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Forty-five minutes north of Biarritz, the car's GPS interrupts again our discussion about the origins of surfing in Europe. As indicated, we have just arrived at our destination: Hossegor.
Heading directly to the beach along the always traveled Paul Lahary Avenue, the Basque-French-style facades coexist in harmony with the gleaming showcases of well-known fashion and surf brands.
A group of teenagers, with their boards ingeniously coupled to bicycles, anticipate an old Ford pick up that is determined to slow down traffic: "Take it easy, guys!", It seems. In Hossegor, if people hurry it is because there are good waves.
The aroma of freshly made crepes competes with that of hamburgers. Before arriving at the beach we stopped at a foodtruck. Waffles and craft beers, fruit smoothies and beautiful people. Marta Lanzetti and Emanuele Costabel are moving their foodtruck through Hossegor. Today they parked on Boulevard de la Dune, next to the church renamed Surf Church.
Richard Ellerington and his family moved from England to carry out this project that combines their passion for the waves with spiritual talks in English and French, simultaneously.
Hossegor, France © Aléx del Río
Inside, the decoration of the church is very fun and, when there are no meetings, it works as a cafeteria. Here we enjoy excellent coffee while we resume the conversation about the origins of surfing in Europe.
We decided that, possibly, the first surfing getaway to Europe dates back to 1956, when Peter Viertel, mythical Hollywood screenwriter and husband of Deborah Kerr, was in Pamplona filming sequences from the movie Fiesta! The Sun Also Rises, based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway.
Viertel had hidden several surfboards between the filming equipment and, as soon as the filming was over, he crossed the border to go to Biarritz, where he knew they were breaking perfect (and dangerous) tubular waves.
The young French were fascinated to see the writer riding the waves and, just three years later, the first surf club in France was founded .
A lot has been surfed since then. The board industry, which allows us to slide on the waves - and on the snowy slopes of the mountains and on the asphalt -, is increasingly sophisticated.
And surfing will become an Olympic sport in Japan 2020, although it is not yet decided whether the competitions will take place at sea or in the wave pool designed by Wave Company, the company of Kelly Slater, the only surfer who has conquered eleven times the world title of the ASP, the Professional Surf Association.
There are already many professionals who admit to having found better waves in the Slater pool than in many of the international competitions in the ocean.
But the sea belongs to everyone and the quality of the waves of Hossegor has made this small French town the European capital of surfing and the stage, together with its neighboring Seignosse and Capbreton, of Quiksilver Pro France, one of the star competitions of international circuit
Relais du Lac, to sleep in a cozy place overlooking the sea © Aléx del Río
In Hossegor the beach looks infinite: seven kilometers of golden sand that, in reality, continue without interruption until Mimizan, one hundred kilometers to the north.
With one of the most consistent sand bottoms on the continent, Hossegor offers three surfing peaks: La Nord, La Graviere and La Sud.
It is not strange to run into elite surfers, such as Jérémy Florès, the most recent champion of the Billabong Pipeline Masters of Hawaii, or Tom Curren, legendary former champion and resident of Hossegor, whom we are fortunate to see in action in the water, when we fall the afternoon.
Even for those who do not have the slightest intention of putting on the wetsuit, it is a real pleasure to walk barefoot through these eternal beaches observing the ancestral sport of the Polynesian kings with the last lights of the day coloring the horizon.
Restaurant of the Quiksilver Boardriders Campus store, in San Juan de Luz © Aléx del Río
The next morning, after taking advantage of the first waves early in the morning, we made an excursion to San Juan de Luz, 40 minutes to the south, to visit the place where much of the aesthetic universe of surfing emerges : the Quiksilver Campus.
Here, in a wooden building with huge windows, the brand's latest clothing and accessories collections are created.
Connected to each other by walkways, the different departments form a kind of arch around a central building, the Agora.
There are playgrounds, a skatepark, large dining rooms bathed in the light of the Landes and young people of different nationalities moving from one place to another with their laptops.
A cyclist surfer walking along the beach © Aléx del Río
Valerie Hell, designer of Roxy, the female brand of Quiksilver, explains how the work is in each new collection: “In teams, usually two people from different departments, We travel to destinations of marked aesthetic personality in any corner of the world.
Then we all met to start designing with Roxy's surfing needs in mind. They are the new it-girls of the sector and those that take the clothes to the limit ”.
Next to the offices is one of its main stores: Boardriders Campus. It is almost impossible to cover its more than 750 m2 without being tempted to buy something.
Sitting on the terrace of the cafeteria, between Iberian hams and photographs of athletic surfers, we return to the original conversation of the trip.
But now with one more interesting fact: the first surfboard that entered Europe came under the arm of the Alavés Ignacio de Aranda, consul in Hawaii between 1911 and 1914.