Quintina Valero

Surfing and plastic pollution in Morocco
Location: Madrid
Nationality: Spanish
Biography: Quintina Valero is an award-winning photojournalist currently based in Spain. After a career in finance, in 2001 she moved to London (UK) to study photojournalism at the University of the Arts. Since then, Quintina has worked as a press... MORE
Public Story
Surfing and plastic pollution in Morocco
Copyright Quintina Valero 2023
Date of Work Apr 2016 - Ongoing
Updated Nov 2020
Location Agadir Morocco
Topics pollution, plastic, Morocco, Ocean, surfing, children, environment

An environmental and sport story showing how a former Moroccan Surfing Champion is transforming the lives of disadvantaged young people and their communities in Agadir, South Morocco, by teaching them how to surf and respect the environment. A passionate teacher and environmentalist, Abdullah El Guazal is mentoring a new generation with strong values, opening up the sport to women and girls. Having seen the effects of rubbish on the beach, he is determined that both he and his students protect their Ocean and marine life promoting responsible actions. 

On July 1, 2016 Morocco passed a law to completely ban the nationwide production, sale, and distribution of plastic bags. At the time, Morocco was the second-largest plastic bag consumer after the United States. It uses about three billion plastic bags a year, according to the Moroccan Industry Ministry. Despite the law, a cultural change is needed for the locals to stop using plastic bags or throwing rubbish into the riverbeds. In winter, rain is more frequent and the waters from two main rivers arrive to this part of the cost, bringing all the plastic into the Ocean. 

The environmental damages caused by plastic pollution to the Atlantic Ocean have affected the image of the country, damaging important economic sectors such as tourism. Agadir has an international reputation as a great surfing location, attracting many tourists a year but outside the tourist areas drug addiction, homelessness and extreme poverty remain real issues faced by local communities. Adbullah is fighting against the tide of money engulfing the sport by giving the local young people a path to surf the ocean that is part of their heritage.

Abdullah’s work with these children is an example of how sport can offer hope and make a real difference to communities and individuals. Abdullah teaches surfing for free, however he instills and expects high levels of discipline both in and out of the water from his students. The children must attend school, be committed to hard physical training and show respect to the beach and marine life. Every Sunday the children will clean the beach collecting all the plastic bottles before they start their training and surfing classes. Children look up to Abdullah as he provides the rules and security that are often lacking from their lives, along with a safe space for them to learn to surf and live peacefully sharing their love for the ocean and surfing.

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