If You Rip This Hard The Least You Deserve Is Free Surfboards
An ode to my French mate Titouan.
Film and frames by Dane Singleton
Morrissey’s a mad vegan, but he’s a genius with words.
There’s a line from “Panic” that often pops into my mind when I’m writing about surfing: ‘It says nothing to me about my life.’ That’s not to say it’s invalid or it “sucks”, surfing’s just a multi-faceted thing and you gravitate towards the aspects of it that resonate with your everyday life. It always makes me smile when I meet people around the world, reluctantly mention that I do some work for Stab, only for them to start chewing my ear off about how so and so shouldn’t have won Stab in the Dark, or why certain surfers are “kooks” who don’t deserve to be getting paid to surf with such passion. I just shrug and say that it’s just a job, and the thing I really like about surfing is doing it with my friends. So it’s a nice collision of worlds when I get to write about dear mates like Titouan Lavole, who definitely aren’t “kooks” (in any sense of the word) and who definitely don’t get paid to surf.
Tito grew up in Guadeloupe, surfing windy lefts with perfect air winds. He went to art school in Bordeaux, then visited Australia and never left. He’s shacked up with local tattoo artist Em Reid, earns a crust inking his whacky drawings onto flesh (a few on your author, among them), does a bit of landscaping and spends the rest of his time making art and music, one of the tracks you can hear accompanying the clip up top.
The night I meant him Tito had driven the rusty Toyota van he bought for $1500 down from Byron to link up with our little crew through a vague (non-paying) sponsor connection. That particular evening our friend Max Zappas was having a surf film launch at the local RSL and it was a raucous, family affair. I remember smoking joints in the beer garden and Zappas talking hilarious garbage the mic wearing a leopard skin fur coat, subsequently being thrown out of his own movie by security for his efforts. Tito had a wild big mushroom of bleached blonde hair, tartan pants and barely said a word the whole evening. We thought he was chronically shy at first, but soon after discovered that he just didn’t speak much English. Almost five years later, Tito remains, his English is near-perfect, and he’s become a cherished friend to many of us.
Learning your English in Australian coastal towns leads to a hilarious mash-up of colloquialisms. Especially in these parts, which seems rife with people experimenting with the Queen’s English. It’s actually where the term “getting coned” originated. I’ll never forget Tito (in his at the time heavily-accented English) telling me that he “can’t do turns, just big jumps,” but that he doesn’t mind “big cone” too. Soon after we went surfing together at a peeling left rip bowl and I discovered that Tito definitely can “do turns” as he wrenched the Stretch he was riding at the time through a series of clinical hacks in the pocket.
It’s interesting surfing regularly with people like Tito, who don’t get paid to surf, but would’ve done in some capacity ten years ago. What people don’t realise is that these guys don’t film much. Filming requires endless driving around and someone to stand on the beach for hours, which not many are willing to do for free. So what you see in a clip like this is a mash together of a few sessions, not six months worth of filming everyday. In short: Tito’s incredible in the water. He’s a big man with a big wingspan (kind of looks like an olympic swimmer), but you wouldn’t know it when he flies down the line so deftly and takes flight so effortlessly. I distinctly remember a solo session we shared together on Valentine’s Day at a maxxing reef/beachie. Those are the sessions when you appreciate the knowledge that comes with spending a lifetime in the ocean. I remember getting mowed down, panicking slightly, then surfacing to see Tito free-fall into a double up, quickly scoop under the lip and then smile at me whilst standing upright in a beautiful lime-green tube before the spit guided him out. That was cool.
I’m not sure how it is with other sports (I’m sure there’s some amateur golfers and tennis players out there) – but it always trips me out the there are people so good at surfing who just do it for fun. But I guess spending your life perfecting something just because it makes you feel good is as noble a way to spend it as any. Like my friend Tito. The least he deserves is not to have to pay for his surf crafts.
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