WESTERN SAHARA, in between swells

Photos (most of the good ones at least): Dave Fleming

Geography crash course: Western Sahara is an ex-Spanish Colony between Mauritania and Morocco, now under Moroccan control with possibly a bit of tension between all neighbouring countries to agree on the fate of this area. ..But nothing so palpable at the time, despite an excessive amount of security checks all along the stretch of coastline. I must say, I had never heard of it!

(Unusual) Day 1 of the trip: We were driving from Agadir  towards the Sahara, stopped in Aglou for a surf in standard 3ft beach break conditions, very excited to be surfing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. After 45min, the surf got better, a bit more hollow, I pulled into a close-out wave, wiped out as I often do, paddled back for a wave, but this time I had a hole on my foot (from the fin most probably), a little bit longer & deeper than I would have hoped. That will teach me for buying fancy fins for which I can hardly feel the difference!  An hour later I was in hospital.

Obviously it was quite a rudimentary hospital, but I felt relaxed and amused by my new surroundings. Exactly 4 weeks earlier I got a hole in my face from my surfboard, from which I could blow water…so I knew that a hole in my foot would be easier to stitch up.

There was no one in reception so I hopped down some not-so-hospital-looking corridors to find some help. A young guy, not necessarily looking like he worked there, asked me to follow him into a room, opened the door, looked inside, closed the door, looked at me and casually said, “ Il y a un cadavre!” (there is a corpse!). He left me there waiting in front of the door for 5 or 10min, came back, and let me in. I lay down on a deck chair-looking plastic hospital bed, perpendicular to an older man’s body, partially covered by an old yellowing bed sheet. The young guy looked at me, and at the cadaver, and calmly said in French with a strong Arabic accent and a cheeky smile: “he is dead”. Somehow it didn’t feel sad, almost comical – don’t ask me why.

Ibrahim the nurse walked in and asked what happened and what a surfboard is. I explained that it is like an ironing board with shark fins underneath to go along on waves. “But you must cut yourself  all the time”, he said. Not a silly assumption I thought.  11 stitches later, I hopped back to the car and got back to Aglou. After a few days I became an alright “hopper”…but getting up dunes was not easy.  The next 10 days was filled with good ol’times thanks to our great crew of poms, Irish, Moroccans and the Sheik, our Iranian-Dutch born-again surfer!  Yes the swell didn’t cooperate, which made my situation less frustrating, but the uniqueness of the places made up for it.

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