The Surf Through Morocco’s Lens
In the surf world, Thomas Campbell is probably most known for his warm, sepia-tinted paeans to surfing’s retro-fun side in his films The Seedling, Sprout, and The Present. But Campbell’s been snapping shutters for far longer than he’s been making surf movies. He’s also been surf tripping to Morocco for the past 20 years, often with some of the most interesting surfers on the planet. Campbell has recently collected his Moroccan photography into a beautiful little book called Seeing Fatima’s Eyes. In celebration of the release of his book, Campbell will be at Mollusk in San Francisco, Friday night March 27th, from 7-10pm. He’ll be signing books and kicking off a gallery showing at Mollusk of some 60 photos from his North African adventures, along with a handful of photo etchings. I caught up with Campbell to ask him some questions about his new book as he was preparing to make the journey north to the City from his Santa Cruz County home.
What drew you to Morocco in the first place?
The first time I went there was kind of random. I was traveling in Europe and I had stayed in Spain for like a month, this was 1991, and then I went down to Portugal and camped out at Ericeira for another month. I noticed that the same people I surfed with at Mundaka were the same traveling surfers I was surfing with in Portugal. And then a bunch of them said that they were going to Morocco next, and that it was really inexpensive and the waves are good there. I was running out of money and I still wanted to surf, so I was like, “Well, how do you do it? Where do I go?” This was before the Internet. They just told me to take the bus to Agadir, and then I eventually made it up to Taghazout and camped out there for a month too.
Do you miss traveling in the days of the pre-Internet wilds?
I think then and now both have advantages. When I was first staying in Morocco I didn’t really know what swell was coming. I’d just get up and walk down to the point and look and think, “Oh there are waves today, or oh, there are no waves today.” And then maybe I’d take the bus up the coast a half an hour to see what’s there. There was definitely something more mellow and languid about that type of life, and there’s something about that that I like.