Souks, sea and surf: Riding giants in Morocco

Story highlights

  • Morocco becoming known as a surfer's paradise
  • Town of Essaouira used to do a big trade in fish; now it's famous for its surfing
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This article was originally published in March 2014.

Essaouira, Morocco (CNN)For many tourists, Morocco is best known for its historic cities, rugged landscape and sumptuous cuisine. But for surfers, it's fast becoming known for the crashing waves that pound its Atlantic coastline.

For decades, fish has been big business in Essaouira, the charming, former Portuguese settlement on the west coast of Morocco.
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    As stocks have depleted, however, the locals have started to shift their focus to more lucrative industries.
    While the seas no longer possess the riches they once did, for many inhabitants, they still represent a lifeline -- only now the biggest catch is the tourists riding the waves.
    Abdullah Aitdir is one of those who have taken advantage of this business opportunity. His father ran a grocery store in the nearby village of Taghazout, which Aitdir has converted into a surf school.
    "Surfing is more profitable," he explains. "Even if it's seasonal, it's still good."
    In recent years he has seen a move towards a more organized, better regulated surfing industry.
    Fishing village turned surfer's paradise
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    "It used to be chaos," says Aitdir. "Everyone would just come and try to [enter] the surfing industry without paying any taxes, and there were no regulations. Now, there are more rules," he adds.
    With Morocco boasting more than 300 sunshine days a year and 1,800 km of coastline, it's little wonder that surfing is proving profitable.
    Check out the gallery above and video below to see why Morocco is becoming a surfing hotspot.