Easkey Britton, an etnies Girl UK surf team rider, chronicled her experience attending the first session of Girlie Surf Camp in Hossegor, France. We hope you enjoy peeking into her diary.
TUESDAY, JUNE 15, 2004
There was no surf today, so we went to Hallo4 Skate Park in Hossegor. Girlie Camp had arranged for us to have the place all to ourselves. Thank God, because my idea of skating is cruising down to the beach on a longboard! I'd never set foot in a skatepark before. I think it's all that hard concrete and the high risk of broken limbs that had put me off. It was the first time skating for most of the other girls too. We got all kitted out in protective gear and the first thing we were taught was how to fall properly—very reassuring! The guys who ran the place were amazing. I could trust them completely, they pushed us just the right amount and helped us face our fears without throwing us into the deep end. In the beginning, I was a nervous wreck with shaking knees, but in the end, I felt like a champion—even if it was only a 45-degree ramp I was dropping down! I was so impressed by Michelle, the Swiss girl, who pushed her limits and put the guys to shame with her determination, pulling ollies, doing jumps, dropping down near vert ramps...I'm so stoked to see girls reclaiming their power in such male-dominated sports. Unfortunately, the skate park claimed one victim, and Niki had to be taken to the hospital with a very twisted ankle.
We visited Billabong's shaper and "weather man" today. The surf prediction was pretty glum for tomorrow: "If you are a shortboarder, there is nothing for you to do," but it is looking good for later in the week, as a "four to five foot swell is due Friday."
No surf meant I had time to do nothing—which I find very hard to do! I can never sit still in one place. I want to soak everything up, and I'm always buzzing from place to place; however, sometimes it's good to slow down and appreciate the moment without filling it with stuff. We lay on Hossegor beach for the rest of the afternoon, and I tried to understand the art of sunbathing...
It was Brazilian night at Rock Food in Hossegor, so Michelle, Kerryn and I met up with Leah and Steph, and their crazy, gorgeous friends, Vince and Greg, for some samba and salsa dancing.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 16, 2004
I woke up to the caravan shaking with the wind and grey skies. Surfing was not an option this morning, so we had an invigorating yoga session with Marika instead. By the time we were finished, the sky was blue and the sun was shining again. We did the touristy thing and went to St. Jean de Luz with its old, beautiful Basque buildings and narrow, winding, shop-filled streets. Shopping and crepe eating followed! This evening Axel (our surf instructor) convinced us that it was possible to catch waves in a seemingly flat ocean, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that he was right! We took out some huge boards and the girls had their best session ever. A beautiful sunset and barbecue capped off another great day.
THURSDAY, JUNE 17, 2004
Axel took us to a little beach near Bidart, France. We had it all to ourselves. The surf was small, about two feet, but clean and super fun. I spent all morning running in and out of the surf, trying out different boards. I love experimenting on the smaller days—my shortboard felt so tiny and loose after longboarding! The girls were adapting well to the steeper, more hollow waves, and repeating Axel's mantras, "paddle fast," "jump up," "look forward"...
After a picnic on the beach, we headed back to the camp for a raga dance session. We sweated it out to the pumping beat under the roasting midday sun. It was so much fun! The raga style is kinda macho and street—the body speaks back to the music, it's full of attitude and it's a great workout!
Barbecue night! This time I'd figured out how not to blacken all the food I was cooking—not many people were into my "flame grilled" charcoal chicken kebabs last time! Chris' Swedish snowboard friends, who worked on the famous "Battle" snowboard comp, set up the Girlie Camp outdoor lounge, complete with sofa, armchairs and table. Leah's friend Steph arrived with a newly shaved head, a larger-than-life persona and her entourage of Greg and Vince, who work in the coolest surf shop in France, Ragdoll! Vince was wearing a white t-shirt with "F--k the Prestige!" in dirty black writing. Good to see one of the world's worst natural disasters hasn't been forgotten. Last year, oil from the Prestige wreck devastated the coasts of France and Spain, and surfers couldn't surf for months because it was too toxic. There are still little blobs of oil on the beach and the shipwreck is still leaking oil into the ocean...
Niki, Nadine, Kerryn, Stephy from etnies, Michelle and I went to watch the sunset over Laffitenia Bay. I think sunsets are one of the most powerful images in the world. A photo can never truly capture it (though Stephy took about 50 on her digital camera!), and yet the mind never forgets. It is so moving. I feel like I am witnessing something far greater than all of the supposedly important things in life. My worries don't matter so long as there are beautiful sunsets in life...
FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2004
We went surfing at our little beach again. It's great going surfing with Axel—he takes us to all the best spots without the crowds, and knows when the waves will be best. It was a little bigger today, two to three feet, fast and hollow. The Swedish boys put on bright green Girlie Camp rash guards, posed for some provocative, controversial photos and joined us in the surf! It was Stephy's first time surfing today, and by the end of the session she was hooked. Surfing is the best drug in the world! A heavy mist came in from the sea and made the beach look like it was a world of its own, a magical place just for us to surf.
On our way back to the camp, we had a discussion on love, relationships and the opposite sex. Our outlook was rather jaded! On this trip, we had discovered a new love, surfing—a love that was fast becoming unbreakable for life, a love without complications, a love that lasts forever and feeds out hungry souls with passion and stoke!
I went surfing later that evening at a reef break not far from the campsite. Axel showed me where to paddle out in between the rocks and gave me the low-down on the waves. You can't beat local knowledge. It was three to four feet, a point with a right and left. I had one of the best sessions of the trip and the last wave made my day. I love that about surfing—how all it takes is a few brief moments of being carried on a wave of energy for earth to become heaven!
Tonight was our last night. I can't believe how quickly the trip has gone, yet it has been full of so many wonderful moments. We went out for a meal to Hetroclito in the beautiful Basque village of Guethary. The restaurant sits on a cliff overlooking Guethary Bay and is very funky, with decor that includes a portrait of Buddha with flashing lights and a holographic image of Jesus who turns into the Virgin Mary when you tilt your head to the right! The bar counter is made of a collection of drift wood, the toilet is under the stairs and decorated with mosaic waves, the menus are roughly written on colored scraps of paper and there are lights of all sorts throughout—tube lights, colored Christmas lights, vintage lights...It's so kitsch it works, and the food is divine. Once again, there was complete silence when the food arrived, the only time when everyone is quiet! I ordered the "Poulet Fifi Facon Thai" because the name was so cool. It was lush!
After the meal, we put on our ridiculous bright pink Von Zipper sunnies, pumped up the Beastie Boys, revved up "Roberta" (our nickname for the head-turning Girlie Camp wagon!) and cruised around the narrow, winding streets of Guethary. Marika, Michelle and I busted moves in the front, and the rest of the girls waved at the people who were giving us looks of amazement. We were the local entertainment for the evening. Maybe because of all the sun and surf exposure we'd had over the last couple of days, none us felt up for a night on the town. We headed back to headquarters, where the Swedish lads were having a jam session in the Girlie Camp "lounge" outside. We all sat around and Marika made us hot chocolate. Some of the guys play in a band and they had great voices. I fell in love with the music! Music is like surfing how it brings people together and touches something in the soul.
SATURDAY, JUNE 19, 2004
Our last day! The ocean turned it on for us and we had the best surf of the trip at Bidart—glassy, three to four feet powerful, hollow, fast waves. It always amazes me how much surfers complain about crowds, yet they always flock to the same spot thus creating the crowded environment they loathe. In Bidart, all the surfers were packed together in the center of the beach. We surfed under the cliffs 50 to 100 meters away. There was no one but us, and the waves were just as good. I was very happy with the "lemming effect" that allowed me to have waves all to myself. I think after surfing waves that were so small, I really appreciated the good surf and it felt so much bigger. It felt epic, and I wanted to soak it all up on every wave that came. The girls had their best session too, all of them completely confident in the powerful waves, coming up laughing after wipeouts, surfing the waves to the beach.
It was strange not surfing with Michelle, who had left early that morning. I'd only known her a week, but already it felt like I'd known her forever, friends for life—we had all grown so close, brought together by our love of the ocean. I was really going to miss all of them, but we plan to meet up again at another Girlie Camp, maybe a snowboard one...
The Swedish lads played feel good songs the whole way to the airport until nearly all of the strings broke on their guitar! They were picking up new girls from all over Europe who were arriving for the next camp and saying goodbye to us "old" ones. Big hugs goodbye, except we knew it wasn't really goodbye. We knew the ocean would bring us together again, as it always does...
I will definitely be back—Girlie Camp rocks!