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Othmane Choufani

The crown jewel of Moroccan surfing comes to life

The head of the snake unleashes its venom once again.

While all eyes have been on Nazare, Supertubos and other European surfing hotspots this winter, across the way in Northern Africa the point breaks of Morocco have been quietly doing their thing, pumping out long right hand walls and tubes.

The swell that hit Morocco last month saw its crown jewel, Safi, also known as “the head of the snake”, come to life and local charger Othmane Choufani was on hand to make the most of it. We spoke to Othmane to get the low down on how winter has been in Morocco.

“The swell that hit Morocco last month was one of the biggest swells of the season, it was north-west so it wasn’t the best craziest direction for Safi but it was big enough, which is the reason I went there,” he said.

Othmane charming the head of the snake during that special session in February. Video: Ian Tavares.

“The waves on the Saturday were fun and I felt like the sandbar was getting better throughout the day. Sunday was pretty fun too, there were a few crazy corners but it was a north-west swell so not all the waves were crazy good, some of them didn’t barrel, some were running too fast but overall It was the best Safi of the season.

“I got one really long barrel first thing in the morning, I paddled out in the dark at like 7.30am and I waited until a set came, it was the first one that came to me and I decided to go and I had a really nice barrel, probably one of my deepest there, but it was my only barrel on the wave, usually you get a few barrels but I was still super stoked,” he added.

As with most swell events, there was a strong crowd of hungry locals and visiting surfers, who all wanted a chance at threading some of the heaviest barrels in Morocco.

The line-up included well-known names such as Othmane, Nic Von Rupp, Matt Bromley and Mikey February – who Othmane said he was particularly impressed with.

“Mikey was ripping the bag out of it, it was crazy to see him doing mean turns and getting some crazy barrels. I was also impressed with Liam Sahyoun, he’s 15-years-old and he was out there catching set waves. It’s a really heavy wave so I was impressed.”

The power of Safi is evident in any footage you see of the right-hand freight train. A couple of years ago big wave star Billy Kemper fell victim to that force when he suffered a serious injury, which left him almost unable to walk after catching his rail while pulling into a dredging barrel at Safi.

While this winter in Morocco has not reached the heights of the waves Billy and others scored during that strike mission, Othmane said there has been plenty to go around.

“The waves in Morocco this winter have been really fun, we had a crazy run of west swell early on around November time and the sandbars in the Taghazout region were very good so everybody scored some nice waves from mid-November to December and then it went flat around Christmas, but turned on in January and February.”

Nic Von Rupp, Othmane and others scoring reeling rights at Anchor Point.

Othmane isn’t usually home for extended periods of time and is often found chasing swells across the globe from Nazare to Hawaii and anywhere in between. However, he said he was “super stoked” to spend more time at home this winter.

“I was surfing Jaws and Mavericks in early October and then I went to Hawaii for the Eddie Aikau ceremony, but besides that I’ve not done any other trips. I’ve just stayed at home waiting for something big this winter or something crazy in Hawaii but as you know there was no Jaws, or a big swell with the right wind this winter so it was a good one to be at home and enjoy.

“I’m thinking of heading to Nazare soon, hopefully there is one more swell before the season ends, I’d love to paddle there again as it’s one of my favourite things to do.

“Other than that, I’m hoping to do a few strike missions this summer, maybe Indo, Fiji, Teahupoo, or Mexico for a big swell. I’m also going to train at home for next winter as this year I really wanted to spend more time in Morocco and enjoy being with my family. I was getting a bit tired of travelling but I feel really energised now after spending all this time at home and ready to go again on the road and strike somewhere.”

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