I’ve never experienced a storm like this, I mean heart pounding stuff, not my usual exaggerations. I’m half expecting to be a news story in the morning. The caravan is shaking as if it were about to take off like the house in the Wizard of Oz and the noise, sounds like a train coming full speed towards me.
If you read my post entitled Tired of Solo Surftrips a few weeks ago you will know that I convinced my friend who I call Long Legs to come on a surfing holiday to Morcocco, despite being a non surfer. Hoo-rahhh. Long Legs is also Surfabella’s, Art Director, and Chief Designer, more to come on what he’s tinkering with later in the year. He also makes a smashing cup of tea in our meetings. We love tea.
Also coming is Surf Bloke, my ever patient surf buddy and Surfabella’s Tech Guru. I normally beat him up when I’m in a Surf Sulk so, for protection from my sulks he’s bringing his non surf friend along too.
So, as all three of us are away we are on shutdown here at Surfabella. Apart from posting a few snaps, our out of office is on. The Yorkshire Tea bags and suncream are packed, lets go!
Bonjour Surfstar Morocco, Au Revoir cold, wet UK
Team Surfabella xx
I first came into contact with competitive surfer Jessie Tuckman a year or so ago when she commented on one of my very first Surfabella posts. I was chuffed that a proper and awesome surfer that I had no personal connection to had read my blog, at the time I thought it was just my mum and my mates reading it out of loyalty.
Hailing from the non surf capital of the UK , Manchester, Jessie took to surfing a little later than most girls on the competition scene and shot through the rankings pretty darn quickly. I do a terrible injustice to her story by cutting it short but, you can read a recent Guardian article about her journey from Manchester to Newquay and from office to beach here.
Life on the competition trail isn’t easy and there’s a distinct lack of lucrative sponsorship contracts for our UK girls. The reality is , it’s bloody hard work and surfing the cold and oft brown waters of the UK isn’t exactly the sun soaked dream the big sponsors want to sell. Jessie does have the support of some awesome local sponsors but, in between training, surfing, competing, coaching and working has to raise additional funds herself.
Jessie’s latest project aside from the zillion other things she has on the go is to embark on a Cold Water Mini Tour and she has a crowd funder set up to this end . I caught up with Jessie just after Boardmasters to find out a little more about the tour.
Hello. How was Boardmasters
Boardmasters was fantastic! I have enjoyed the surf. It started off a solid overhead and clean day 1, I competed in a mushy 3-4ft and then we had a few small days. But the sun was out and that made it great for mulling around in the shopping area and watching the skaters on the half-pipe. The final day had good surf too. Peony Knight won with some impressive surfing.
You seem to have a crazy, busy life. With a job, training, surfing, coaching and everything else what’s a typical Jessie day when you are not on the road?
I’m up at 5am, normally have breakfast and do some stretching then off to work. I clean the Stable, which is a pizza and cider specialist on Fistral Beach. (convenient location) They are one of my main sponsors too. Once I finish I’m normally straight in the sea for a morning of surf. I feel the most awake and energised in the morning. Then time to eat lunch and answer emails, contact companies that might want to hire me for work or discuss sponsorship and interviews. Surf number 2 after than and then the gym for a surf specific workout.
Win a Snugg made to measure wetsuit
Click HERE to enter via Jessie’s Crowdfunder
After my first experience of surfing I was adamant this was not a midlife crisis, a phase, a fad, a fling or a fleeting interest.
I know that some friends thought it was, especially when I joined a gym and stopped drinking on school nights after my first surf trip. This was out of character, completely and I know I have a tendency to get over excited about new things but, I knew surfing was different.
Aside from the weight and fitness issues I had, which needed attention, I started to rethink what I was doing back at home. How could I change things in order to channel more time into surfing? Of course, holidays and surf trips are not real life but, I’d met so many people who were making surfing a priority and having the time of their lives so why not me. I wanted that daft post surf smile on my face and sand in my belly button on a daily basis!
In pursuit of some sort of surf life, I have had untold ideas about how to make this happen. Below are the ones that made the shortlist, the ones I invested hours and hours of time into researching, planning, doing business plans, making contacts and even travelling for.
My first surf lesson was in Corallejo, Fuerteventura in 2013 and I took rather a lot of trips there that year. So much so that I started to really feel at home there and I feel a strong connection to the place to this day. I became sure that my future as yet unknown surfing life lay there, somewhere, waiting to be stumbled upon and here my first plan was born.
Clare’s Chubby Chargers (this was always just a working title)
Hosting older ladies surf trips in Fuerteventura. My usp was me, approaching 40, having been significantly overweight prior to starting surfing, not being sporty in any way and still struggling. I was the best advert for my own idea, so I thought. There wasn’t much on the surf market aimed at women like me. I wanted to share my surf epiphany and new lease of life with other women and to inspire them. I also hoped it would mean I’d get free surf trips! The idea faded as I only get 4 weeks leave a year and I realised that hosting a week or two of a surf trip would actually limit my own surf time. A great idea if only I had more leave. I still have all the costings and business plan somewhere perhaps in the future this is something I could look at again but, at this point it wasn’t meant to be.
Off the back of realising Chubby Chargers wouldn’t significantly change my life style the next idea was to rent a villa, initially for 1 year and open it as a surf house in Fuerte. It was to be done with one of my best mates from Uni, both of us had worked in hospitality management for years so this would suit our skills. The surf house was to be called Casa Surfabella, now the name of this blog. We looked at some villas and came up with a concept and a vision of how it would operate. We did some sums and had a robust business plan. The stumbling block this time, the start-up money we’d need, we were both broke, living wage to wage and neither of us wanted to get into significant debt. This idea is not dead in the water and may be something to revisit.
In between these 2 plans came the teaching English plan which was something I’d often thought about over the years and seemed quite straight forward. I already have a degree but, not a teaching certificate. Two years in a row 2013 and 14 I applied for a CELTA , twice I got a place on the course and twice I had my application for 16 half days of study leave over a year declined by my work. I couldn’t afford to do an intense course over four weeks or have the time off for it so, that was the end of that, for now.
Move to Bournemouth and Work at Monkey World
Next up came a chance to move to Bournemouth with Casa Surfabella Uni mate who has a flat down there. This seemed a no brainer! Get a job, move and live near the sea. Again, being of meagre means influenced the plan, I had to have work to go to and couldn’t just take off.
I knew Bournemouth wasn’t exactly the best surf spot in the UK but, it could at least put me in reach of the sea every day and not too far from decent surf. This was when I realised I had to be driving before the move otherwise it would be torture to know I was so close but, couldn’t get there. Me and the dude went down to BM for a weekend, got drunk, looked at the flat, walked on the beaches, saw people surfing , adventured along the coast, drove past Monkey World and stopped at Stone Henge on the way home. I decided I could see myself living there and set about applying for jobs and trying to come up with a date to aim for.
I remembered seeing the Monkey World sign and quickly became obsessed with working at Monkey World, I applied for a job there. Soon a letter arrived with the Monkey World logo on, I’d got an interview at bloody Monkey World. I had it all planned out, work at Monkey World, surf and live in Bournemouth. I never did make it to my Monkey World interview because the next plan introduced itself. It’s probably a good job really because I often have uncontrollable laughter about monkeys that becomes very unfunny for others after about 10 minutes. There doesn’t even need to be a monkey within ten miles of me for this to happen, and yes I did just say Monkey World as many times as you think!
Work the Festivals
Before I could take Monkey World any further a letter arrived followed by a quick day trip to Salisbury for an interview and a job offer. Suddenly everything had changed. Here was the opportunity to work our asses off in summer for 18 weeks (they said), work 90 hours a week (they said) and we’d be begging for a day off (they said) have the winter off and come back in time for the next season (I thought) and so the idea of The Perfect Year was born.
I planned my Perfect Year, starting in September I would visit the European WSL tour stops, I even booked a hotel in Hossegar for the Roxy pro and made plans with Landlocked Surf Girl . After that I’d go to Canaries and Morocco for the European Autumn before heading out to Central and South America after Christmas for the rest of the year. I planned to spend some time in Cost Rica and get a sloth as a pet. At last I felt a massive sense of freedom and relief, like I could breath, a weight had been lifted off my chest. This was it.
As I made plans, wrote lists and looked at dates I could finish work to start the events season I got an email detailing the work schedule for the summer and my heart sank. There were huge 20 day long gaps with no events, they’d told massive porkies! With this schedule I wouldn’t even break even and no way would I be able to have a perfect year. After speaking to the porky tellers I reluctantly had to accept that this was not my route and I got into bed for 2 days and hid from my distinctly non sandy belly buttoned, landlocked existence.
Look Right under My Nose
After about a week of succumbing to feeling really miserable about my plans falling to pieces and fear of never being able to sample a life of surfing a really simple idea came to me from out of nowhere, I was just going to ask my boss about a 4 month sabbatical so I could at least salvage some of the perfect year. Why hadn’t I thought of it before?
As I found myself typing the email I realised this was not the solution I was looking for. What would happen after the four months? I know people will think why you don’t just go, jack it all in and deal with things as they happen. I’m not in the right position to do that for many reasons. The last time I took off with no plan or money I was only 25. That is not what I want now. Things change, needs change and what we are comfortable with changes. I was looking for a way of having long term security and freedom not a short lived high and I knew there was a way. So, I deleted some of the email I had composed and on 25th March I typed to my boss……
I’d like to talk to you about a permanent possible change to my working hours can we make a time to meet?
In the meantime, because I knew whatever happened I had to get mobile, I started driving lessons. I gave myself a 5 week goal to get my test passed. On 27th April I passed my test and 5 days later collected my car, The Baked Bean. Somehow, things were starting to look like they were about to fall into place!
Finally, last Friday I received this letter…………………………..
So there we have it, freedom and security. After all the trying this and trying that I found my Endless Summer right under my nose and it really will be endless as I have this freedom every year. I get to keep my little flat and my life here. I never really wanted to leave I just wanted more time to surf. I get to stay working in a pretty cool job but, I’ll have 13 weeks a year to do whatever the hell I want! I might even be able to revisit some of those other plans I made. Maybe you will see the Chubby Chargers on a beach in Fuerte staying at Casa Surfabella next summer, who knows?
In pursuit of whatever it is I’m trying to do, as I’m still not sure what it is exactly apart from surf more , I have finally carved a path to the beach. I still have no idea what I’m going to do when I get there but, as long as I have my board, some waves and a belly button full of sand then I’ll know I’m on the right track.
To Deepest Darkest Wales, Alone
All these months I have been focussed on raising some funds, passing my driving test and buying a car so I could surf whenever I want and my imagination has been creating images akin to an advert for Roxy or Magners cider. As soon as I was able to get to the surf everything would be perfect. The picture in my head was of bronzed, beautiful people (oh yes, I’m one of them) basking in the post surf, golden glow of sunset. There are campfires at the beach in the evening and bbq’s , laughter, chatter and a guitar, of course there is always a guitar. Oh what joy it was going to be and what a massive, beautiful, cliché!
Then as soon as I got the car last week the reality suddenly hit. I’m surfing on the Gower in Wales on the next bank holiday at the end of May and there is no supporting cast, there are no people to meet at the campsite or fairly lights around the bell tent, it’s highly likely to be raining, I’m white and pasty, I’ll more than likely be cold all weekend and I’m going to be doing this completely on my own.
A Million Ways to Die in the West
I’m scared of surfing on my own at places I don’t know, and I’m so shit at it anyway I doubt I’ll get chatting to anyone in the water as they will all be out the back, far from this idiot. On top of that, I’ve got my new board that I won’t even be able to stand up on. What if I get hit on the head by my board? I’ll be fish food!
I have never lit a BBQ myself, there’s always someone to do that when I go away with my inland, mountain goat friends. What if I starve? What if I’m driven by hunger to eat raw sausages and I get sick and die in my tent ?
More importantly, I’m not sure I can put my tent up on my own. What if I can’t do it and it leaks or blows away while I’m surfing, I’ll die of cold and exposure!
What about the nights? I’ve been on surf trips ‘on my own’ before but, I wasn’t really alone. This isn’t surf camp where you are in a happy surf gang all day and meet a never ending rotation people or even a friendly hostel. This is properly on your own. The worst bit is not having someone to laugh with about the wipe outs and to talk shit and drink red wine with until bed time. What do you do, go to bed when you’ve had your tea? It’s a long day from 8am until sleep time for 3 days. What if I get to day 2 and I’m bored or lonely? What if I get scared at night camping. There are wild beasts in Wales you know. What the hell am I doing?
Well, I guess I have to start somewhere and this is where it all begins, I’m the new kid on the block. Finding surf friends does not happen overnight. There are Surf Senioritas in the area so hopefully I’ll meet some of them and that will stop me being eaten by a pack of wild dogs and nobody knowing until they find my gnawed bones and a pile of hair in my tent! I’m going to get a BBQ/pit fire lesson from one of the chaps at home, what better excuse for a meat fest. I’ll forget the roof rack and stick Malcom in passenger seat, ( maybe I’ll print out Ryan Goslings face and glue it to Malcom, he can be my friend) and I’ll be putting my tent up in the living room to check I can do it without help.
Maybe I’ll hate every minute of the first trip, maybe I’ll love it. Who knows? It’s an adventure, sometimes it’s going to work out, sometimes it isn’t. If I channel Cheryl from the book Wild I’m sure I’ll get through it. She didn’t know what she was doing at first either.
What’s this? It’s not really in the wilds of Wales? There’s a café selling bacon butties on the campsite? Pubs in the village close by? It’s a really popular campsite with surfers and it’s always busy? ST the surf chick lives in a cottage just up the road in case I’m really in the shit? I could join an organised lesson if I really wanted to? Oh and it’s a no dog campsite so I won’t get eaten by a pack of dogs? So, this drama could be for no reason? Fab, maybe it’s going to be great after all.
If anyone is at Hill End during the next bank holiday, look out for me. Orange car, looks like a baked bean and a red and black tent, I’m small and round and will be crying while eating a raw sausage with my arm round a surfboard with Ryan Gosling’s face on it!
Unfortunately my much anticipated trip was temporarily cancelled due to some serious floods in the Agadir region but, was reinstated a few days later as Surfstar Morocco had managed to get operational. So, with a few hours notice I booked a flight from Manchester to have a quick 4 night trip and I found myself at Agadir airport where I was picked up by Bahs one of the surf instructors.
The drive through Agadir really brought home that I had crossed into a different continent; the look, the atmosphere, the what seems like chaotic roads and driving that works perfectly well somehow, the buildings, the dress of the people, the fleeting sound of people’s voices as we speed past, the odd goat at the side of the road, roadside stalls, smells wafting from cafes into the van window. It’s a feeling I love and haven’t felt for a while. Like much of North Africa it’s a little shall we say, different to what Europeans are used to. For many including me this, along with the warmth and hospitality of the people is what is so charming and appealing about Morocco.
We pulled off the coast road and up a winding hill to the SurfStar house to be enthusiastically greeted like old friends by Lucie, Pip and Laura and to be told that as it was only 1pm they were going to get us fed, settled into our rooms and get us shipped off to the beach for a quick surf asap. So far so brilliant!
I was overwhelmed as Laura gave us the welcome tour at just how gorgeous the Surfstar house is, especially the first time I walked into the covered rooftop lounge/eating area. I love fairly lights so this was an easy win for me. The view from the outdoor roof terrace, the enchanting sounds of Morocco in the background as the sun dips into the sea. My room was equally lovely and I was spoilt by having it all to myself. Although, the whole house is so spacious I imagine even during busier times it never feels horribly full.
I had the almost full package (everything apart from yoga) which included meals, surf, room and airport transfers. The food was fantastic. I feel a bit bad that I don’t remember the names of the chefs, they are all local, the food is delicious and they are always smiling. Breakfast of yummy local bread, jam, fruit, cereal and sometimes eggs was a great start to the day and the coffee was divine. Lunch was brought to the beach and evenings were 3 courses, soups, salad, chicken and lamb tagines, cous cous, chocloate mousse, all really good post surf healthy home cooked food. One night a week it’s the kitchen’s night off so we headed out for pizza in Taghazout, 2 miles away by taxi.
The surfing itself consists of a prompt 9.30am departure and setting up a full on camp on arrival at the surf spot with little umbrellas and cooler boxes full of food. There’s friendly beach dogs playing and running around looking for a fuss or for you to throw stones for them to fetch, there’s camels that you can ride, herds of little goats (but they are disappointingly not in trees) and a zillion cats hanging around the fishing shacks. At Devil’s rock you can get a great cafe au lait for a euro in the little beach cafe a few steps from the surf. This really is a full day of surfing, arriving at the surf spot around 9.45am and leaving around 4.30pm. The morning consists of a proper lesson and after lunch is followed by free surfing in the afternoons. The guys are on hand on the beach making sure everyone is ok but leave you to get on and practice. I had teachers Barak, Bahs and Khaleed and Boba the photographer was always there with a word of encouragement too. I definitely progressed during my 4 days and only wished I could have had longer. I’m someone who needs a few days to build their confidence back up again after a break from surfing so I felt like I was just getting into the swing of things and it was time to leave.
It was nice to see Lucie, Laura and Pip take advantage of a quiet week and join us for a surf too. I got very attached to my big green board that we named ‘the hulk’ and to my fellow surf buddies, two awesome guys from Germany and an American bloke who called me ‘the hulk’ . The waves were a bit dodgy the first two days on account of the storms that had just passed but, after that they were some of the cleanest conditions I’d surfed in. So much so that my dodgy shoulder behaved itself as I wasn’t in a paddle battle with the ocean to get back out on my giant board.
On my last day I felt quite emotional leaving, I’d only been there 4 days but I felt a real bond. I also felt refreshed and stoked from the surf. As a 40 year old very wobbly improver travelling alone I had been worried about whether a surf camp was for me, would I fit in and would I find common ground with people, would I be the oldie left in the corner? I had nothing to worry about. If you want to go to bed at 8.30pm go, I won the prize for first to bed every night and was very proud of my status! And of course the comedy of surfing crosses cultures, languages and ages. There’s so much potential for making a buffoon of yourself while surfing that doing it together instantly creates a bond and limitless material for banter at dinner time.
As my flight was at 8pm they let me stay surfing until the last minute at 4pm. I came back to the house to grab my stuff and say bye to Lucie, Pip and Laura. On coming down the stairs for the last time I stopped purposefully at a certain point to take in a deep breath and commit how I felt to memory. You see, there’s a smell when you walk into the ground floor of Surfstar Morocco, just as you pass the stairs down to the basement. It’s a smell that almost knocks you off your feet. Forevermore when I get hit with the smell of neoprene I’ll always remember walking down the beautiful tiled stairwell getting ready for the days surfing just about to start and how happy, relaxed, welcome and at home I felt.
Tamraght offers access to all of the same surf as it’s famous neighbour Taghazout but, it’s quieter, cleaner and less busy. I’m afraid I can’t comment on the yoga as it wasn’t scheduled for the week I was there but, it is available and information is on the website. If like me you have avoided surf houses because of some of the shenanigans going on and poor accommodation then fear not! Surfstar is a million miles away from this. I’m planning to go back again with my bloke surf mate and cannot wait to see the place in full swing with more people gathered around the dinner table and more people to have a laugh with, it’s certainly going to be different to my first visit but, I’m excited all the same.
Surfstar has a relaxing and inclusive feel and there is an established, brilliant team that work hard to nurture this. They seem to genuinely care about each other and the guests and have a passion for surfing, hospitality and people. Lucie and Mo have created a warm family environment and once you arrive you are in the Surfstar family and you will be going back!
Click here for SurfStar website
Booking enquiry here be sure to mention Surfabella or Clare UK in the ‘how did you find us’ box
For flights check skyscanner for all countires and airlines flying to Agadir