Continuing down memory lane through my archives, I came across a few old scans from what turned out to be a nightmare-ish surf trip I did to France in 2006. While looking through the pics, I remembered I'd penned a piece about the experience for a mag, though it never ended up running...
And so I present to you, with a few select images, Pour Faire ou Pas...
Beachside baguettes in Capbreton...
Jack reverses out of a choppy wedge...
Fun french funnels...
Pain on sand...
Beach break boosting...
Pour faire ou pas
The Ups and Downs of a South West France Sojourn
In mid September 2006, Jack Johns, Matt Orchard, Kir Roberts and myself embarked on a spontaneous journey to the famed beach breaks in the south west of France. Every surf adventure has its share of good and bad times, but more often than not, travels fall into one of two categories.
All time or all over.
However, like a bi polar bad dream, ours managed to capture both ends of the spectrum; dizzying highs and devastating lows. So, as a guide for your next cross channel quest, here’s a list of our lessons learned; Dos and don’t for optimising your fun in France!
DO – Visit Paris
Our journey through France began with an amazing day in The City of Light, wandering from the Arc De Triumph down the Champs Elyses to the Louvre, before spending the afternoon basking in the splendour of the Eiffel Tower. From local street performers to world-weary tourists, there’s always a hive of activity beneath this wonder of the world.
DON’T – Leave anything valuable in your car
On only our second day into the trip, we were dealt a harsh blow when our car was broken into and pillaged for all it contained. (Luckily, and I use the word with more than a hint of sarcasm, not our surfing gear) Unfortunately, for me, this entailed everything I owned photographically as well as a new laptop. In fact, as it turned out, I was left with the clothes on my back, my wallet and passport, and the sleeping bag I’d slept in. Please feel free to learn from my stupidity.
DO – Learn at least a little of the local language
The French can be an arrogant and aloof people, but your experiences with these often fickle folk can be improved by knowing a little local linguistics. Basic greetings and requests for things (food, clothes, housing, red wine) will get you started and a pocket phrase book or dictionary can be priceless. I learned the true value of my French skills when I had to file a full police report “en francais” with the help of an officer who couldn’t quite grasp my explanation that “those bastards stole all my camera gear”.
DON’T – Underestimate how quickly the waves can change
Just like on the opposite side of the channel, tidal movements play a huge part in the quality of waves on offer. Banks can move and change hourly, which can be frustrating, but rewarding, if you’re willing to put in some time researching and exploring.
DO – Make the most of the local cuisine
Red wine, cheese and baguettes: that’s all you need to know about French cuisine. Did I mention red wine? Do some “beverage exploration” and you can find a decent bottle for less than two euros! Gold!
DO – Beware what you eat
The day after cooking up some dubious looking chicken from E’Leclerc (a large French supermarket chain) Orchy came down with a nasty case of brown river fever, an ailment which continued to afflict him for the week that followed, leaving him unable to leave our flat for fear of an unexpected “outburst”.
DON’T – Check the surf maps at home while you’re away
There really isn’t any point in knowing that “Levy was cracking yesterday” or “It’s looking epic for Ireland at the weekend” when you’re in the south of France being dealt two foot onshore slop. You’re on holiday! Enjoy the ride and live in the moment.
DO – Search for your own bank
On a clear day, you can see the coast curve from the north end of Hossegor all the way to Spain. That’s a lot of beach to explore! The majority of surfers tend to stick to the most accessible beaches, so it’s almost always worth having a walk. Some of our best sessions were only 10 minutes away from the main beaches, with just the four of us out.
DON’T – Act like a jock tourist in bars
Unless you’re keen for a beat down and a boot out. There’s only so many places to party, particularly in Hossegor, so why limit your options by acting like an obnoxious clown? The numerous bad ass big mouth Brits we saw were just plain embarrassing.
DO – Use your lifesaving skills to save a damsel in distress
Surfing Capbreton on the dropping tide one afternoon, Jack and Kir noticed a girl having a bit of trouble getting to the beach. On paddling in for closer inspection, Jack found the poor girl coughing up water and struggling to stay afloat. Ever the gentleman (and seasonal lifeguard) he managed to help her to the beach where she proclaimed him her personal saviour and, later that night, proceeded to feed him an endless steam of mojitos, while introducing us to her attractive friends.
DON’T – Be afraid to do it all again (like Jack did)
Halfway home while stopping over in London, Jack got word of a crew heading to Ireland to chase a swell. Despite our somewhat demoralising dip of a trip, the kid was soon on the road again, as amped as ever, hitching his way to Bristol en route to the Emerald Isle.