A Lay Day Is A Terrible Thing To Waste
The surfing world descends in France for the Quiksilver Festival.
The other day, as I hesitated to cross the road for fear of becoming roadkill, an oncoming car slowed down, and its driver waved me across. I thanked him, and for a moment, was certain I’d seen Dane Reynolds behind the wheel, but didn’t bother to look again.
Although Dane is not participating in the Quiksilver Festival, rumors confirm his presence in the area. Just like many others currently in SW France, it remains a mystery how these people end up mysteriously converging at the same place, at the same time.
Wouldn’t they be better off arriving a week before or after a major contest takes over a small town? Less crowds and a guaranteed score*?
As the afternoon sun descended into the horizon, a steady stream of people carrying pizza boxes, take-away containers, bottled drinks, and picnic blankets made their way through the narrow wooden path through the large sand dune that connects Boulevard Front de Mer to Les Culs Nus, to celebrate the dying moments of the weekend.
The rip out the front had created a long slopy left with plenty of push, while a smaller right broke into a pool-like channel. As the tide dropped and the harsh, direct sunlight gave pterygium-prone eyes a rest, a soothing gradient sky revealed a barrel fête happening at the now mechanical right. The Dorians, The Kerrs, and The Hos were amongst the numerous, tight pack, providing weekend warriors on the sand with plenty of occasions to let their ‘putain ouais!’ slip.
At breakfast, the dining room of the 70 Hectares Hotel begins to resemble the venue of a high-school reunion. Former tour surfers reconnect after what appears to have been a long time, and made evident by the prolonged hugs. Some seating choices and half-forced ‘how do you dos’ only confirm that some rivalries still linger. But if any tension is felt, the arrival of Jeremy Flores lightens up the mood. With diplomatic demeanor, he enthusiastically reveals the promising combination of the forecasted conditions and the way the sand chose to arrange itself along this stretch of coastline, before inviting the surfers down to the contest area for a briefing and to share feedback and/or ideas that may improve the competition format.
It’s mid-morning when contest director Miky Picon decides to call off the first two days of the waiting period. Out the front, the same bank is getting abused by much larger closeouts than the day before, and the challenging paddle-out has dissuaded most recreational surfers from removing surfboards off the racks of their camper vans.
As I walk up the dune, I notice Mikey Wright and Noa Deane assessing the conditions. I hear Noa say, “It gives me the shits”, but can only speculate on its context. A couple of hours later, he was punting over sections most people would safety-stance through.
While some surfers chose to surf down the coast at Capbreton — where the elusive Sealtooth was observed in the wild — quite a few invitees opted to familiarize themselves with the contest area.
Michel Bourez is a brute, plowing and carving through the unruly lineup, fighting power with even more power in the familiar, but not unimpressive manner he made himself known during his stint on tour.
Hughie Vaughn, the lightweight who brought your jaw to the floor in the last iteration of Stab High is still very much a “little psychopath”, and made his own skatepark out of the messy Culs Nus lineup.
Marc Lacomare and Kauli Vaast were superhuman in finding very long barrels on lefts that never seemed to materialize more than once at any given spot.
By sundown, conditions were still unruly and two silhouettes could be seen out the back, hacking and slicing top-to-bottom on the fast-moving, solid rights. Quiksilver Festival teammates Aritz Aranburu (who seems to surf at least four times daily), and Vasco Ribeiro, looked intent on taking the contest’s ‘Best Combo’ and ‘Biggest Turn’ categories — Hawaiian style “plate lunch” and best turn (rail only), respectively.
With onshore winds and a peaking, unruly swell, Tuesday appeared as the ugly duckling of the otherwise idyllic forecast. Nevertheless, many of the surfers hopped into their courtesy AMG EQS Mercedes to find surfable corners.
Plage du Prévent proved to be a decent option. In the water, Josh Kerr and Noa Deane grumbled over the conditions in a conversation that has certainly happened a few times before at D’Bah, while his Ladybird daughter, Sierra, and Jackson Dorian hucked their tails towards Capbreton’s beachfront. Josh Kerr looked limber and whippy on a twin fin, while Deane was mostly pulling into closeouts on a bodyboard for giggles.
The Quiksilver Festival main event starts this Wednesday at 8AM CEST at Les Culs Nus. To end the day, Repeater, which you might’ve had the pleasure to watch before, will occupy much deserved silver screen square footage at Cinéma Le Rex, in Hossegor at 7:30PM, followed by a Q&A with its cast and crew. Free tickets are becoming scarce, but you might still be able to cop some from Boardriders Capbreton.
*Only applicable to WSL sanctioned events.
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