Photography by Alex Lesbats. Words by some lucky Arnaud Le Tower
There’s and old saying that goes “When the orange orchards are freezing in Florida, there’s barrels to be had in the West Indies!”
Deep in the south of France the crew at RC HQ were taking a break from quaffing vintage reds and nibbling on local cheese to study the weather forecast for the Eastern United States (as you do). Life is one long vacances in Hossegor and the crew needed some way to break the monotony of perfect beach breaks and naked sunbathing; and searching for more perfect beach breaks seemed the obvious thing to do.
No strangers to surf forecasting, and with the oranges well and truly cooling off in Florida, it was obvious to them that a glacial low-pressure system of consequence was moving in fast and that there would be great waves “Somewhere” down the West Indies way.
Well not exactly Somewhere – one wave in particular – a dream like right which breaks on a sand bottom in blue water just a few feet from the shore. Somewhere that any surfer worth his or her salt would flip out about.
And the location ideally suited the Europeans: warm, sand bottom, fine food in the flavour of Chicken Colombo and fish fricassee, with a bit of rum as the staple libation…
After a coffee (or two), it only took a few minutes of discussion with brand-new Searcher, Vincent Duvignac, before he decided to moped home to the chalet and pack for the Windies the next day.
Vincent is 28 years old and was born and raised a pure surfer in The Landes region of France and he is one of the most respected surfers in the La Gravière lineup on any given day. After signing with Rip Curl last January, he decided to focus his career on his free surfing skills and Search experiences rather than competition and is one stylish cat.
Vincent belongs to the last of a generation which discovered the Search through the old Rip Curl videos or DVDs and Tom Curren, a Landes regular for decades, is naturally his favourite surfer ala Searcher.
Despite his young age Kyllian is already as a member of the Rip Curl team for many years signing on as a talented micro grom. He organises his everyday life according to the surf conditions and does his school classes via internet which allows him to never miss a good session. He’s a regular face on beaches all over the world and wherever the Rip Curl Pro Team are contesting big events from Bells to Pipeline he and his dad are there living the dream. He lives with his family between Hossegor and Costa-Rica which means his tube riding skills are way beyond his years. He already shows great poise in the gnarliest French pits and this is the reason the big boys agreed to take him along.
Miguel Blanco is a 20 years old Portuguese surfer from the Cassias/Lisboa region. After winning Pro Juniors all over Europe Miguel is now following the World Qualifying Series and wants to crack the World Surf League top 32. Miguel is a powerful and innovative surfer who has made himself a name in big and hollow waves of his homeland spending lots of time on the road to Supertubos or Nazaré to score surf. Miguel, who had only been part of the Rip Curl team for a month, was just super stoked to travel for the first time to the middle of nowhere.
Perfect 4- to 6-foot waves, turquoise and unbelievably hollow, on an uninhabited island with only driftwood scattered across it’s fine sand for company.
With the Citroen packed for the trip to the airport, some croissants were ordered and washed down with some double espressos at the Café de Paris – the most famous street corner in Hossegor – and the boys jumped in the car and set off waving goodbye to the many lovely girls of the town as they headed for the airport.
A 10-hour flight from the capital, many hours in transit lounges and a 12-hour boat ride later, the old “orange saying” was confirmed when the group awoke in dawn’s early light to the sound of waves breaking: perfect 4- to 6-foot waves, turquoise and unbelievably hollow, on an uninhabited island with only driftwood scattered across it’s fine sand for company.
The wave itself is fickle – turning on only those who are ready and waiting – and with conditions in the AAA zone the spirit metre was cranked up to high and it was fins in and over the side.
The following days passed in a flash as they miked the swell taking turns among the perfect barrels, pausing only to eat in the most civilised manner, getting stuck into the local fare of Chicken Colombo, Fish Fricassee, and a bit of local rum – well not Kyllian – he’s got a few years to wait for that part yet.
After the perfection, the boat trip back was a serious reality check, with a huge windstorm causing total panic on board. Three surfboards were blown away for good and the deck flowed with chunder as the Chicken Columbo came back to haunt the boys the other way around.
Back in Hossegor a week later the boys had plenty to talk about around the fondue pot and memories of a pirates cove that will never ever leave them. Not that they ever ate any oranges along the way…