Morocco with a baby

Words Sally McGee

Seven months into being a mother I was reaching breaking point. Breast-feeding was taking it’s toll on me and I wasn’t sleeping for more than an hour at a time. Our little boy was in bed with us most nights and although this was lovely in many ways, I was starting to lose the plot. Where had my freedom gone?

How on earth would I ever have the energy to surf the way I had pre-child. My first surf after giving birth was an ill-advised two weeks later in the depths of the North East winter; surfing is my sanity. I was loving being a Mum but it was a massive shock to the system. Grabbing an hour or so surfing before or after teaching surf lessons for myself wasn’t quite cutting it. I needed the full immersion. I needed that feeling of surfing in my sleep; or maybe I just needed some sleep.

The way our family finances are organised is pretty simple; make hay while the sun shines. We’ve always put surf trips as a priority. I’d love a carpet in the hallway and a new work top in the kitchen but there’s no point in any of that if we’re not surfing. That feels too much like adult submission.

So just like that, we’d been back from our first six-week family surf trip to Bali and New Zealand for a couple of weeks over Christmas and our boards were back in the bag ready for ten days in Morocco. That was an impulse booking; cheap flights and a knowledge of the area meant it would be an easy one and not too much of a stretch financially.

We arrived at Agadir, picked up our worryingly new looking rental car, loaded the boards and headed to Taghazout for the first time in five years wondering what changes we would face in the crazy, quaint little surf town. The entire road to the village from the South was gone; there was a new bypass and acres of new development between Banana Village and Taghazout itself. It all looked unfinished and uninhabited but it begged the question of who it was for and what the area would look like when it is all finished and occupied.

Leaving a snowy Manchester Airport and arriving to a warm Moroccan evening was a very satisfying feeling. The flight itself was more exhausting for us than Billy, we kept him entertained and he was great for most part. The apartment on Hash Point with views over the village and Anchor Point was the perfect hub for the ten day trip. It was clear from day one that we were going to struggle to keep our 14 month old in line with his normal routine. It was a case of weighing up the benefits; being outdoors, playing in nature all day, being around surfing with happy parents but perhaps having a later night, or staying at home with the right bedtime in the minus temperatures playing indoors or too many restrictive layers keeping him warm to play. Bali and New Zealand already confirmed that answer for us; outdoors wins.

The days were repetitive; up early as usual with Billy, Weetabix for him, coffee for us. We’d stop at the bread lady on the way up to check the infamous Moroccan point breaks up the coast; with bread and Amlou in the dusty car park for us, a Banana for Billy. We would wait for the tide or the crowd to thin and time a morning surf. One of us surfed while the other played with Billy on the reef or Tom would film while the Billy slept in a sling. Billy was happy; stacking stones, spotting boats, throwing stones, rock pooling, making new friends, pointing at dogs, devouring beautiful fresh oranges and getting some winter vitamin D.

After lunch and another surf somewhere. We avoided Anchor, Killers the other closer reefs to Tagazhout and opted for sketchier tides at the further away reefs to beat the crowds; I got one difficult to access point break overhead completely alone one day. I only surfed with another girl once in ten days; despite the sometimes painful numbers of people in the water. Which always surprises me. The points were fast, shallow and tricky to read with urchin covered reefs. There were some dings to boards and ourselves as a result but we surfed some amazing waves.

Evening times were a tagine at the regular haunt, or a night with friends and the duty-free rum. Billy would get picked up, kissed, fussed over in the village; he always looked bemused, like it was some kind of joke everyone was in on. He’d shout at the call to prayer and the kids in the square would humour him as he waddled around crashing into their football every so often.

We’d been warned not to take a baby to Morocco. We are so glad we didn’t listen. These trips are memorable; special. They give me a sense of who I am; and who we are as a family. It doesn’t matter if it’s Bali, Morocco, Scotland or somewhere closer to home. Surf trips will always be the best.  

Five Tips to Surf Travel with a Baby.

1. You don’t need as much as you think. 
In warmer climates, things will dry in the afternoons, your child can easily wear the same things over and ever. We took a sling instead of a pram and the rental car company had a child seat for us. We take a bag of toys and make up games with things we find, like collecting and sorting. It’s always great to bring a couple of local toys back as a reminder of your travels.

2. It’s a great chance to get your kids to experiment with new types of cuisine.
Billy loved the Tagines in Morocco and fell in love with Nasi Goreng in Bali. The availability of incredible fresh fruit in both of these places was amazing. If in doubt, omelettes are always a safe bet and easy to pack with healthy fresh veg. You don’t need packets or pouches. Just take raisins for the plane and try some local dried or fresh fruit when you get there. Most countries sell a surprising amount of familiar baby stuff anyway.

3. What to do while you surf.
This one is most relevant if both the Mum and Dad surf. It depends where you are going but for us, one of would surf and the other would look after Billy on the reef or in the rock pools. For us, this meant going for walks, collecting things like shells and pebbles, learning new words, playing in rock pools, learning to throw stones and make little piles and clambering on rocks. We’ve never seen a happier baby than a filthy one, thats for sure.

4. What about the routine?
For us, we made sure we had the comfort and consistency of a bedtime routine, but we switched the times around depending on what we wanted and needed to do. Staying up late and walking the streets, taking it all in and socialising is a great experience for a baby. He never cried once going in his cot at night; he was so exhausted by the day that he was happy to sleep.

5. Book it and follow through.
Don’t over think it. Just book it and worry about the finer details later. Admittedly, we went to Bali, NZ and Taghazout this winter instead of more remote destinations with less crowds. This made it easier in many ways with a baby as you are never too far away from everything you might need. Next time we will be more willing to go further off the beaten track.

You hear that they don’t remember these times but it most certainly shapes them.

Sally McGee is a surfer from the NE of England who runs a women’s surf school providing lessons and camps trying to encourage more women to get in the sea and support each other. For more info visit / @surfyonder