A surfer in Sidi Kaouki, Morocco. A surfer in Sidi Kaouki, Morocco. A surfer in Sidi Kaouki, Morocco. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

Why you should visit a surf town even if you don’t surf

I accidentally ended up at surf towns for months before realizing I should be going on purpose.

After spending a week in a Portuguese surf town, I decided to go somewhere a bit more exotic. I opened Airbnb, searched “Morocco" and booked a room in a random village I’d never heard of.

When I got off the bus, I found myself in a world of ancient-looking stone houses spread out between gnarled olive trees. Men wrapped in wool herded sheep. Camels and donkeys grazed unattended along the beach.

Then a couple guys in wetsuits walked by, and I realized I was in … another surf town.

Surf town sare popping up all over in places like in Israel, Portugal and Morocco. I don’t surf, but I still had an awesome time at the surf towns I visited because, as I discovered, surf towns are great. Here’s why.

(Fair warning: This doesn’t apply to all surf towns. Some surf towns are terrible. Don’t go to those.)

They’re authentic

donkey crossing road Why did the donkey cross the road? (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

Lots of people travel to experience new cultures. But cities around the world have grown alike. You can travel a thousand miles and still withdraw cash from an ATM, slurp a McFlurry and watch “Transformers 47.”

Surf towns, on the other hand, don’t draw in your average tourist; they just attract surfers. So there’s a good chance that, while surfers may have changed the town a bit, they didn’t change it THAT much. There may be a fancy French café on the beach, but that won’t stop a herd of goats from wandering in to eat the decorative plants.


They’re not THAT authentic

donkey crossing road Still not sure why this donkey is crossing the road. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

Roughing it in a nameless village across the planet sounds great until your arms break out in rashes and it’s a three-hour canoe ride and six-hour bus ride to the nearest pharmacy. And you don’t have a canoe, so you just end up covering your arms in mud everyday.

You won’t run into that problem in a surf town. Even if you’re in a tiny community, some nearby store will cover your basics because somebody will have figured out that surfers spend a LOT of money on sunscreen.


They're picturesque

sunset Take that, New York. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

Beaches. Panoramic ocean sunsets. Enough said.


They're relaxed

Sure, the beach is relaxing. But should you go there every time you have a vacation? Chill time is important. (Photo: Yan Lev / Shutterstock)

Surfers don’t flock to famous landmarks. They surf and, otherwise, they chill. In a surf town, you won’t feel pressured to see the Eiffel Tower or the sardine museum or whatever else the guidebooks demand.


You meet people from around the world ...

An IsraAid volunteer (right) shakes the hand of a woman staying at a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece. An IsraAid volunteer (right) shakes the hand of a woman staying at a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece. (Photo: IsraAid)

Granted, every tourist town, by definition, brings in out-of-towners. But surfers are willing to travel pretty far for great waves. You could be at small party and hear French, Berber, Spanish, English, German, Arabic and Polish.

You'll learn interesting things, like that everyone’s country is having a feminist surge at the moment, or that Kenya has faster Wi-Fi than the U.S. does.


... And actually get to know them

Israeli women pose for a selfie as they sit in a field of blossoming red anemone coronaria flowers. Humans are social creatures. (Photo: Menahem Kahana / AFP/Getty Images)

Those interesting people you meet don't have to disappear into the ether once you finish your first conversation. There aren't so many travelers in a small surf spot at once, so you run into the same people over and over. And since you're not spending all your time surfing, you meet the locals too.


Surfing

Alyssa Spencer of the U.S. competes on Day 2 of the World Surfing Games. Alyssa Spencer of the U.S. competes on Day 2 of the World Surfing Games. (Photo: ISA/Ben Reed)

I didn’t like it, but YOU might. Worth a try, right?

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