Here I am, struggling to stand on a wafer of plastic, which in turn is sliding down a wall of water, which in turn is falling on to a beach. Unsurprisingly, it's not easy – although anyone watching Imad, my Moroccan surfing instructor, might assume otherwise. He seems to know where each wave will rise up and break. He just paddles his surfboard over, and suddenly he's visible over the back of the retreating wave, zigzagging towards the shore as though on rails.
I prostrate myself again on my 9ft longboard, ribs sore. As the next swell approaches I paddle to Imad's favoured spot and scull the board round with my hands. Then I'm manically scooping water backwards, muscles protesting as the hiss of the wave now chasing me becomes a roar. My feet lift. There's a breathtaking surge. I spring into a crouch like I've been shown, arms raised ...And then my green-and-white board is freeze-framed against bone-coloured hills and a simmering sky, the wave collapses like a scrum over my head and flailing arms, and I'm back to a familiar sensation: that of a lonely sock inside a powerful washing machine.
Surf Maroc is run by surf-mad south Englanders Ben O'Hara and Ollie Boswell, who established their "surf camp" in 2002 in the Berber village of Taghazout, half-an-hour north of Agadir. Now they provide accommodation, lessons and equipment to surfers of all abilities.
The surrounding coastline's reputation has grown since American servicemen first surfed here in the 1960s. "It's got the perfect geography," Ollie said as we negotiated the twisting road north of Taghazout for my first taste of Moroccan surf. "As well as a remarkable density of great surf spots for all abilities, there are few places so inclined to have good surf all the time."
The best conditions run from November to March. I'd arrived in September, to an unpromising forecast. We passed famous surf spots with exotic-sounding names – Anchor Point, Killers, Mysteries – and we saw barely a ripple. Ben promised good surf near the village of Tamri. "If everything else in the Atlantic's flat, there'll be waves there."
Sure enough, surf was roaring against a broad beach below a wetland prowled by camels and egrets. Having only tried surfing once before, I found myself practising basics on the sand with three novices and my instructor, Imad. By midday I was faring better in the waves than I'd hoped, and as the sun dipped I was catching more waves than not.
My accommodation was basic but pleasant; my room opened on to a communal lounging area set above a bar and generous dining space, from which steps descended to Taghazout's beach. Surf Maroc's camp accommodates 20; its design guarantees mingling. Delicious home-made dips soon appeared, and after dark we were called to a dinner-table full of subtly spiced Moroccan food cooked in tajines.
Now it's day two, and I've hit a wall: the surf's trickier, and I can't seem to stand. With the morning's fog gone, I'm thankful my wetsuit is shielding me from the sun. I've grown friendly with Londoners Jonathan and Lydia. Despite being a novice, Lydia's finding her feet on proper waves, as well as the whitewater "mush" we're learning on. The 3ft waves seem huge as I battle out through them. I can't imagine what 12ft surf feels like. Regaining the calm behind where the waves break I feel like a shipwreck victim; my board mocking me with its logo: "Endless Progression".
Next day we're back at Tamri with a wide-eyed couple telling Imad they've just shared a wave with a big shark. "Excellent!" he grins, and takes me out to work on my wave-catching. I'm exhausted: he "floats" faster than I can paddle.
By afternoon I can turn across the waves, rather than just being bulldozed along. I inadvertently surf one on one leg, eliciting whoops from the shore. The day's last "ride" is my best yet: I'm hurled from the lip of a wave which feels house-high into a universe of foam, only to surge forward again, still on my feet.
A few days later we're bound for the waves off the village of Imsouane, an hour from Taghazout. Imsouane's beach is stunning, with sandstone cliffs, fishing boats on the slipway, and a backdrop of tall hills. The waves are small, predictable – and I get an unbelievable ride where I'm on my feet for over a minute. Near sunset I explore Taghazout's shore, where colourful boats are pulled up on the sand.
Back the next day at Imsouane, it's raining: the third time this year. The waves have grown, and while my rides are shorter, I feel I'm getting the hang of all this. My feeling as I leave is bittersweet. A week here is too short. I want to see more of this country; to get to know the Moroccans and my fellow surf campers better. Above all, I want "more surf".
The writer flew to Marrakech with GB Airways, which flies from Gatwick and Heathrow on behalf of BA (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com). Marrakech is also served by Atlas Blue (020-7307 5803; www.atlas-blue.com), Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com), easyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyjet.com) and Thomsonfly (0870 1900 737; www.thomsonfly.com).
From Marrakech, the surf camp is four to five hours' drive. Surf Maroc (see below) can arrange taxi transfers (£60). Buses are fast and reliable (Supratours: 00 212 37 77 65 20; www.supratours.ma).
Alternatively, Agadir is around half an hour's drive from Taghazout and is served by Thomsonfly, Thomas Cook (0870 750 5711, www.thomascook.com), First Choice (0871 200 7799; www.firstchoice.co.uk), and My Travel (0871 664 7970; www.mytravel.com).
The Surf Camp organised by Surf Maroc (01794 322 709; www.surfmaroc.co.uk) starts from £249 per person per week. This includes airport transfers from Agadir, transport to and from surf locations in groups based on ability, plus accommodation with breakfast and lunch. International travel is not included.
A range of surfboards (£60-£90 a week) and wetsuits (£35 a week) can be hired (if bringing your own boards, note that from 6 November GB Airways/BA will not permit the carriage of surfboards). Surf coaching ranges from £15 per two-hour session, £165 per week for self-caterers, or £399 per week including the Surf Camp accommodation package.
Moroccan Tourist Board: www.visitmorocco.com; 020-7437 0073Reuse content