Resurface Surf-Therapy Retreats, Morocco
Intensive weeks of surfing and therapy to help you flourish
Best For: Anyone who wants an injection of reality-based optimism, to learn how to stay consistently grounded and positive, and to be reminded of their potential in life.
Not for: For those in a deep depression or life-crisis these retreats may be too active, though they are ideal when you are starting to find your feet again.
Resurface Surf-Therapy Retreats runs a roster of surfing-centered group therapy retreats between September and May each year at the Riad Dar Haven in Tamraght near Agadir, a charming and discreet traditional guesthouse with a relaxed family-owned vibe. Choose retreats that focus on Positive Psychology, Trauma Resolution or Creativity and you’ll be well taken care of by Joshua Dickson, an avid surfer and practising trauma therapist and clinical psychologist with a great deal of experience in treating anxiety, depression, relational issues and addiction. Sun, sea, blue skies and lovely beaches provide a rejuvenating backdrop for those stuck in rut, wanting to lift their spirits or simply raise their existing levels of happiness and effectiveness. A recharge for life and a launch-pad for life-change.
These are expertly run weeks that, while never pressured, efficiently pack many activities into each day. The experience is intimate yet never invasive; challenging but not overwhelming. Guest’s emotional and physical conditions are handled sensitively, though one is never pandered to, as participants are encouraged to stare their limiting beliefs about themselves in the face.
Those with poor physical fitness or injuries may find the surfing too intense: it was a much more challenging experience than our reviewer anticipated, testing his strength, stamina, balance and patience. The group-therapy is also intensive and might be too exposing for those who’ve had little experience of talking to a therapist or of working with groups. Breakfasts are nutritious and filling, but a little lacklustre and the same each day (eggs, local bread, fruit, cereal, mediocre coffee – we’re told a coffee machine is on its way!).
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Resurface provides one-week physical and psychological overhauls, testing guests’ limiting beliefs and their physical limits, and teaching them how to overcome both and live more fully. Choose to focus on Positive Psychology, which is more geared to dealing with depressive symptoms and increasing peak-performance; on Trauma Resolution, where the focus is on managing traumatic symptoms; or on drawing out your natural Creativity. Resurface also runs a Clinicians’ week for healthcare professionals to de-stress and rejuvenate. Each retreat has the same format and includes a morning workshop, surfing sessions, yoga and mindfulness, treatments and downtime.
You’ll start the day with a gentle candle-lit group yoga class on the terrace of the guesthouse as you watch sunrise. All necessary mats and props are provided and Kristine, the teacher, provides alternative postures for the less flexible. The sessions end with a quiet lying-down meditation and ‘embodiment’ exercise to centre yourself for the day ahead. A slow and gentle yin yoga class ends the day’s activities. Holding relaxed postures for prolonged periods, you’ll unwind muscles and release tensions that have arisen from the surfing and therapy work.
The day’s existential overhaul kickstarts with a short interactive lecture on a psychological principle that is central to the week’s focus: ie, on trauma, positive psychology, creativity or self-care. Josh explains the principle, breaking it down into into digestible concepts, all of them derived from scientific research. Questions are allowed throughout.
You have a daily energetic beginner-friendly two-hour surfing lesson to help you understand safety, get on the board and maintain balance. You’ll visit several beaches, but most lessons take place on the beautiful sandy expanse of K-17. The instructor Youness and his assistant Ali are gentle, encouraging and supportive, and focused on giving you an enjoyable experience as well as improving your surf-skills. There is no pressure, and guests can spend as much time as they like on the beach, relaxing and soaking up the sun before a picnic lunch by the sea.
These involve interactive “psycho-drama” in a group setting with role-playing and deep emotional involvement, as each guest in turn works through an issue that needs to be resolved in their personal life — from revisiting and healing a traumatic event, to having an impossible conversation with a loved one. You take roles in each others’ drama, providing cathartic, fascinating and deeply moving experiences, and allowing you to help one another with your healing.
These sessions use HeartMath technology — a phone-app and bluetooth-connected heart-rate monitor — to help you regulate your breath. You follow the instructions on the app to obtain an optimal breathing-pattern while focusing on positive feelings, creating a serene and deeply meditative state of being. This integrates the day’s challenging emotional work, and allows guests to enjoy the evening in a pleasant frame of mind.
There’s a midweek break to visit the charming fishing village of Imsouane, taking in a tour of the renowned Moroccan surf spots en-route, stopping outside of Tamri for photographs, seeing its famous sand-dunes and the tree-climbing “ninja” goats, and enjoying a panoramic view over Imsouane itself. After a morning of surfing, lunch is served in an Imsouane restaurant. On the return, a visit to Tamri alllows a chance to buy its famous Argan oil and local honey, singing along in the bus all the while to the Resurface song-playlist to which each guests provides a beloved track.
The feel of Riad Dar Haven is intimate and peaceful, but also spacious. There is room to be alone, without feeling isolated. Each of the nine rooms is a beautiful traditional Moroccan suite with an ensuite slate-stone bathroom. Arabesque fixtures and shutters, and the Maghrebi furniture and quilted bedding, give them a very characterful ambience, with windows that look onto the courtyard pool and vines on which a flock of songbirds alight each night to sing a chorus.
Other spaces to be: The broad rooftop terrace provides a quiet space to be, with views across Tamraght and onto the Atlantic. Sunrise and sunset can be observed from here, and a large canopied dais with a covered seating area – like a large imperial palanquin roof – provides a regal place in which to read a book or survey the surroundings.
Surfing is physically demanding, so do get some exercise done in the weeks prior to going. Bring coffee if you’re passionate about it, as the hotel brew is instant and mediocre. The intensity of the week leaves little time — other than a single rest-day — to sample much of Morocco’s unique culture and landscape, so do arrive earlier and/or stay on later if you want to see more of the country. The surf-instructor Youness Arhbi is an expert on the local culture and friends with just about everyone, so do contact him (Insta: younessarhbi) to make a plan for what to do with your extra days.
When to Go
With consistently good weather all year — Morocco gets 300 days of sunshine per year — Tamraght is a pleasant location at any time. Winter temperatures tend to be between 20-25 degrees, while summer might get as hot as 32 degrees. The waves are good all year too, making for year-round surfing. A particularly good time is in October when the sea has been warmed by a long summer. The Resurface retreats take place outside of the busy Christmas period when Tamraght is quiet and there is plenty of space on the beaches.
The communal dining area is beside the pool, and from it one can hear the chorus of songbirds that alight on the vines each morning and evening.
Breakfasts are simple and filling if uninspired affairs. Traditional breads are served each morning, including local condiments like honey and fig- and apricot-jam. Eggs are served either as omelettes or boiled; on one occasion on our visit they did come Maghrebi-style, devilled with harissa. Flavourful locally grown fruit and a single cereal option made up the rest of the fare.
Lunches come from local cafes, who made chicken- or fish-filled baguettes and pomme frites for most after-surf lunches on the beach, but also chicken- or vegetable-and-couscous on occasions. Vegetarian options are always available if asked for in advance.
Dinners feel festive, with dishes that gladden the heart. With so much physical and emotional activity during the week, the emphasis is on providing energy and comfort with as much of a Moroccan flavour as possible. Provided by the hotel, they are a traditional three-course Moroccan event, with starters that include delicious lentil and pumpkin soups, and spicy fish-samosas and Maghrebi salads. On our visit the skewered kebabs made from minced fish, lamb and beef and served with rice were a triumph, was are the sizzling tagines — chicken and fish — served with traditional flatbreads. Our favourite was the steaming mounds of couscous served with succulent spiced and roasted meats.
The entire week is alcohol-free. Coffee is available, but the hotel-brew is mediocre – we’re told a coffee machine is on its way! There are plenty of herbal teas on offer in the rooms, at reception and at breakfast, and Moroccan mint tea is served every afternoon.
The Resurface retreat is fully integrated into the local economy, employing local surfing instructors, drivers and sourcing its food from local providers. The hotel has a stringent recycling policy as well as energy- and water-conservation policies. It too sources food local and promotes local produce to its guests. Resurface doesn’t have any plastics policy, and plastic bottles of water are on offer at all times.
Riad Dar Haven, Tamraght, Morocco
Transfer time: 1 hour