The Chaos That Was Western Sahara.

What happened in Western Sahara.

So Western Sahara was a first for all of us and it got so crazy! It was just 6 friends in 3 vans who wanted to surf. There was no drinking no parties just early nights and getting up with the sun and things somehow still got so crazy! I am not even sure where to start. It actually started slightly before Western Sahara. I suppose none of us really knew what to expect but none of us were really expecting to wake up to perfect points day after day with no one around and definitely none of us expected the chaos that was about to unfold. For a guide to finding what you want check here.

Arrested in Spain.

I’ll start in Spain. Our van broke down in this tiny town, I will never ever be able to find the name or location of it ever again but there was about 200 people living there. There was not even a hotel to stay in. However we found the local mechanic and needless to say he didn’t speak a word of English, no one did. I had spent 7 or 8 months in South America like 5 years earlier so I spoke basic Spanish but the difference between my basic South American Spanish and small town middle of no where Castillion Spanish was so vast it took me two days to even wrap my head around the accent. I was understood fine but they may as well have been speaking Latin.

We found a hotel in the next town over and spent the night. The next day we all split up to do our own things and this is when everything got a little chaotic. Hours later two of the group were just gone, missing. We had no way to contact one another (no one had phones) and we had no idea where they could have possibly gone. Eventually the police arrived at the mechanic saying they had our friends in custody. We could not understand why. They said they wanted to search the van. We kind of figured it must have been drug related, we knew the other guys had some hash on them but it was not even lunch time yet so we had no idea what was going on. But this was the only thing we could have figured may have been the problem. Now I have never done any drugs and it is totally not my thing but a few of the guys did which was completely fine but we were worried that the trip had ended before it even started. We found out later off the guys that as they were walking down the street escorted by 4 or 5 police one of them managed to get the hash out of his bag and eat the whole block. They searched the van and found nothing. They then proceeded to talk to me about what the problem was. I didn’t know what was going on at all. Eventually they left and brought our friends back. I then asked them if we were free to leave and they said yes, so I asked if we still had a problem and they said yes. I tried to ask what and they tried to explain but legal terms were completely lost on me and there was no google translate and no one to help me so we just got clarification that we could leave when we wanted and they eventually got sick of trying to explain the situation and left. Later I realized after talking to my friends what he was saying. They had been arrested for having fake documentation which was in fact just an Indonesian drivers license and completely normal when you go to Bali to get one. I also realized a little bit after that they were taking it to court and putting it in front of a judge, which was the other Spanish word I didn’t know and that if he, the judge deemed it a crime my friend would have a problem trying to enter the country again. This passed, we chose to ignore it and we left the next day.

We were gone as soon as the car was fixed. We had a minor issue on the border at Morocco and one of our vans almost did not get through but after that it was pretty smooth sailing for a few days. We headed straight for Western Sahara from Morocco camping a few nights along the way.

westernsaharavans3

A giant in a ski mask opens my tent in the middle of the night.

We crossed over the border and the first thing we noticed was the police check points. They were literally everywhere. Entering and exiting every single town and intermittently between them at  just, completely random points in the road. They stopped you every time. Sometimes you would hit 10 or 15 of these in a day if you were trying to cover a large distance.

We stopped somewhere south of Tarfaya and we had split up at this point because myself and Kain wanted to surf slightly different waves to the other guys so we headed off and decided to meet in a few days. That night we drove into what looked like a completely empty piece of desert along the coast. Kain parked and I walked a hundred or so meters away to find somewhere nicer to put my tent. We ate and went to bed. Everything was perfect. Then I woke up, I have no idea how long I had been a sleep for but I thought I heard some noises and then there it was, footsteps approaching my tent in the middle of the night. My first and only thought was death. The only thing I had in my tent for defence was a head torch that I was hoping might be bright enough to temporarily blind someone and i might manage to get out and run straight into the ocean. Then it came. My tent started to shake and a muffled voice. I could not really pretend I was not in there. It was a one man tent in the middle of a giant patch of sand. I tried to put on my big boy voice and sound like I might weigh about 50kilos more than I do but when he started to open my tent and I was staring into the eyes of what seemed to be a 10ft tall African man wearing a balaclava my heart kind of sank. What do you even say to this. What are you doing here? Why are you wearing a ski mask? What do you want from me? None of it really mattered, after a few extremely uncomfortable seconds he spoke. It was in French. Of course it was. English? Nope! Once he realized he could not communicate with me he kind of just said no camp no camp and I was like yeah man no worries I am gone! I watched him just disappear into blackness and then I ran straight for the van where Kain was sleeping begging to be let in. We asked what was going on the next day in the town and they told us the military patrols that area because it is one of the closest places to the Canary Islands and people are always trying to get out of Africa from that point. They also proceeded to tell us it was extremely dangerous. Yeah well it did not really matter because I had no plans of camping there again. EVER!

westernsaharastation

Chased by the military.

After a few more days searching the coast line and having met back up with the boys we decided to head almost as far south as we could and try and surf this point we had read about.

When we arrived at the wave and we saw it we all ran for the ocean as fast as we could in complete disbelief. It was so next level pumping just 3ft grinding down this beach barreling non stop the entire distance. We were taking a couple of photos when military came running up the beach yelling at us. We didn’t really know what to think they told us we had to leave, we tried to explain we just wanted to surf but they wouldn’t have any of it. We left, kind of defeated with no idea what to do. We went to the police station and government buildings in town trying to get permission but nothing, no one would let us. We went back and the swell had gotten bigger and it was so stupidly perfect we didn’t even understand what was going on. We kind of talked about it and decided to just all get ready and run! Just run straight for the ocean. There was nothing they could do once we were in the water except wait for us to get out and in looked like it was going to be completely worth it!

They came from both sides running, yelling and screaming the whole way up the beach. Personally I had dealt with this before in Ecuador crawling on hands and knees through bushes in a military base to surf another wave. It ended up in me being arrested and escorted to a truck by large men with AK47s. I felt like this could not really end up any worse than that so I just kept going.

We all hit the water and just paddled as fast as we could to get out the back. The wave broke so close to the shore we could hear everything they were yelling, not that we understood but they were so close we just started to pretend we couldn’t see them, we all just agreed not to look at them and just surf.

I didn’t actually see any but the guys were talking about being able to see guns, it was the military so it made sense. But they seemed non violent at this point so that was a good thing. After a few hours and countless tubes shared between all of us they had kind of dispersed back to their huts so we decided to all get out at the same time and run back across the beach hoping they would not pursue.

In the end it all worked out better than we could have hoped for. It is probably not my recommended method of getting to surf but it’s worked twice for me now.

western-sahara-point-break-1This was our first visit and when we had returned it had doubled in size and was so stupidly good.

6 man spray circles.

Being in countries like this the food is always very different and does not always agree with your stomach. We all got super sick. Well I mean, I don’t eat meat or dairy so I got the least sick but we all still had it pretty bad. It took about 2 days of doing almost nothing. Just 6 men on top of a cliff in the middle of a desert in a massive circle all watching one another doing unspeakable things. It was so beyond disgusting but we didn’t really have anywhere else to go. There was no mountains or hills no matter how far away we went we could all see one another so we just kind of accepted our fate, picked our corners and then tried to laugh off how disgusting it all was.

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Almost killing a police officer and running.

Kain and I separated from the guys again in search of different waves, we started driving north that night trying to make it to a spot we surfed on the way down for the morning. As we had mentioned there were check points everywhere. Now, one of the obscure things about these check points is that sometimes they looked completely closed. We were just driving along listening to music not really thinking and then it was just there in the middle of the road. The smallest light we had ever seen then a man just leaping out of the way trying to save his own life. Kain started to slow down and I yelled at him just to drive and do not stop, we kind of hesitated on whether or not it was the right decision but I just kept saying go go go. We got a kilometer or two away and we turned hard right off the road and into the desert and killed the lights. We started to drive slowly into the desert looking for any signs of life coming along the road. We drove as far as we possibly could off the road and decided to sleep there. We started to discuss what had happened. The guy came at us with no warning. He just stood in the middle of the road with like and old nokia phone using the screen to try and pull us over. He didn’t even have a torch. Luckily for us he also had no car and could not pursue us so he kind of just had to watch us disappear into the darkness of the night. But it was so crazy, if he did not react so fast he could have been dead. It was not really a situation that I would have wanted to deal with.

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Everyday was something new and outrageous. Coupled with some pretty amazing waves and non-stop camping and adventure. Western Sahara was one of the more memorable surf trips I have ever been on and luckily everyone managed to make it out.

westernsaharadunesThis is one of the perils of using film sometimes and being too impatient to wait to get to a good lab.westernsaharacamelsCamels just chilling everywhere!westernsaharacarThey have their own breed of cars that I was super into!
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westernsaharaoasisDesert oasiswesternsahara-hitchHitchhiking in the back of trucks.westernsahara-cartLocalswestern-sahara-shantytownShanty towns appeared from time to time.western-sahara-shanty-cliffsPoverty was pretty rampant almost everywhere we went. It took a minute to wrap our heads around. We tried to talk to some people to get some information but English was pretty scarce.western-sahara-cliffs

western-sahara-tentWhat I woke up to everyday.westernsaharaolliMultiple exposures.westernsahara-sunsetSunsets along the desert coast line.

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