Keep On Surfing

It is around 10 in the morning at Bordeaux airport and there are quite some options for another week of holidays. Once I fancied that I could take my time driving days and days through France, stopping here and there. Now it turns out that I have not counted on Hectors obstinacy and the fact that his metal coachwork reacts magnetic to waters. Before I can enter any destination into the navigation device, I am already en route heading south-west towards the Atlantic Ocean.

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When Einstein detected details of Gravity – did he think of the strong pull between Hector and the Sea?

At noon it is all set: Hector offers his full indoor + outdoor capacity and upcoming surf lessons are agreed for the next three days. While Nepal had been all about walking, these weeks are all about beaching. At the office, I would be bored to death with hours full of nothing, but it is different at the coast. I forget about time, I forget about money and I forget about almost everything that exceeds imminent needs such as food or sunscreen.

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The surf lessons during my last week are like the waves, full of ups and downs. The good part is that I am on top of the beginner’s level. The annoying part is that I have not reached the next level yet. Frustration takes the lead on day 3 (what else?!), when Vincent is busy helping some surfing neophytes on their boards while I am left alone with strong current and aggressive whitewash, thanks to the new moon. I look at the sea and think back: Only months ago, I have passed an altitude of 5.416m. These waves may be nasty, but they are not higher than 1,50m – absolutely hilarious!

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Getting better with the right Perspective: These waves are nothing compared to the height of the Himalaya

After a last evening at my favourite restaurant of Vieux Boucau, it is time to move on. I transfer Hector to the Camping Saint Martin at Moliets et Maa and learn that an endless beach means endless walks through the sand before you reach the best surf spot. Good that I am such a sporty girl, all able to cope with the surrounding – and well supported by Hector who has settled down only 30m behind the huge sand dune that separates the campsite from the beach.

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Moliets et Maa: Spectacular Show when the Atlantic swallows the Sun

With a rented board I try out the local waves on my own. It is a pity that the conditions are not inviting enough to try out the open (no real waves behind the sand bank), but at least I am queen of the whitewash. Take every wave that comes along, jump on the board, immediately turn left and follow the diagonal course of the wave’s shoulder right until the end, that’s what I practice over and over again. Meanwhile, my outfit does not match my abilities: being less under water and more on top of the board, my long-sleeve wet suit gets far too warm for sunny 30°C. Sometimes it is tough to be me…

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Queen of the Whitewash

Within a blink of an eye, 3,5 weeks are over and I have to think of the way back to Munich. Even in fast-and-furious mood, Hector will probably need more than one day for the distance of 1.500km. However, it might be a bit annoying if I start early in the morning, so why not celebrate departure day with a final surf lesson?

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It is always good to have surfers on speed dial and within minutes it is set. The next morning, I store everything properly in Hectors various compartments, check out at Moliets et Maa and reach Vieux Boucau 20 minutes later. After successful one and a half hours in salty water and with gentle (later: a bit too gentle) waves, I get out of the wet suit and straight into the driver’s seat, taking some grains of sand with me along the way. Although I love my life and my home-town, one or two months more for travelling would be very welcome… With a heartful sigh I turn around, knowing that I will not see another sunset at the beach for months.

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Goodbye France / Atlantique / Surfing…

Wave after Wave: The Surfing Challenge

The first two surfing lessons went pretty well, both for Linda and me. After a day off (filled by cycling to Hossegor), we continue on Saturday with our third lesson and with incredible optimism. I even talk our teacher Florice into going “au large” (into the open).

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This year, part of my surfing practice is learning that day 3 never works out. If five in a row or three in a row or with one day off in between, none of this matters with the general rule of “day three – no way”. If I only had known…

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While the waves make me tumble with unknown athletic moves, I use the time under water for reflexion: Maybe I should become old and boring someday (like: now)?! Stop the action and just wear the wetsuit for bragging and for well-shaped features…
Instead, I have made a decision some years ago: Whatever a place offers => try it! Go for it and see where it gets you. Make life colourful and widen your horizon. In case of doubt, always go for the most challenging aim. It is all about detecting the world and about touch and feel and taste and experience.
Hence, I raise my head above the water and continue. From what I can see, the other mid-level surfers in our group struggle just like me, so probably this is just a phase to go through. Or a day to leave behind.

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Days 4 and 5 are with Vincent and slightly better. Until I feel a stitch between my toes and wonder what I have stepped in… Although it hurts, I think of upcoming challenges, clench my teeth and hobble through the sand up to the surf school. I present my foot to Clément who becomes my personal saviour of the day. At least I renewed my nail polish just yesterday, so even with a swollen toe I still look like a lady.

It turns out that I have become acquainted with a greater weever (“une Grande Vive”) whose venom causes the waves of pain that now wash through my foot. Ten minutes and a basin full of warm (almost hot) water later, the wound is closed and the pain starts fading away. Time to return to my surf board!

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Survived!

The last of our five surf lessons is dedicated to stability: With rough water, we keep to the whitewash and practice not-falling-down-even-in-rushing-waves as well as steering the board rather than being carried away. Although my progress has not met my (ambitious) expectations, I am fine with the development. Perhaps I should use the last week of my holidays for further surfing days and see where it gets me…?!

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Vieux Boucau – Surfing Challenge

Tuesday is a big day when it is all about the arrival of the second campergirl: Linda arrives at Bordeaux and Hector is up on all four wheels to pick her up.

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Now the two of us – Linda + myself – are up for the surfing challenge at Vieux Boucau. Been there, done that, and still… The urge to get more out of it, to widen my possibilities. Thus, we are back where I started surfing two years ago, now with Linda for even more fun along the way.

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Will We be Some of Those Sometime?

This time, high season is still on a vivid level on the West coast. Yet, Vieux Boucau is a place far too relaxed to ever get stressful. The beach and the waves are dominating touristic life and we are here to be part of the show.

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We arrive well in time in the evening, just before the night is taken over by thunderstorms and rain. Secretely, I wonder if the waves might be too aggressive for our beginners’ level… I do not know where all these worries come from, but I catch myself thinking about waves that might be too strong, sporty actions that might be too extreme and any other obstacle that might jump in my way unexpectedly.

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Trying hard not to Worry too much

As it has been with the skateboard training, all it takes is getting started: Once you begin, you are into it and you stop worrying. You just do whatever you are up to. In our case: start with body surf, then lead the surf boards into the white wash and then… My body remembers more than my head and instinctively I push my board into the sea, get hip-deep in the water and lay on the board. The wave in sight, I start paddling, paddle stronger and there it is: push up, put the left foot on top, follow with the right (rear) foot and there I am, all back on the waves!

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Still Standing!

Linda, having some fishes among her forefathers, gets into the whole surfing system quite quickly and we have our fun playing “surfer girls” in the Atlantic Ocean. Supported by good teachers (Alternative Surf School once more proved to be best!) and a gentle beach, we build up quite some routine right from the start.

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Not bad for a Start

After our successful first lesson, we stumble over the best eating place in town and turn back to Hector with cookies in our pockets and salty water in our hair. Meanwhile, my little van plays it luxury with the outdoor carpet, the sun roof, comfortable chairs and tables and all kind of perfect equipment. Some of it have not been used for almost two years, but now with settling down for more than just one or two nights (a full week, in fact), we take advantage of all the stuff that miraculosly comes out of the deepest storage compartments.

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Holidays at the Atlantic Ocean – Always so full of Clichées

Days go by with surfing, strolling on the local markets, fantastic food, sunset at the beach and all this kind of holiday action. Blessed we are to live a wonderful life!

Surf-Prep: Skateboard Training

Quite some people have asked me about the skateboard lessons I joined, so here you go:

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Aiming (naturally) high, I decided to get trained by the Bavarian Skatemaster TomCat. Even though the target group is about kids from 5-12, age does not matter much when we all gather together for sports and action. I can only recommend: go for it, send your child, join yourself, have fun!

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Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

I may be wrong, but most probably I pushed my surfing ability with the skateboard training I passed before the holidays back in 2016. Hence, it is like surfing your home town (only less wet, that is)…

 

Surfing the West Coast: Carcans [3.145 km]

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Linda has to go back to the Netherlands while I still have three days left. We discuss our options: Me, staying on the current camp site feels too much left behind. Turn East and stretch the way back over five days feels like shortening the holidays. Finally, Linda goes to see some of Bordeaux centre, but gets handicapped by the European football championship: all baggage rooms and lockers are closed for safety reasons and Bordeaux with your luggage drawn behind is less fun.

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Although Bordeaux must be beautiful, I am drawn to the coast to see some more waves. The nice German surfer that I met in my second week mentioned a pretty good camp site at Carcans, so after a big hug and farewell to Linda I turn slightly North and head for the one and only camping at Carcans-Plage.

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I look for surfer’s atmosphere and in fact that is all that Carcans-Plage is about. Three restaurants, two snack bars and a ragtag music bar spread out over a hand full of tiny roads. Two souvenir shops, a supermarket and three surf shops, accompanied by a surf school and a camp site – there surely is a clear focus on touristic beach life. Even though the landscape with dunes und forest is a playground for further activities, I am fine with the beach and a rental surf board for the next days.

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Baywatch at Carcans

The beach and the weather work hand in hand with temperatures up to > 30°C. Due to yesterday’s full moon, the waves come up quite powerful and the current here is stronger compared to Vieux Boucau, but the beach surely is inviting. The afternoons fly by between warm sand and a swim (sort of) in the atlantic waves, while the morning hours are perfect for surfing practice.

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The days at Carcans motivate me to continue with surfing until I am good enough for the change to agile fiberglass boards. The “mousse” boards that I currently use are just too heavy for a girl like me and the distance of 1000 meters from the shop to the perfect waves. Well, I wanted to exercise more anyway, so for these days I am fine. With Vincent’s guidance running through my head I try to read the coastline and identify the ideal spot with gentle swell and harmless current. Soon enough I start with my routine of jumping on the board, steering left and right and get carried along by the whitewash.

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I always think, I should show more of the landscape. Well, this is my preferred one…

Between surfing and beaching, the camp site offers relaxed and basic circumstances: Hector is parked among other solo travellers, all surfers (what else). The Swiss guy chills in his hammock while Pete from Australia plays the guitar. Some clichés are just perfect when they hit real life!

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Pete: thanks for playing! And for ineresting conversations and, last but not least, for the wonderful surf-support!!

On Friday, I start running out of time: I have to go back to work and this is the only reason why I turn the engine and drive 1.000 km straight East. After 12 hours of driving, my step-brother and my sister-in-law welcome me with luxurious dinner and with my new nephew from Kabul. When I lay down in the guest room I slightly miss the wind rocking my bed and the humming sound of Hector’s control panel. 4 weeks of holiday have not stopped my travel bug at all…

The Surfing Challenge

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You cannot camp at France’s west coast and ignore the hundreds of surfers. So far, I have been fine watching them admiringly, enjoying the views at well defined muscles and that was it.

This will change now.

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When sharing my holiday plans with Jan (thank you!!), he advised not only several spots and villages but additionally came up with the surfing question. And slightly, the question became a plan: If not now, when else? Furthermore, it is such a logical next step, after the skateboard lessons that I took in spring time.

So here I am, forcing myself into my old neoprene wetsuit, facing my first surf lesson. Without rational reason, I am even nervous before it starts, but this will pass as soon as we begin. Vincent (sprich: “Wönssong”) does not only own the Alternative Surf School at Vieux Boucau but also happens to be one of the top 5 surfers across Europe and is willing to nudge me into the waves. Oh, I love working with the elite.

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For a well reasonable price (5 lessons, 90 minutes each = 155 EUR) Vincent shows me how to face the waves, how to handle the board and how to change between lying / face up for the cobra / standing and falling on and of the surfboard. He knows well how to structure the training and works like a wave dompteur.

DAY 1

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We start slowly with little waves and I enjoy it instantly. It is fooling around with the waves like children do, but then advancing to the next fun level, using the green-blue water for acceleration towards the beach. I hardly notice what happens, but suddenly…

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Slightly an hour has passed when I have the first, totally unexpected success: I manage to stand up on the board and ride with the wave for at least 3 seconds. It is so cool, that I jubilee a loud “yee-ha” over the beach, being instantly less cool probably. I don’t care, it is just soooo great!!

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Happy & proud after my first surf lesson

Afterwards, I am full of adrenalin, endorphins and all other positive chemicals that flow through my vanes. Obviously I spread around good mood, for when I get back to the camp site, still fully dressed in my neoprene suite, the workers from the construction site next door give me some admiring whistle. Everybody that crosses my path will be told about how fantastic it is to learn surfing. I welcome the muscle soreness and look forward to my next lesson tomorrow. Out of the blonde nothingness, a song line comes up:

The tide is high but I’m holding on
I’m gonna be a number one
I’m not the kind of girl
Who gives up just like that

DAY 2

Did I mention that I might welcome the muscle soreness? Stupid idea… On the second day the water playing fun continues, now more and more often on top of the surf board and riding along towards the beach. However, I have the slight doubt that the steering wheel has some kind of defect with an obvious tendency to the right part of the beach. Might be due to uncontrolled weak muscles from my side anyway, but who am I to discuss such technical topics?

I am happy that Vincent slightly takes over the hard parts like pushing the board against the waves, offering me water taxi service and whatever else it takes to ease the training. Consequently I can focus on the core exercises like jump on the surf board and find my inner and outer balance on top of the ocean.

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DAY 3

Today, my shoulders and arms feel much better. As long as I do not try to lift the arms, that is. The sky is bright blue, no wind disturbs the sun and the perfect beach day comes up with gentle waves of just the right size fort today’s practice.

Already the first round is good enough for pictures of the 2016 surfer queen: I manage to get on top, stand up and ride the wave until I reach the beach.

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Looks like I have fun? I surely have!

Further highlights follow when I manage not only to stand on the board and let the waves carry me towards the beach, but also to control and change directions left or right. If I trust Vincent’s statement (and sure enough I do trust my surf teacher), this is not very common on only the 3rd day.

Meanwhile I become more and more familiar with my surrounding: Vieux Boucau is less famous than Hossegor, but it has a pretty good atmosphere: the surfers all know each other and respect each other, people are friendly and beginners will receive encouraging smiles from other surfers. Moreover, the village contains some older / original parts and thus the place is more than just a tourist hot spot with a beach (once your are here, be sure not to miss the markets).

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A warm welcome at Vieux Boucau

DAY 4

Perfect beach weather welcomes us back at the ocean with neat little waves. Today we will go “outside”, in French: au large. It means that I do not start on the sand bank, but beyond in deeper water. From there, the hardest part is to estimate the right wave and the right timing for standing up. All the rest is crawling and paddling and waiting for the perfect wave. And a quick jump. Theoretically.

Due to perfect conditions, we stretch today’s lessons up to nearly 2 hours and I enjoy the sensation of speed and playing with waves on a slightly longer board (however, no real long board yet, but approaching higher aims). Minute by minute I look less silly on my surf board than on the pictures we had taken on day 3, while Hector now claims to be a “Surfmobil” just as all VW Bullis around.

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PHILOSOPHICAL RÉSUMÈ

At least one surf day is yet to come, but already now I am proud and enormously happy. I enjoyed every second of the new surfing experience and, last but not least, it proves once more that you can do whatever you want to – any time, any place. Just do it.

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Into the great wide open / under a sky so blue…