Morocco’s female surfing population is growing, but many girls are still discouraged because of conventional family beliefs and economic limitations.
In order to completely comprehend what it’s like to pursue such a passion as a Moroccan woman, Vice Belgium conducted an interview with Moroccan women who surf in Rabat.
Morocco’s surfing scene, long dominated by men, has been gradually opening up to women, especially in the last five years, according to Chadi Lahrioui, the manager of a surf club on Oudayas Beach and a multiple Moroccan and African surfing champion.
This year, in early April, the Oudayas beach in Rabat was a hive of activity the day following Eid. In the midst of tourists, amateur football games, and family get-togethers, scores of surfers are in the water searching for the perfect wave.
For eight years, 31-year-old professor of language and communication Randa El Amraoui has been a surfer.
El Amraoui attributes the rise in popularity of surfing in the nation to Instagram pictures featuring both local and international girls riding waves.
On the other hand, Meknes native Zainab Rabbaa, 24, has always been sporty. An avid football and swimming player, Rabbaa traveled to Rabat to pursue a PhD in applied arts, which is where she first found surfing. Next on her list was a trip to Taghazout, a popular beach town in southern Morocco that is well-known for its surf.
Although the sport is growing in popularity among women, being a woman on the beach in Morocco often comes with complications. “When I go with just a female friend, we sometimes meet hostile people,” Rabaa says. “But if I go with a guy, everything is fine.”
“When people see you with a surfboard, they don’t approach you, there’s no more sexual harassment,” explained El Amraoui.
There are other factors that affect female surfers besides the sporadic negative looks from beachgoers.
Rabaa said that Moroccan families are more afraid of men than waves.
Although women are becoming more interested in surfing in towns like Rabat, the activity is still largely associated with men, according to Meriam Cheikh, an anthropologist who studies dissension among young, lower-class Moroccans, who spoke with Vice.
When people do decide to join, according to Cheikh, it’s usually more out of a desire to hang out with their male friends, siblings, or cousins than a rejection of conventional gender standards.
Nevertheless, in Morocco, where sports like basketball, handball, football, and athletics are far more common, surfing remains a fairly marginal subculture.
Since it’s a sport that ladies participate in for themselves, they actually benefit from a “positive valorization,” according to Cheikh.