Talented Moroccan Local, Sana El Arbaoui

Earlier this week we decided to take a look into the female involvement in water sports in Morocco. We chatted with Sana El Aarbaoui, the only Moroccan woman who registered for the IWT Morocco Spot-X this year.

How did you get into windsurfing?
I have been windsurfing in Morocco for 7 years. I learnt at 21 years old when I was in college in Grenoble (France) at the university sailing school. I was doing engineering studies, it was very heavy in term of work so I needed something to “escape” from that pressure. That’s how I got the “windsurfing virus”. After graduating I started working in Marseille for 2 years and sailed the spots in south of France. Then I worked in Paris and sailed on the north coast of France. After that I decided to go sail in Morocco in Dakhla where I met husband, Rachid Roussafi who was one of the first Moroccan pro windsurfers. We now manage a windsurf center there.

How is the spot in Dakhla?
There is a flat water spot in the lagoon and a wave spot in the ocean. I used to only sail on flat water until 2 weeks ago.

What motivated you to enter a wave event?
I’ve been dreaming about waves for the last 10 years. I was always scared to try but this year I told myself “ that’s it, let’s go”. I came to Moulay two weeks before the start of the IWT Morocco Spot-X to train. Unfortunately it’s been an unusual spring. We only had two days of conditions with extremely strong wind and big waves. But in the end I feel more motivated to wave sail. When I am going home to Dahkla I will sail in the waves!

How did it go during your heats?
I was very stressed. At my first wipe out I panicked for a minute but then I managed to catch a few waves. I came in a little too early because I didn’t’ have a watch.

What advice would you share with someone who’s entering a competition for the first time?
Stay zen. Come before the event to get used to the spot. Here in Moulay you have to learn where the rocks are. And have a watch! Hahahah!

How is the water sport female community in Morocco?
It is sadly empty, I am the only one. That makes me really sad. That’s also why I entered this event, to show girls that it’s not just for the occidental women. We can do it too in Morocco, we just have to go for it. It’s really hard for girls to want to try a sport with only men. For me it was easy because where I started there were other girls. Maybe if they were only guys I would not have done it. That’s why, with the help of my surfer friend Salma, we are creating an association to promote water sport amongst women. We’re trying to show the example and to motivate girls to try.

Listening to you, I think about the Butterfly Effect right away. Have you heard of it?
Yes, I took part in Dahkla (Morocco) and in Silva Plana (Switzerland). The founder of the Butterfly Effect, Tatiana Howard, is here this week and we already talked about having a Butterfly Effect tied into the IWT Morocco Spot-X next year! We need to gather the energies to make women more excited about water sports in Morocco!

Sana, Thank you! I would love to be part of it too! I already can’t wait for next year!

The Butterfly Effect is a worldwide water woman movement that started in Hawaii and has expanded internationally. It is a non-competitive water sport event that gathers women of all levels and abilities to accomplish a 3-mile ocean challenge. ts goal is to promote and inspire women in water sports and to build community around water sports.

Interview by Sarah Hauser and photos by Si Crowther