Monday, November 30, 2015

Euskal Herria - a few last pics from Basque Country, San Sebastián, and Paris

It will be ages before I can boast such an amazing title for a blog post and not be bullshitting you. So here are just a few last pics from the trip:
Bodegala Plancha, Saint Jean de Luz - just go here.
Chez Renauld - Saint Jean de Luz - super fun for post surf Eki (local beer) and some mussels
More Chez Renauld
The rockin' ride for the trip in front of the amazing Fati Tattoo in Biarritz -
 authentic Polynesian ink - Marquesan style
they really care here - way to go folks, keep up the bon travail!
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San Sebastian: Hye Tyde in Spain!- this city is just too cool
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Bittersweet return to Passy to catch up with old friends, this is where I lived 1986-87, and stayed with an absolutely charming host family. Sadly the host mother died 2 years ago, life goes on, and she left behind 15 grandchildren, dis donc! Mme Launay, you were a class act 100%, with love. But catching up with my host 'father' was amazing - recounting life under German occupation, the air raids, his time as both an engineer and soldier in Algeria. This completed the trip.
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Plum Island: just Shootin' pics with my new rig

The Sony a6000 is an amazing little rig - so far so good, but there's so much to learn. I'm just sorry I didn't have this camera for the trip to France. Next time!
These were taken on Plum Island, Mass.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

France Flashback - Legendary Lafitenia

Lafitenia: The blurb on Surfline sums it up best
A beautiful righthand pointbreak, complete with steps in the steep take-off, that leads into a long wall and occasionally hollow inside section. After the excitement of the first steep section, the wall fattens up and allows repetitive cutbacks into the hook before the final race to the shorebreak close-out. Frequented by multi ability surfers on various craft, it's a fairly friendly wave, unlike the psycho outside left that Slater has towed in seasons past.

That said, this is probably the best wave I've ever surfed. Ever.

steep takeoff leads to a very fast section 
trawlers in the cove
later that afternoon, the swell backed off and there was a slight wobble on the water
stoked French groms
post surf chillin'

the actual board I used, it's creator, Guilhem Rainfray, and its conceptual father, Bing Copeland
picture stolen from - more on this later, and thanks Jeffrey for lending me your baby!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Anglet sessions

Surfing Anglet: - one of the highlights of the trip.
It's a pretty famous, the WSL circus stopped by just a month before. Anglet is comprised of several breaks along a wide stretch of beach, and has the reputation for being fast and heavy.  Chambre d'Amour -  a name that's up there on the list of great names like Shit Pipe and Gas Chambers but with expected Gallic flair.  I didn't surf there, this is la Barre.
Paddling out there can be a psyche-out, I didn't know anyone, and there was only a handful out that afternoon. But screw it, I waited almost 30 years for this, and while it's a world class break, it was a pretty mellow day. And at least it isn't coral or granite.

Even in waist to chest conditions the power behind these waves is evident despite the early and easy takeoff. Drop in, crank the turn, and fly.  Then it  finally breaks with a thump directly on the shore.  By then there has been plenty of time and speed to pull out. Rinse, repeat.
Air temps: 82° water temps: 72°:
Me: trunks, t shirt, everyone else – full suits, boots too. Plaisantez-vous?? It's European thing. And despite reports from naysayers back home, the water was crystal clear.

French locals: pas mal de tout.
Bagging on the French has become a bit of a national pastime. But can I say I NEVER experienced so much as a vibe or stink eye. Au contraire, everyone was cool everywhere. Simply follow the Hye Tyde axiom: just don't be a pain in the ass and you'll be fine.
Super fun log jam in Anglet.  This girl had amazing style, and was such a sweetheart in the lineup, #anglet #girlsrip #french_aloha
Elf sighting
I'll never forget an amazing French girl catching loads of waves (there are plenty to go around) with the most delicate, pure logging style, all smiles. She had such a good energy it flowed over the lineup. Whoever she is, she's got one bright aura.
After a bit, I was able to break the ice with some of the French in the lineup. I was filled in on the history of the place, and they were amazed at the conditions we deal with here in New England (never fails).
taken a few days after - the spot on the right is actually overhead
Just before catching the last wave of the day I was asked - in the thickest French accent imaginable: "So, John – we see you next year?"

Je l'espère bien!
Anglet's Coat of Arms, or "Blason" - this town goes back to the Romans

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Meanwhile, back in Ipswich...easing into Autumn

We're easing into autumn - just some pictures from the 'hood and a quick surf session in NH:
more fun than it looked - just too anxious to suit up and paddle out
afternoons on the porch aka the Sunset Deck , "where the smoking light is always on"
stairs down to a rocky beach - see below
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Friday, October 30, 2015

à Paris et au pays basque

The trip ended over a month ago, and it's taken that long to catch up on everything left behind and to let the experience sink in.

Quick backstory:
I lived in France form 1986 to 1987, doing a typical junior year abroad, and being an English teacher's assistant at a Paris high school. Since then Basque country has been a bit of an obsession. The coastline, mild climate, lush countryside, and cool little towns all intrigued me. Mind you, this was all long before I surfed.
Fast forward to today:
The intrigue evolved to obsession. so as a a belated birthday present to myself, for turning 50 back in March, I said what the hell and bought tickets and made reservations.
'Basque Country' in Basque - done in the official Basque font - go there you'll know what I'm talking about.

What was it like?
Imagine a far off land, half-remembered from a dream, but somehow you know the language, and you know your way around. That's what it was like. It's one of those trips where everything works out well, and you know it and savor the smooth sailing.
Sacre bleu! Tonnere de Brest! Careful what you wish for, the power here is unlike anything ever surfed before. Dare I say there's more punch here than in California. I always knew this was a legendary part of the surf world, and the Basque Coast did not disappoint. It took some getting used to, but by the end of the trip the Franco/Basque surf and surf culture had charmed yet another Gringo.
But it wasn't all surf
Paris was as splendid as ever after almost 30 years, and Basque country has so much to offer it was overwhelming. Plus now I can add Spain to another country on my small but growing list.
Day trip to Spain, crazy windy and the brightest rainbow I've ever seen!
More detailed posts to follow, but I didn't want any more time to pass before sharing pictures and ideas.