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An African Surf Documentary

Important things happen in our absence

The Beyond Surf Movie Travel Journal
Day 29 / Zagora, Morocco

Photos by Judith Recher, Header: Filmstill of Interview with Halal Aziz by Mario Hainzl
Text by Mario Hainzl

I grew up in a little, green village in the south of Austria. Only in late winter the weather becomes a bit annoying. Wet, cold and grey. The rest of the year is lush and verdant. The forests smell of fertility. The hills are lined with rows of wine grapes. Except for January and February, I’d say we have a very mild and comfortable climate.

When I was seven I got a book for Christmas that was about human history. Spanning from the Stone Age, to the Neanderthals, to later human migrations. I read that people moved from the warm climate of Africa to the north, directly into the heart of the Ice Age of Europe. A continent covered in ice, I wondered what made those people seek out uncomfortable conditions – it probably wasn’t due to an attempt to find unspoiled surf.

When I met this Nomad, Halal Aziz, I asked him what has changed for the nomadic cultures recently. Unsurprisingly, he said there is too much of everything: cars, growing cities, computers and tablets. I asked him what made the few real Nomads left nowadays still remain in the emptiness of the vast desert. He said: “There is great joy in the absence of things. It teaches you to miss everything, it makes life intense in the absence of it.”

It stuck in my head. I would have expected this syrupy gibberish from some drunk hipster at a bar who blabbers in my ears, wet and too close. But Halal grew up with camels and stuff. It gave that thought a lot of authenticity and truth.

And it reminded me of a quote by Salman Rushdie: “The most important things in our lives happen in our absence.”

Maybe that’s what our ancestors were looking for thousands of years ago: intensity.

Sitting here in Graz now, writing this from notes I took when I was in the Sahara, it feels a little cheesy to say such things, but what the hell, it’s easier to be cheesy there than here. I need to travel. And I need to admit some cheesiness is cool when there is nobody to judge it.

Halal, Judith and me got really drunk that night in an empty bar. I’m sure he said some other pretty wicked stuff that I can’t remember…which reminds me: “The most important things in our lives happen in our absence.”

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