The last time I went to Morocco the trip was a catastrophe! But I don’t like to talk about that so here’s Ben Selway’s trip instead.
It was incredible, which is great because it happens to be my contribution to Wavelength’s 200th issue! It was for the O’Neill Close Encounters project, which you may have seen working its way around cyberspace. I was going to write a long article about the premise of the project; to invite surfers and media from Europe’s key surfing nations, along with superstars Cory Lopez, Shaun Cansdell and Mark Mathews – and essentially photograph and video these fine athlete’s frolicking in the sea together and doing general day to day bonding. I was going to talk about how we had perfect waves, brilliant sunshine, three sumptuous feasts per day, luxurious accommodation, and how everyone wore happy smiling faces! But I feel writing small concise paragraphs of no more than 500 words are my strength, so this is what I’ll do.
When O’Neill first announced that their Close Encounters event would be held in Morocco, the first thing everyone wanted to know was; will we expect to see wild tortoises? Of course, many of you probably won’t know this, but the Spur-Thighed Tortoise is an upstanding member of the Moroccan animal kingdom and we all felt we’d be sure to see one. However, by day six everyone had started to worry because no sightings had been reported, and going home without spotting one was the last thing anybody wanted! We weren’t to be disappointed, though, because one morning, on our way up to the Trestles wave (a wave that broke like Trestles) we had to swerve past two tortoises lazing on the side of the road! Luckily they were unharmed and neither seemed to be very stressed by the ordeal. Everyone kept calling them turtles, though, which I found frustrating. I tried to explain that while most biologists and lay people would use the word, “turtle” to refer to all chelonians, in general, it’s turtles who live in or near the water. Unlike the tortoise, who is a stout member of the Testudinidae family (and mostly a dweller of arid land) turtles have adapted to swim by holding their breath underwater. Maybe these philistines have been watching far too many episodes of the popular children’s cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, of which my favourite hero in a half shell was Raphael.
THE TRESTLES WAVE
Like I said, we found a wave which broke like Trestles. Every surfer on the trip proclaimed that this was their favourite spot in Morocco, which I found surprising. I thought that perhaps the ferocious breakers at the slab or the long reeling rollers at Dracula’s would be more popular, but no, the Trestles wave came out trumps. The film guys also loved the place because they were able to shoot tens of gigabytes of footage. For the photographers, the place scored a grand total of five out of five broken cameras in the ‘Worst Surfing Spots To Shoot Guide For Budding Photographers’ which I may or may not publish. This was largely because it was difficult to shoot and the wave was only really suited to off-the-tops and cuts backs. Whenever we headed to the spot the photographers protested by sitting in the jeeps for the duration of the sessions. Often, fierce arguments broke out between us and the film guys which sometimes resulted in bloody rucks on the hot Moroccan sand. Predictably it was the photographers who came out on top because we had strength in numbers (six against four) and mono pods/rocks versus their bulking unwieldy tripods.
When I travel, I like to stay in luxury. I am too old for anything less, so you can take your tents and camper vans and shove ‘em! I like nice clean apartments with large beds, WiFi and entertainment. Thanks to O’Neill my needs were met because they booked our accommodation at the BoardX House in Imsouane. That’s the BoardX House in Imsouane. There’s only one word that can describe this; O-M-G! It’s the perfect accommodation for a surf trip. The weary traveller will live regally here. They will be treated to the finest views of Imsouane thanks to the positioning of their beautifully decorated apartments. Other notable benefits of staying here include a swimming pool, king sized beds, great food and extremely kind and helpful staff. Did I mention their web address? No?
Today I saw a beetle go to the toilet on the patio. I have never seen a beetle, or insect ever do a poo or wee before and it has compelled me to report this event back to you. Once the beetle had finished his business, I didn’t try to pick it up or smell the faeces, I just left it alone.
IN BED WITH LAMIROY
For one evening only I was forced to sleep in a king sized bed with no other than Slammin’ Sam Lamiroy. I was surprised to discover that he chuckles in his sleep! By day I found this to be quite endearing, but during the middle of the night, when I was rudely awoken by it, I wanted to tear off all of the covers and wake him with an air horn whilst screaming ‘who’s laughing now, buddy boy?!’
Donkey’s are very much part of day to day Moroccan life. They are used for transportation and little else. You see them everywhere either grafting or resting in the North African sun. I worry about these gentle animals – they all look thoroughly miserable and not a bit like the ones at the Donkey sanctuary in Dorset.
For many years I have heralded photographer Jason Feast to be the greatest person I know. But I have big news for you mon frere; he no longer is! That’s because Dutch photographer Jan Bijl is! You see, from the moment I met him I instantly knew that he would take this title. I can’t explain why, he just has that X-factor! What I can tell you, though, is that he is a fine snapper and he provided us with much entertainment on our daily car journeys. He also taught me how to use Adobe Photoshop properly – something which has always perplexed me ever since I declared myself as a photo editor. Curiously, his and Jason’s names look very similar and I often wonder if the ‘Jan Bijl’ is actually Dutch for Jason Feast. It isn’t, though.
MAN DOING HIS JOBS ON THE PAVEMENT
One evening I was on the telephone to my wife and I happened upon a man doing his number 2’s on the pavement. What do you say to someone who is doing this? Absolutely nothing. You just have to walk away and carry on with whatever it was you were doing.
I am ashamed to announce my extra-curricular language ability merely extends to basic French, a smattering of Spanish, German and some UK sign language. I am also ashamed to announce that each and every one of the European surfers’ and media alike spoke incredible English. They even spoke English amongst themselves. Also, whenever the Belgian owners of our fabulous accommodation were engaged in conversation with each other and realised I was trying to listen in, they thoughtfully switched to the Queen’s English! I tried to reciprocate them with a display of foul sign language, complete with deaf-sounding noises, but I don’t think they understood. Jan Bijl taught a few curse words, too; Goedkope teringslet = Cheap slut, Kanker hoer = Cancer whore and Klootzak = scrotum!
THE WORST TOILET IN MOROCCO
Have you ever seen Midnight Express? Remember the unsavoury psychiatric prison he winds up in and the utter state of sqauller it was in? This was like the public lavatory in Essaouira! I was desperate for a wee during lunch and couldn’t hold for much longer so I asked a local Moroccan gentlemen to take me there. Inside there were lots of local chaps washing themselves and yelling at me. I suddenly panicked and began to feel like Daniel Day Lewis – or Rain Man whenever anyone ever touched him! I was petrified and didn’t know what they wanted me to do. I just wanted to scream and run away, but I couldn’t, I was desperate for wee. Pay attention.
CRUMPETS WITH SAM LAMIROY
Slammin’ Sam Lamiroy announced that the Christmas period had pushed him clear of the 14 stone mark, but rapidly lost weight afterwards – and throughout the trip to Morocco. His secret to the weight loss? Exercise and putting butter on the smoother side of his crumpets, rather than the saturating ‘holey’ side.
GOATS IN THE TREES
Apart from the tortoises, everyone agreed that the most exciting moment of the trip was seeing real life goats feasting amongst the trees. I don’t mean at the base of trees, either. I mean in the tree tops! Unfortunately you’ll notice there are no photos of them in the feature, this is due to the fact I only have 12 pages and I have limited space for pictures. Try typing GOAT IN TREE into Google if you are curious.
I won’t bore you with the obvious, but we surfed a slab for the duration of the trip. It wasn’t perfect, by any means. You might be thinking I am just saying that to warn you off from trying to find it, but it really wasn’t. The local body boarders there are a frightening bunch, too and will be sure to yell obscenities at you if you try to tackle it without their permission! You also probably think I am just saying this as a preventative measure as well, but I’m not. One day, we were out in the water and there was a commotion on the rocks. I was extremely worried because I feared it might be the locals – livid with me about their wave being photographed. Maybe they would try to attack me if I tried exiting the water? I had visions of them waiting for me on the shoreline for hours on end, forcing me
to stay in the sea until the early hours! Or at least until they grew bored and eventually decided to call it a day. Fortunately, though, French water snapper Bastien Bonnarme was with me and was first to offer his services as a peace keeper – a suggestion which I wholly supported. However, it transpired they meant us no harm and made no attempt to evict us from the line up. The commotion turned out to be no more than innocent horseplay amongst themselves. I think they were play-fighting.
BEING FRIENDS WITH THE PROS
It’s not everyday you get invited to go on the same trip as Cory Lopez, Shaun Cansdell and Mark Mathews, so naturally I was very excited when I heard they were going. I was even more thrilled when I found out that Micah, Slammin’ Sam Lamiory and myself were sharing an apartment with them! Before flying to Morocco, I was concerned I’d make a fool out of myself whilst trying to impress them. This was the last thing I wanted. I needed them to think I was cool, yet at the same time I didn’t want to lead them to believe I was eager for their friendship and respect. I wondered if I approached them with a ‘playing hard to get’ kind of attitude, they might have said to each other, ‘wow, this guy is incredible!’ In the end, though, I was simply
myself and I think they really liked me. Now, weeks after the trip we remain good friends. We’re all taking it slowly though, but I’m pretty sure in six to eight months we’ll be familiar with each other enough to stay at one another’s houses and perhaps eligible to give each other wacky nicknames!
BONUS SAM LAMIROY INTERVIEW!
During a quick toilet and coffee stop at Exeter services, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to interview Slammin’ Sam Lamiroy about the trip. Unfortunately he was doing his big jobs at the time and the Dictaphone had a hard time recording his
words from above the cubical in which he occupied. Still, this is gist of the conversation.
ME: Sam, have you had a good trip?
SAM: Yeah, it was amazing. I feel everything worked perfectly which was amazing considering nothing was firmly planned. Everyone got on like houses on fire and the surf has been incredible for two weeks straight. Over all this was a great success for O’Neill and I hope to be doing something like this again.
ME: How consistent are your jobs?
SAM: Yep, they’re solid. I’ve been lucky!
ME: Am I the greatest photographer you have ever worked with?
SAM: Well, you’re one of them…I’d say Ted Grambeau is probably the best. (The interview ended at this point because I ran off in floods of tears.)
Words and photo’s by Ben Selway.