Reaching the sleepy Moroccan port town of Tarfaya takes roughly a day from the country’s north. Here, a group of young water sports enthusiasts have set up a surf camp and café by the name of “Nuevas Olas,” or New Waves. They are teaching local youngsters to surf, and offer a place where water sports enthusiasts can socialize and swap ideas. Salim Maatoug is the organization’s director, Hossin Ofan coordinates the surf school activities.
The two had dreamed of opening a surf camp for a long time. Then, eventually, authorities allowed them to set up shop in their current location. The two young men took out a bank loan to buy surf boards, wet suits, and equip their café.
They had promised themselves to help the people of Tarfaya. “We made a deal: anyone who ever visits Tarfaya must return some day to support the town,” Maatoug, a former Marrakech tour guide, told reporters.
So far, more than 100 local children ― boys and girls ― have completed their free surf classes. But their altruism doesn’t end there.
The seasoned surfers also give English and Spanish lessons to youngsters. They hope this will boost their chances of one day finding work in Morocco. With job prospects slim in the north African country, many young people take treacherous boat journeys to Europe, looking to make a better life for themselves abroad. Thousands have drowned attempting the passage.
Many Moroccan parents are therefore wary of the ocean. But Nuevas Olas coaches soon dispelled their fears, winning them over.
At first, very few girls signed up for surf classes, with parents worrying about their safety at sea. Soon, after realizing the sport poses no danger, more girls began joining.
“Now, we have a large number of girls surfing,” Maatoug said. “They are the future of our club.” He hopes that one day, a woman will lead the surf school.
The 9,000-inhabitant town offers very few opportunities to earn a living. Hossin Ofan makes ends meet working as a fisherman. His twin brother Lahcen works at a gas station.
Last year, then-US President Donald Trump recognized Moroccan claims to sovereign over the Western Sahara ― even though most countries favor a UN-brokered solution tothe conflict. The Biden administration, meanwhile, so far is upholding US support for Morocco. It is not, however, clear whether the US will invest money in the regional phosphate and fishing industries.
This article was adapted from German.
Surf activists support Morocco’s young Wire Services/ Deutsche Welle.