Happy International Surfing Day!
Surfing means everything to us at Offshore Surf. To celebrate, we took co-founder and head surf coach Mbarek for lunch at the lovely Babakoul cafe to have a chat. Well-respected in the area for being a phenomenal surf coach and all-round legend, Mbarek is an admired and influential member of the local surf community for his talent, experience and enthusiasm for coaching.
With a decade of surf instructing under his belt, Mbarek has plenty of wisdom and stories to share. We talk early days, tackling the plastic crisis and becoming a father.
How did you get into surfing?
I was 19. I always wanted to surf but it was never easy. Surfing is not our first sport in Banana Village, but I grew up swimming in the river, and was a big fan of being in the water. In the summer we would see the surfers and wanted to go. I only managed to go surfing when I could work and save money and buy a board, and also because then I was responsible! The waves are big in the winter and there were no lifeguards.
How did you find the learning process of surfing?
It was fun! I learned to surf on a semi gun (laughs). It was the only surfboard I could find so I stuck with it and learned how to surf it. I didn’t do research, I just took it in the water! For me surfing was a turning point, because I was so happy. Finding it hard was part of the fun. It’s exciting when you find something hard.
Why is surfing important to you?
It’s important because it’s not just a sport to me. It’s a place where you go as meditation, you forget all your problems and it helps you to connect to nature and understand the environment. Of course for me now it’s my living! I didn’t plan this – I started surfing because it was fun. The more you surf the more you get attached, it becomes your lifestyle, where you travel, it’s very important.
What’s the biggest wave you’ve ever caught?
It was at Anchor Point about three years ago, it was around four meters. I will always remember this wave, I dropped in and it started to barrel, I grabbed the rail and I didn’t have any choice so I stayed inside! I was in the tube like nothing was happening, but when I came out everyone was cheering. It’s a good thing when friends are there to cheer you on.
What’s your pre-surf ritual?
I love to practice yoga, but recently I have been standing with my eyes closed on the beach. You can fix some things mentally and focus on what you need to correct. I recommend everyone stand up on the beach and visualise your surfing before, if you want to learn a new skill.
What do you love to do when you’re not surfing?
I love to go and explore the mountains. It’s the foot of the atlas mountains behind our surf camp, just a few houses and you’re in the mountains. I like to practice yoga, I like to go running and watch football. You need things when there’s no surf!
I hear you’re going to become a father soon – Congratulations! Do you think this will affect your surfing?
It’s the moment of truth! I don’t think having kids changes anything when it comes to surfing. Nothing will change – Charlotte surfs too so we will all be going to the beach. I’m very excited! They’ll be the next Moroccan champion (laughs).
What do you think of the plastic crisis?
We need to start the change now! We, the surfers, are the first community that get affected by it. We are surfing in it. We need to come together to make change. We need more awareness!
What are you doing to tackle awareness?
We email our guests to ask them to bring reusable water bottles so we don’t waste plastic. We also recently started a Facebook page during Ramadan called Pick Up Trash Challenge, where we challenge friends to pick up a bag of trash, share a selfie and tag three friends.