Ever dreamt about what it would be like to chuck in your job, head to a coast with consistent waves and build a life around the surf?
For many this remains a dream, but for a bold few a life based around the sport we love becomes a reality. Ever on the lookout for inspirational figures, we thought we'd speak to a few of them to find out what it's really like to go out on a limb and live your surfing dream.
First up, Sophie Crowley, ex-university lecturer and now the owner of Azrac Surf Camp in Taghazout, Morocco.
Sophie Crowley in dreamland
When did you leave the UK and what prompted your decision to do it?
I left the UK in August 2012. I had a great job, lived in a beautiful place with great friends around me, and Welsh waves on my doorstep. But I had seriously itchy feet and had an urge to go and live in a foreign country.
You didn’t go straight to Morocco, but spent a few years in France – what did you do there and how was your experience?
I said goodbye to Wales and headed to France with my whole life packed into my little van and a good friend in the passenger seat. We spent two weeks exploring the west coast, stopping only to surf and eat, until we reached Hossegor. With a few French surfs in tow, I said ‘au revoir’ to my buddy Charlotte, and drove 500km inland to my new home. I spent 7 months in a cute little French village, where I worked in some local schools as an English assistant. Having spent the longest stint inland since having started surfing, I decided that I needed to be near the ocean. I found a job as a photographer and surf assistant at a family run surf camp, and spent the summer surfing, fine tuning my French and exploring the beautiful coastline.
Soph's surfmobil, circa 2012
What prompted the decision to move to Morocco?
France is an amazing country, with so much culture and some amazing surf spots, and at the time I had imagined that this would be where I would settle down. I had built up a small selection of regular clients for private English classes, had a nice group of friends, and was living my dream. But there was always something that kept pulling me back to Morocco.
I’d had a few job offers, but I turned them down to move to Morocco, where I didn’t have a job or a place to live, but I booked my one way ticket and decided that it was the right thing to do.
Morocco - you can see the appeal
How was your experience of finding work and setting up a life for yourself in Morocco?
The Taghazout/Tamraght area has a vibrant surf community, and the local people are so warm and welcoming, you never want to leave! Arriving without a job didn’t scare me, and knew that if that was where I was meant to be, it would all work out. After spending some time surfing and enjoying the beautiful country, I eventually secured myself a job teaching English in a local language center.
So after a couple of years of working for other people you’ve gone out on your own and have started Azrac Surf Camp. What was your thinking behind that?
Since moving to Morocco, I met my Moroccan boyfriend Morad who is a surf instructor. He grew up at the beach, and surfing is his life. Surfing is a big part of our lives and Morocco holds a big place in both our hearts. We wanted to share our passion and to show the ‘real’ magic of Morocco. We had already worked at surf camps before, and decided why not do it for ourselves?
Sophie and Morad - blurry but stoked!
Tell us a little more about your camp. What can someone coming to stay expect?
We are based in the beautiful village of Tamraght – a few minutes from Taghazout and just across from the beach – and some great surf spots! We offer everything – from surf lessons to full surf and yoga packages, with meals and accommodation included, suitable for all levels of surfer and yogis!
Morad is an ISA qualified instructor, with years of experience surfing and of teaching surfing to a range of abilities and nationalities. Being Moroccan, he speaks Arabic and French, but he has also mastered English and German – he is the only local instructor in the area who speaks fluent German. Morocco is a great place to surf, with all year round sunshine, plenty of swell in the winter months and nice mellow waves in the summer. Our guests are put up in our beautiful Moroccan Riad, based in the center of the village, and just a short walk to the beach.
We search for the best waves in the area, then set up camp there and spend the day surfing and chilling on the beach. We also offer sunset Vinyasa yoga sessions - a great way to stretch and bliss out after a full day of surfing. For those who want to explore more of the area, we also provide day trips to Paradise Valley – a great spot in the mountains with natural pools and palm trees.
A day trip to Paradise Valley
We often do road trips North to Immesouane - a chilled surf village with Morocco’s longest wave. It’s a beautiful drive along the windy coastal roads, and great for spotting the goats that climb the trees for the Argan fruit – only seen in Morocco! Guests can also enjoy a traditional Hammam scrub and Argan Oil massage (included as complimentary in our surf and yoga package).
What have the hardest things been about starting Azrac Surf Camp?
Starting your own business is never easy – it’s stressful, expensive, time consuming. But when you work for yourself, it’s so much more rewarding to see the results first hand and makes all the stresses part of the journey. All the money we earn goes back into the business – buying surfboards, wetsuits and other essentials so that our guests have a stress free holiday and a great range of boards and the best quality equipment to choose from.
Morad, considering his equipment
And what are the best things?
Meeting and spending time with amazing people, watching them fall in love with Morocco, then returning again and again. Sharing our love of surf and Morocco with others, surfing at some world-class surf spots just on our doorstep, exploring and going on adventures up the coast.
What would you say is the biggest lesson(s) you’ve learned since leaving the UK?
Life starts at the edge of your comfort zone. It’s always good to push yourself and see where it takes you in life. If there’s something you want to pursue, it’s better to try and fail than be too scared to even try in the first place. I’m also really lucky that I have such supportive family and friends.
Life starts at the edge of your comfort zone. Local shredder, well beyond the edge.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to head out and live their surfing dream, but is a little worried about doing it?
I meet so many people that tell me ‘You’re so lucky, I wish I could do what you do!’ But the truth is, they can! I feel so lucky and privileged to call this beautiful place my home, but I also chose to come here and chose to make it happen. And it’s the best choice I ever made! Anyone who has a gut feeling – if it’s that they need to leave home, travel, live in a random country, quit their job and fulfil their passion - should run with it. Don’t call it a dream, call it a plan!
Win a free holiday for two to Azrac Surf! Enter our competition before 31st Dec 2016! Details here:
Enjoy this post? We'd be stoked if you'd give it a share!
Follow Johnny on the Spot on Facebook or Twitter.
Surf writer? Surf photographer? Got an opinion to share or a surf related product to tell the world about? Why not become a Contributor to our blog? Email email@example.com with the subject heading Submission.