Many people writing about surf contests (I cringe to call us journalists…) seem to make the mistake of putting themselves in the story as a hero, or anti-hero, or whatever. The fault being that they probably shouldn’t be in the story that is a review or a preview of a World Championship Tour event with guys like Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Taj Burrow in the mix. No matter how you place yourself in the story, it does not lend itself to humility. If you’re a former pro surfer then maybe it’s ok, but the chances are slim, because not many former pro surfers can write with cognizance. People who write about surfing are often kooks, with good memories and a medium talent with words. Yet we are kooks. Even William Finnegan is apparently a kook. Maybe we made it to the quarter finals of a school event once or twice back in the day, when life was easy, when we didn’t yet comprehend that we were all going to die. We shouldn’t place ourselves in surf stories. We are not a Hunter S Thomson, nor a Tom Wolfe. People don’t want to read about us and our petty little problems and memories. They want to know about Dane Reynolds and Kolohe Andino, Glen Hall and Brett Simpson and the rest. Don’t they.

It’s been many years since last I was in Hossegor. Looking in the rear view mirror, I have strange, complicated and mixed feelings when reminiscing about that little corner of France. It’s a place that entices and repels; excites and disgusts. When I was there last I was penniless, sleeping in tents, sleeping on the beach and on couches. I was single, and I found some work, so it was a single working, surfing, partying life for me. It was all about Roland and the Rockfood, house parties, living in the forest, bad drugs, nudity, skanky travelers with names like The Janitor and Dirty Ned, and the girl who I liked who was cruelly named Solid Five Foot. As in ’bru, she’s a Solid Five Foot.’

The waves though, let’s talk about the waves. France simply disappoints. All those epic, perfect days in the magazines with Tom Curren and Gary Elkerton and big A-Frame peaks and stand-up tubes on the shoreline, are extremely rare. It hardly ever gets like that. It does get solid, it does barrel and it does break very close to the shore, but perfection is rare. It also gets crowded. The waves also change, radically, during the course of the day. I remember sitting on the beach at Culs Nuls or thereabouts, watching this massive rip just tearing the line-up to shit. There was a big left grinding into it, and then just going totally shit and rippy and washy. Barely rideable, I was about to turn away when an Aussie surfer named Pete (hey Pete!) arrived, jumped into the lineup and get ripped out to backline in a matter of seconds. Pete caught an inside double-up and it ran all the way through to the shore. It was a bit bumpy, but not a bad wave. His second wave was better, and by the time he was doing an old school backhand layback in the tube on the third wave I was prepping to get out there. “Just needed the tide mate,’ he told me with a smile, as the line-up settled, the rip disappeared and a perfect left peeled through for a few hours.

Hossegor is a great place for surf contests. If the waves are good, or contestable, there are so many hours in a day to surf. If the waves are really good, the action is dramatic and breaks on the shoreline. Surfers can literally kick out on dry sand, right next to wide-eyed nude French spectators. Best moment however must have been the fight between Andy Irons and Mick ‘The Pelt’ Campbell. I was sitting around on the beach at the time with some friends, and we might or might not have been smoking a joint, when the shit climbed onto the 638 bus headed directly for the fan. After the heat Andy said some choice words to Red about his ancestry. Mick connected AI with a right hook. AI tried to unsuccessfully clobber the red headed fiend with his board. Elko broke them up. We looked around wondering if we had just had a shared hallucination. It all happened in just a few seconds. It was awesome.

This year Jordy is out. Dane is going to come nowhere, it’s obvious. So not too much in going to go to his favourite charity. Still, it’s the thought that counts. Kelly doesn’t give a shit about contests right now. France with a bit of size doesn’t suit Filipe at all, Owen is probably not going to catch any waves in his heat, Julian is off his game because marriage, and Gabby has had a boring year and this will no doubt continue throughout Europe. That leaves ADS and Mick to battle it out, with maybe Wiggoly or Parko making some sort of move as well. I hope I’m wrong. I hope it’s more exciting than that.

Mick Fanning standing at the alter at the 2010 Quiksilver Pro, France. Photo: Joli Mick Fanning standing at the alter during the 2010 Quiksilver Pro, France. Photo: Joli

Quiksilver Pro France Round 1 Match-Ups:

Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA), Jadson Andre (BRA), Brett Simpson (USA)

Heat 2: Julian Wilson (AUS), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Aritz Aranburu (ESP)

Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Dane Reynolds (USA)

Heat 4: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Adam Melling (AUS), Tomas Hermes (BRA)

Heat 5: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Keanu Asing (HAW), Caio Ibelli (BRA)

Heat 6: Mick Fanning (AUS), Michel Bourez (PYF), Maxime Huscenot (FRA)

Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Dusty Payne (HAW)

Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA), John John Florence (HAW), Alejo Muniz (BRA)

Heat 9: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Ricardo Christie (NZL)

Heat 10: Nat Young (USA), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Glenn Hall (IRL)

Heat 11: Josh Kerr (AUS), Kai Otton (AUS), Kolohe Andino (USA)

Heat 12: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Joel Parkinson (AUS), C.J. Hobgood (USA)