Morocco’s women surfers ride out waves and harassment

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Meriem, a 29-year-old Moroccan engineer and surfer, surfs off the coast of Rabat on April 1, 2018. (AFP)
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Rim, a female Moroccan surfer walks along the beachside after a surf session in Rabat on April 1, 2018. (AFP)
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Meriem, a 29-year-old Moroccan engineer and surfer, exits the water after a surf session in Rabat on April 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2018

Morocco’s women surfers ride out waves and harassment

RABAT: Moroccan women surfers have become a common sight as they skim the waves off the coast of the capital, Rabat, but they still can face prejudice and harassment back on land.
“It’s easier in the winter because the beaches are empty,” said surfer Meriem, 29, who, like most of the women surfers, wears a wetsuit.
“In the summer we suffer a lot of harassment, that’s why we pay attention to what we wear.”
The engineer, who took up the sport four years ago, said she’s lucky to have grown up in a “tolerant” family.
For many Moroccan women from conservative backgrounds, such activities are off limits.
“Some families are ashamed that their daughters practice water sports,” said Jalal Medkouri, who runs the Rabat Surf Club on the capital’s popular Udayas beach.
The gentle waves nearby are ideal for beginners, but nestled at the foot of the 12th century Kasbah and easily visible from the capital’s bustling touristic heart, the beach is far from discreet.
Yet some club members say attitudes are changing.
Rim Bechar, 28, said that when she began surfing four years ago, “it was a bit more difficult.”
“At first, my father accompanied me whenever I wanted to surf,” she said. But now, “people are used to seeing young women in the water, it’s no longer a problem.”
Today, she surfs alone, stays all day and goes home without problems, she said.
Surfers first took to the waves off Morocco’s Atlantic Coast in the 1960s, at the popular seaside resort of Mehdia, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the capital.
Residents say soldiers at a nearby French-American military base were the first to practice the sport there.
A handful of enthusiasts, French and Moroccan, quickly nurtured the scene, traveling further south to the lesser-known beaches of Safi and Taghazout, which later gained popularity with surfers from around the world.
The sport gradually gained Moroccan enthusiasts, including women. In September 2016, the country held its first international women’s surfing contest.
But mentalities differ from beach to beach.
Despite efforts to improve the status of women in the North African country, attitudes have been slow to change.
A United Nations study in 2017 found that nearly 72 percent of men and 78 percent of women think “women who dress provocatively deserve to be harassed.”
The harassment women surfers can face in Morocco ranges from looks and comments to unwanted attempts at flirtation and attention from men.
In Mehdia, however, surf instructor Mounir said it’s “no problem” for girls to surf.
Last summer “we even saw girls in bikinis on the beach and the authorities didn’t say anything,” he said.
Back at Udayas beach, popular with young men playing football, attitudes are more conservative.
“Girls are often harassed by the boys,” Bechar said.
“At first it wasn’t easy, so I decided to join a club.”
The Rabat Surf Club now has more than 40 surfers, half of whom are girls, Medkouri said.
“Parents encourage their children when they feel they are in good hands,” he said.
Club surfing is particularly popular among girls because the group setting cuts harassment and eases the concerns of some families.
Ikram, who also surfs there, said she hopes “all girls who were prevented by their father or brother from doing what they want will follow this path.”
“Surfing makes you dynamic,” she said.


Australian man survives croc attack by gouging its eye

Updated 16 November 2019

Australian man survives croc attack by gouging its eye

  • Wildlife ranger Craig Dickmann made a split-second decision to go fishing in a remote part of Northern Australia known as ‘croc country.’
  • ‘That noise will haunt me forever I think, the sound of the snap of its jaws’

CAIRNS, Australia: An Australian wildlife ranger has recounted his terrifying escape from the clutches of a “particularly cunning” crocodile, after wrestling with the reptile and sticking a finger in its eye.
Craig Dickmann, who made a split-second decision to go fishing last Sunday in a remote part of Northern Australia known as “croc country” last Sunday, said a 2.8-meter (nine-foot) crocodile came up from behind him as he was leaving the beach.
“As I’ve turned to go, the first thing I see is its head just come at me,” he told reporters on Friday from his hospital bed in the town of Cairns in Queensland state.
Dickmann said the animal latched on to his thigh.
“That noise will haunt me forever I think, the sound of the snap of its jaws,” he said.
The 54-year-old said he wrestled with the croc on the remote beach as it tried to drag him into the water.
Dickmann stuck his thumb into its eye, saying it was the only “soft spot” he found on the “bullet-proof” animal.
“Their eyes retract a fair way and when you go down far enough you can feel bone so I pushed as far as I possibly could and then it let go at that point,” Dickmann said.
After a few minutes, he said he managed to get on top of the croc and pin its jaws shut.
“And then, I think both the croc and I had a moment where we’re going, ‘well, what do we do now?’”
Dickmann said he then pushed the croc away from him and it slid back into the water.
The ranger had skin ripped from his hands and legs in the ordeal and drove more than 45 minutes back to his home before calling emergency services.
It was then another hour in the car to meet the Royal Flying Doctors Service who flew him to Cairns Hospital, where he is recovering from the ordeal.
“This croc was particularly cunning and particularly devious,” he said.
Queensland’s department of environment this week euthanized the animal.
“The area is known croc country and people in the area are reminded to always be crocwise,” the department said in a statement.
Saltwater crocodiles, which can grow up to seven meters long and weigh more than a ton, are common in the vast continent’s tropical north.
Their numbers have exploded since they were declared a protected species in the 1970s, with attacks on humans rare.
According to the state government, the last non-fatal attack was in January 2018 in the Torres Strait while the last death was in October 2017 in Port Douglas.