed to name it?!
(Laughs) Well, there’s a few I can’t name, but actually, Anchors is the break that I surf the most. I feel really connected with it as a wave; I know lots of the crew here, so I feel super comfortable in the water. Overall, it’s just really consistent here, if it’s small on the points, there are lots of beach breaks around, so you know you’ll always find something fun.
There are exhibitors from Morocco and all over Europe here at the Expo. Lots of the brands are showcasing eco-friendly and sustainable product innovations – from board manufacture to wetsuit materials. How big a factor is sustainability when choosing the brands you work with?
It’s really important because you want to be a part of a brand that makes sense to you. It feels like things are changing in the industry and it’s great to see so many brands here in Taghazout doing good things, offering people the opportunity to see and try out these new products.
Do you think that the sustainable alternatives currently available mean sacrificing performance?
Maybe at first, there was a little bit of a difference in performance, but with wetsuits especially, it feels like they’re advancing so much that there’s no sacrifice now. I’ve been using the new system from Deeply and the suits are super light and just as warm – they work!
In terms of surfboard design, I’ve tried a couple of options and it feels like there’s still quite a long way to go. But you have to start somewhere, you know? It’s good to see the brands in Portugal looking at sustainable alternatives and I’m sure that the performance will catch up soon enough.
Do you think it’s the duty of surfers and the industry to work harder to find solutions to protect our ocean environments?
I feel like, as surfers we have to do more. A big part of it is awareness because I feel like a lot of surfers aren’t aware of all the problems we’re facing with the ocean. If every surfer did a small thing to make a positive change, it’d make a big difference. For me, as an athlete, if I can try and be a positive example and lead the change to affect even one person, it’s a positive.
Hear hear. Clearly, it’s in our interests to protect the ocean playgrounds that give us so much, from the joy of surfing to benefits to physical and mental health.
Yeah for sure, I was basically born on the beach. My family has a coastal restaurant in Portugal, so all my life I’ve been next to the ocean, and it helps so much. Then there was a point when I had to compete, and although I still loved surfing, it just stopped being fun – it became more like a job.
Sometimes it was hard to separate the two things. Just going for a surf out in nature and enjoying it is definitely good for your mental health, whereas sometimes it goes the other way when you’re competing. I had to struggle for a few years to find my balance but I feel like now I actually enjoy being in the water again.
I think for most people, you get in the ocean and just forget about everything else. Sometimes if I’m having a bad surf I’ll just sit in the water and look around and think, “how good is it that I have the chance to be here, that I’m lucky enough to be here?”.
So, in an alternative universe, if you were born in the city rather than by the ocean, where would you be now?
I have no idea! Ever since I remember, I’ve been in the ocean. I started surfing when I was seven; before that I was on the beach with my parents and brother, just playing on a little bodyboard or something. So it’s hard to see myself anywhere besides by the ocean!
Well, we reckon it’s worked out pretty well!