Something You Never Knew About: Surfing in France

France is the most sublime surf destination on earth. But it ain't without faults.

Michel Bourez (Tahiti) (pictured) advanced into Round 3 of the Quiksilver Pro France, Hossegor at Le Graviere on 28 September 2012.
© ASP/Cestari

There'll come a time, soon enough, when you're gonna taste all those cliches of south-west France. And because your brain has been washed in French propaganda, even by your ol pal DR who spent two yeast-bloated years as a resident of Hossegor, you won't see the crappy side of the place, even as you stand there, at Rockfood, greasy panini in your hand, Euro techno shaking the old walls, pygmy waves hacking to death on the dirty shoreline

It ain't all barrels, it fact is rarely is. And, yet, I still love France to pieces. Isn't the mind a wonderful thing.

But, here are three things you don't know.

1. French surfers, the new ones at least, and not the gods of water like Laurent Pujol or Jez Flores, are a damn curious breed. I found a one-foot sand point at Cap Ferret just one month ago, a novelty wave, warm water, perfect for pushing little kids onto waves that'd break inches from the outline of the sandy point and this mal rider, in neck-to-shin lycra and riding a plastic longboard, completely lost his mind over a few gals, cut too!, swishing around in the water. In French he screamed, 'Get out! You're in my way! This is for surfers!" He even tried to start a little something with their parents on the beach.

Another surfer, and this time we're back at Hossegor, saw a lil kid run past his surfboard, tiny feet kicking up a handful of sand onto the bottom of his board. With an elaborate "Ffffffffffff" he got up, staring death rays at the kid's parents and shook his head gravely as he swept the sand off his crappy kook sled. Weirdoes. And they hassle as if each session was a WQS final and a tour qualification was on the line.

2. The food sucks. Oh, yes it does! Undercooked pizza, greasy galettes, hamburgers y'wouldn't throw at a starving dog, white bread you can feel jamming up those vital arteries. For all that haute cuisine history, step aside Paris and go down the coast where surfers populate, and it ain't pretty. But here's the upside. The produce is out of this world: seasonal, perfectly ripe, cheap. Cook for yourself and you'll eat like a king.

3. The gals ain't pretty. And they aren't even topless. Something happened a few years back, fashion, societal mores, whatevs, and it means there ain't the protuberances there once was and that which made French beaches ever-so famous. There's the occasional nude beach, but nude beaches are a double-edge sword, as you know.

4. Every grom in France appears to have a coach and a personal video guy. It's a shred-fest! Thirty years ago, y'might've been a star even with your slow cutbacks and throwaway chop-hops. French kids can surf, the little ones at least.

5. The pollution is rad. The French blame it on the Spanish (across the Bay of Biscay there) and the prevailing onshores that bring the trash ashore. But, y'ever been for a surf and come out with your fingernails dirtier than when you went in? And your wax smeared with grease?