I have joined Blast Kiteboarding for their annual 2 week trip to Essaouira in Morocco to try and remind myself how to kite and get my confidence back before I set out on my roadtrip.
As guests of Explora, we had access to beach-side storage which made logistics much easier and also they were on hand to help out if we needed anything, as well as having a compressor for pumping up kites, as well as generally being a really friendly bunch. We stayed at the Riad that is I believe jointly owned with Kite Worldwide, which is great for such a big group of us, with breakfast provided and a town centre location, all the rooms are really clean and there’s a rooftop terrace for post-kite sunbathing. I really like the atrium feel as it is the primary source of light to the building.
The first day was particularly challenging conditions, with the wind direction meaning the wind was coming across the town making it pretty gusty. As I’m out of practise too, this meant that then additionally dealing with the waves led me to many faceplants and calling it quits at lunchtime, with the plan that little and often will improve my confidence better than nailing myself for 2 days and then not being able to kite at all for the rest of the trip.
The beach at Essaouira is actually pretty busy being so close to town. It seems like the kite centres are the hub of all outdoor activities, so from them you can also hire horses, camels, dune buggies or quad bikes for a trip down the beach. This meant the area around the kite centres is always very busy and you have to be careful not to accidentally land your kite on a tourist or camels when coming back in.
For the most part it is a sandy beach, although there are many pebbles further down. however, when the wind really picks up everything tends to get a bit sand blasted, so a buff or scarf is very helpful, because one day of exfoliation is enough!
The second day was much less gusty, but having gone out on my 7 I was a bit underpowered… until I was overpowered! The wind was just at the boundary between my two kite sizes (7m and 10.5m) so I wished I had a 9m, but I did manage to go toe side briefly a few times without falling in immediately, albeit because the kite had gone through the window too quickly for me to attempt a slide turn (which I need to work a bit more on too). I managed to stay out for 3 sessions before coming in for lunch around 3pm and again calling it quits to allow myself some time to consider what I had learnt.
I think I had been strangling the kite somewhat when I was struggling for power, and counterintuititvely, if I had put the bar out a little and let it fly, I would have got more power- although that is hard to action when your about to sink and there’s a big wave coming!
At this point my body decided a revolution was in order. I had felt a little off-colour when I came in for lunch, but eating had been a bad idea, as it came back up rather swiftly. So I made my way back to the Riad to sleep it off. Unfortunately, sleep didn’t not solve everything and I didn’t stop vomiting until about midnight, by which time my stomach muscles were completely exhausted and I had been through all the various temperatures.
The next day I just had a little fruit salad for breakfast, and thinking I was improving, joined the group for a trip to an alternative beach- Sidi Kaouki, despite not planning to kite. There is much less to do here when not kiting so there were far fewer people around and the day for me consisted of sunbathing and taking photos of the others. I had considered donning my wetsuit to do some video but my body wasn’t really interested in doing anything even remotely strenuous. One of the group managed to do a nice long downwinder that made us all worry for him, so Ray set off to rescue him, having haggled a nearby quadbike man to let him borrow a bike for 20 mins for about £10.
This beach was one that Marc had been to previously to surf, but had never kited at. It turns out that the cafes at the north end of the beach, which we camped behind to keep warm and out of the wind, created a challenging wind shadow for kiting. But because the beach is a few km long everyone just needed to make sure they launched and landed further down.
Having nibbled at a bit of pesto pasta at lunch, I found I was feeling incredibly rough again in time for the 20 minute taxi ride back into town, so after a little lemon sorbet at our go-to lunch place, I had another nap while everyone else was at the barbecue on the roof. The smell of food made me feel a little queasy, but by half 9 I was able to make an appearance, with my rehydration tablets and water.
By now the days had started to merge together with a daily routine of walking down to the beach, where we went for lunch, and being ready to go out for dinner by 7pm.
I found one day that the trailing edge of my 7m had basically fallen off, as the kite is so old that the fabric had just disintegrated, rather than the stitching coming undone. I covered it in rip-stop and went out for a session, but it basically peeled off so the guys at the centre arrange for a local repair man to have a look at it, and it was back by 5.30 the same day for £30.
The next day there was actually 10m weather, but on blowing up my kite I found that the stitching was starting to come undone on the leading edge. I was very much on the fence about using it in that condition, but eventually decided to go for it on the grounds that I had already wasted so much of the trip not kiting that I just needed to go in.
I had the best session of the trip so far! I managed to get out the back of the waves, despite the 3ft near vertical face of wave that needed surmounting to get out to it. The big rollers were intimidating if I looked around while sat in the water and a few times I surprised myself by riding down the side of one when I had kept my eyes focused on the horizon and hadn’t seen the trough coming.
I was not overpowered or underpowered, I started to remind myself how to slide turn and I managed to stay upwind so I didn’t have a big trapse back up the beach at the end! I was so happy that I wasn’t even phased by my accidental back-roll when a wave completely took my legs out from under me. It would have looked so much better if I had managed to keep the board on my feet though!
Meanwhile, others in the group were getting ill, which made us question whether it was food poisoning or a virus. My roommate had a much lighter version, having had similar last time she came and was good to go again in 2 days, rather than my slow 4. Some of the guys in the group were feeling out of sorts, but never quite got to full vomit stage, but then another lady got it the morning they were due to fly back. Bless her she was concentrating so hard when we said goodbye to her in the taxi, but apparently the flight and journey home wasn’t as bad as we had all feared.
Couple of days of no wind followed, in preparation for a big storm, so we went horseriding along the beach and through the sand dunes on Sunday and chilled out at the Rhiad on Monday.
The next week the wind got a little crazy, so I spent most days out on the water for a couple of hours in the morning only before it got too strong on a 7m with twin tip.
The illness continued being passed around, as did a few other tummy troubles but everyone managed to keep smiling. by the end of the trip I was knackered and needed a break before I set off on my road trip- but I had already booked the ferry so that wasn’t an option!
*Unfortunately I hadn’t managed to finish this post before my laptop issues so I apologise that the end is less detailed than week 1*