Photos by Jack Staley
Most pro surfers treat surf trips like business trips—fly in, fly out.
Which is soulless and doesn’t make me want to book a ticket at all. A bunch of mates posting up in Morocco for a month, complete with hash, tagine and the finest of righthand pointbreaks though, that’s a different matter entirely. And that’s exactly how Kai Hing, Jake Vincent and some of the Sunshine Coast’s finest spent February past.
Kai’d been to Morocco on a short trip a few years prior, and knew that the country was worthy of more time. Seeing that he’d been on the couch for silly season with a torn ACL, he figured that four weeks in the north-west of Africa might make a good rehab program. “As soon as I came back last time I knew I needed to get back and spend some time there,” Kai tells me from his home on the Sunny Coast. “I got a load of buddies from home and posted up for the whole of February. My first surf back was in Morocco in sick waves. It’s long waves too so you’re not really doing airs, which is good for the rehab.”
The boys stayed in Taghazout for the most part, equal distance from Anchors and Boilers—two of the gems of the Moroccan surf crown—and evidently, they scored. But this trip was about more than just surf, and Kai and the gang took the plunge into some local culture. Most notably in Essaouira, a city two and a bit hours north of the main surf zone. “I can’t explain how sick Morocco is,” Kai says whilst reminiscing about the food. “Homemade couscous that takes three hours to make, with fresh veggies, tagine in pots with whatever meat you wanted and all these veggies and juice at the bottom.” It hits me how refreshing it is to talk to a professional surfer who’s frothing more about local culture than the surf.
Morocco’s been on the hippie trail since the late ’60s, and asides from the abundance of culture, good food and all the rest, a local delicacy known as “kif” (finely chopped marijuana and indigenous tobacco) is one of the major contributing factors. Hashish is rife in the West African country, and the quality is high. Going to Morocco without sampling the local delicacy would be somewhat sacrilegious, so Kai and the boys indulged. Not that it seems to have had an adverse effect on the surfing. I asked Kai what he thought of surfing’s behind closed doors approach to herb consumption, and he said that he reckons that since it’s been legalised in California, it’s going to become more open. “You look at the skate industry and every one of their stories is them smoking spliffs and skating. Imagine in surf videos if you did that it’d be sick—as long as the footage is good though, if the footage is shit then you’d probably need to ease up on the spliffs,” he says, chuckling.
It’s a curious time to be a pro surfer. The web clip as a medium has more or less died, and there’s little in the way of physical magazines left for the photographic element of the job. I wonder how someone like Kai judges whether he’s doing a good job or not. “I don’t even really think of myself as a pro surfer,” he tells me. “I just want to travel and surf sick waves. Just keep it simple and go surf—that’s the way to do it.” And that’s what he plans to do this year. He’s just launched a new site with his filmmaker pal Luka Raubenheimer (thought my name was a mouthful), as a portal for keeping all the fun stuff in one place. Kai makes the point that given the frequency of content going up on the web, a film that you’ve spent months working on just disappears into the ether, so he figured returning to the golden days of the internet might just be the go. As far as other trips for the year, Kai’s planning to go to Nicaragua and Tassie to film the next cinematic instalments for his site. His voice lights up when explaining the Tasmania plans. “We’re going when Dark Mofo is on,” he says. “Gonna do a full winter surf trip, then put our djellabas (super warm Moroccan robes) on and go watch Electric Wizard.”