Meet Boujmaa Guilloul
The Windsurfer from Morocco (Video)
The best stories are those that surprise you, those that are unexpected yet intended. On a recent trip to Morocco we met an interesting guy who does an interesting sport that he loves. They say your environment more or less shapes you and the ocean did just that for Boujmaa Guilloul. He is a windsurfer. He grew up near the beach and, well, here is Boujmaa’s story from Boujmaa himself; a professional windsurfer, a Moroccan and a citizen of the world though he puts no limit on what he wants to be.
Windsurfing is more than a hobby, it is my life. I have built my life around windsurfing. The passion I have for the ocean and for my sport is beyond the natural. I feel connected to the ocean and the elements when I surf. I don’t know how to explain it but as recent as the other day, I went kite surfing and as I took off I heard the ocean. Strange I know but I could vividly see it and feel it next to me and touching me. It is an insane feeling that is a form of meditation for me. That is why I do what I do; it is my why.
The genesis of it all
I grew up literally a ten minute walk from the ocean. As children, my brother and I would sneak out of the house and go play football on the street or go fishing. Once when out fishing, I saw tourists surfing. At first I thought wind surfing was out of reach. To be honest it was one of those things assumed to be for tourists. Then I thought floating on a piece of wood cannot be that hard so I went home and took the top of the table and tried to spin on it in the ocean. When I was twelve years old I performed well in school and my mother paid for my membership at a center near the beach. This allowed me the opportunity to practice with a board and gear and to try many different things. I tried the wind surfing board and I loved it! It became my opium. I learnt a lot of tricks and skills training with my friends from the center. We did not necessarily have skilled training; everyone just came with what they knew and we taught each other and we passed it on. I promised myself that I would always see the beach everyday and so far I think I have stuck to my promise, except when I am on a plane.
Basics 101 of windsurfing
Windsurfing requires an adventurous personality especially in a country where the sport is not popular. You have to want it so much to even go out in the waves but the ocean is not to be underestimated. It makes you feel like the king of the waves but if your fitness is not good you are in for disaster. My mother was never for my love of windsurfing, she thought I would drown when I started out. A novice may see a spot where the weather is breaking and think it is the best spot to swim yet it is not safe, you have to learn the ocean.
When opportunities present themselves….
In 1998 my friend and I came to Essaouira and I worked fixing the boards and maintaining them. Some internationals, Stardust, came and saw me windsurfing. They thought I was quite good and could compete. They saw something in me and ended up paying for my ticket to Hawaii in 2000. To this day they are still my sponsors.
Paying it forward
I came back here because I wanted to grow the sport here at home. I try organizing events here as often as I can. I managed to bring the world cup here in 2018 for women windsurfers. We had 87 participants and it was pretty cool for the community. Surfing magazines and a lot of French TV covered the 12 day event. The ocean blessed the event because we had the biggest waves throughout the event, it was amazing!
There is a huge industry in water sports and wind surfing is changing lives. There are trainers with diplomas and surfers who, if not for the sport, would be either farmers or fishermen like their parents. I want to push kids to join the sports and be a good influence for them. If you want it, you can have it especially in this age of YouTube that can teach you new skills. I remember my first board was a gift from my mother who sold her television to buy it for me. She knew I wanted to get better which needed practice.
It takes more than just surfing to love a place. I love to go to Hawaii because of the good waves, strong energy, the people and the lifestyle. The wind and waves in Hawaii are also very consistent. If you are looking to just windsurf Cape Verde is the place, it has the best waves for windsurfing. An epic day for me is one surfing in Cape Verde with endless waves.
I have been thinking of visiting Somalia because it has huge potential for surfing but is the least advised to travel to given the political situation. The logistics of getting there are not easy but I’ll go. Fay the Nomad told me about a surfing school run by her friend that takes in ex child soldiers and trains them as a form of rehabilitation. I have been to only South Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar and Kenya and I would love to visit more of Africa. In places like Namibia, which is awesome for windsurfing, it is hard to visit. There is no diplomatic representation in the country so you have to get a visa before you get to the country. Diplomatically, Africa is changing and people will be able to move around more in time.
Nugget of wisdom for 12 year old Boujmaa
TAP asked me what piece of advice I would give to 12 year old Boujmaa. I think I would tell him to learn to adapt to any situation and make the most of what he has. Same advice I would give to any young person actually, simply learn to adapt.
Video and Photography by Ignacio Hennigs