Thursday, June 9, 2011
Saturday, November 27, 2010
This autumn it's been nothing but big sessions for the Mamas.… Yesterday I had a bit of a laugh remembering the days when Christophe used to have to drag me out back by my leash, kicking and screaming in 50cm waves. We’ve tried to find the more mellow waves some weeks, but the swell has been big. And is it my imagination, or does it always double in size between ten and twelve on on Friday mornings, just when we’re in the water?
Last week was the biggest session, out in the bay of St Jean. There were two metre sets coming in and, as Johanna said on the beach, with a bit of understatement the conditions were “Not Classic.” The South wind was howling down the valleys from the Pyrenees, after a week of rain the water was brown, and dead seabirds floated around in the toxic looking floodwater.… But there were waves, for those of us who hadn’t got carried away with the excitement of the Beaujolais ball at the Madrid. Usually surfing is a perfect cure when your feeling a little hungover round the edges. But I guess the tannins in the wine had hit me hard .
I found myself wondering why, if I wasn’t sure if I could get out of bed this morning, I thought it might be a good idea to paddle a mile out into the freezing ocean for some intensive wipeout training.
The other girls got some lovely waves, and the Mamas medal for outstanding bravery goes to Marie Jouet for taking off on some monsters.
I’m claiming the wooden spoon for being so cold and weak when we got in that Johanna had to take my wetsuit off for me !
Yesterday was a bit smaller, at St Jean again. It was so beautiful I wished I had my watercolour box out there with me. There was snow on the mountains, and the sky split down the middle between bright blue and huge black stormclouds, with shafts of winter sunlight catching the spray. It was like one of those inspirational religious paintings, and it’s surprising the Mamas didn’t all come in Born Again. But again, just when I was trying to get my head around the metre sets rolling through, they seemed jump in size, leaving me thinking, if it’s a ‘nice little metre’ what is that thing crashing over the digue? Then the brouhata came in, a freaky local wind that goes from 0-60 in thirty seconds. I fell off a wave and my board went spinning straight up into the air, before crashing back down beside me. It seemed like time to paddle in if I didn’t want to break my nose or end up in Munchkin land.….
Yes it’s been a pretty amazing few weeks, not at all what we imagined when we first started down there in the mousse at Erretegia. I think if we had we might have stayed superglued to our beachtowels if we had.
So big thank-you to Johanna for getting us together, getting us out there, and teaching us to surf. Oh, and getting us out of our wetsuits when we’re too hungover to do it for ourselves!
Posted by Wilma
Photo by Wilma
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The project was conceived by Johanna Matsson and Karolina Ekman, who both come from a competitive free skiing background and have years of traveling around the world for competitions, photo shoots and film jobs behind them. Now they’ve settled down, Johanna is a mother and runs a surf schoool in Biarritz, Karolina a physiotherapist and skipper based in the Alps...but their curiosity and enthusiasm for adventure are undiminished.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
I just noticed that the last post we put up was called Where is the Summer?
We wrote it when it had been raining for weeks on end, and we’d started wondering if summer was ever going to arrive. The trouble with diaries and blogs is that you tend to write them when you’ve got time on your hands,there’s no surf and the weather’s rubbish. What happened next of course was that the sun came put, the swell got up, and we headed down to the beach and forgot to write the blog all summer....
So before you start feeling too sorry for us - yes, we did have summer, followed by Indian summer, and we’re still in shorts and spring suits.
Apart from a hectic summer at the surf school, Johanna’s been working on an exciting new film project, Meetings in Lofoten. with fellow free skier and skipper Karolina Ekman.
They’ll be going up to the archipelago of Lofoten, in arctic Norway, sailing, ski-touring and surfing the local breaks. They’ll also be meeting the people who live in this beautiful but isolated part of Europe, and trying to figure out what makes them stay here... and what makes them leave. Camilla, one of the original members of the Surf Mamas born in the Northern most town in the world and brought up in Lofoten, so she should have some insight into that... We'll be telling you lots more about this in the next blog...
Meanwhile other good news is that Wilma’s first book Surf Mama comes out next June with Beautiful Books. Paintings and stories about her life in London, Ireland, Biarritz and Mexico, and what makes a forty year old artist who’s never done an exercise class in her life take up surfing?
Saturday, June 19, 2010
What has happened to the summer? It’s only four days until the solstice, we should be skipping round maypoles with crowns of flowers in our hair drinking iced schnapps. Instead I’ve found myself loitering round the fake tan aisle in the supermarket and slipping a sneaky packet of blonde highlighter into my trolley. Yesterday I put away my flip-flops and got out my sheepskin slippers - I had no intention of leaving the house. Although at least I had the choice, unlike my kids who were cut off by floods at their father’s house in the appropriately named village of Saint Pee.
This morning’s meeting of the Mamas was cancelled because the water looked like an ocean of chicken soup - tinted a sinister ochre colour by rivers of mud and toxic fertilizer flowing down from the Pyrenees.
“And it’s flat” Johanna added, “If it was brown and glassy we might have risked it.”
We might have, because apart form the lack of sunshine, it’s been a hideously flat spring. The trouble with this is that as soon as a ripple breaks the horizon, there are about a thousand surf-starved desperadoes fighting over it.….
There was beautiful surf last wednesday, but it was trop belle pour moi at ‘a good two metres’. This means way over two metres as you know it, because, peversely, we are talking about the back of the wave. The face - which you actually surf - can be twice that size. So that left me sitting on my towel, but Johanna was heading out, slightly alarmed by the swarms of surfers on the peak and photographers on the beach.
“Laird Hamilton’s out there.” I told her. There’s nothing like a Hawaiian big wave legend in the water to bring out the competitive spirit.
You could see a haze of testosterone over the peak. Like one of those fish farms where they sprinkle hormones in the water, if you breathed in too deeply you might permanently alter your hormone
balance and start sprouting chest hair. But it takes more than fifty men in black neoprene to phase Johanna, who was one of only five women on the Freeski world tour.
“How was it?” I ask her afterwards.
“Great .…. Laird gave me a wave.”
Of course, there are advantages to being the only woman in the water!
But our best hope of seeing a nice wave today is to head down to the Café Loco for the opening of Francois Lartigau’s new exhibition ‘Surfing Moments’.
One of Francois Lartigau's Surf Mamas at Café Loco in Guethary.
Laird Hamilton photo © Sylvain Cazenave
POSTED BY WILMA
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Spring is in the air, the mimosa is in bloom, the Madrid is serving rosé, and the Mamas are coming out of hibernation. We should be rubbing our sleepy little eyes, waxing our boards and getting out into the ocean.
We don’t stop in the winter, but we do slow down. Now it’s time to get serious again, but it’s not easy. I went round to see Taryn last week.
“I don’t know why, but I just don’t feel like surfing at the moment.” She said, sounding a bit disappointed in herself.
“It could be something to do with... that ” I pointed out of the window. There was about six inches of snow on the beach - if you’d added a few Reindeer, Guethary could have passed for Lappland.
“Yes, but there’s a guy surfing out there and he’s not even wearing gloves or boots. Wouldn’t it be cool to be out there all alone, with snow falling all around you?”
If you were a walrus or a penguin. I don’t think cool quite covers it, I’d go for glacial, freezing, or frostbitten.
But two days later the snow has melted and I’m walking along the beach thinking, yes, maybe today. Until I turn the corner and the North wind cuts through my fleece jacket and I think, or... maybe not. But I feel quite brave just for having had the thought, and give myself a pat on the back.
Then I see a woman about my age jogging along the beach. She stops by a rock, strips off and runs into the sea naked. I’m as impressed as the Russian lorry drivers walking in the other direction. I feel like she’s thrown down the gauntlet, along with her Nikés, her shorts and her sweatshirt.
I get home and phone Taryn. “We have to surf, I saw a naked woman swimming at Uhabia.”
“What? Why? Are there waves?”
“Err, not many. But who needs waves when you’ve got sunshine, an empty ocean and a bracing onshore gale blowing?”
We meet Johanna at the beach, and she doesn’t need too much persuading to join us.
“It’s not snowing any more.” Is enough of a reason. She’s spent most of the winter in Verbier, where she’s a ski instructor. There hasn’t been much powder snow this year, so she wasn’t very amused to get home last week and find herself surrounded by the stuff, and nothing to do with it but make snowmen.
We paddle out together, it’s not perfect, and it’s not warm, but there are a few waves and we’re out there all alone. It’s definitely worth the ice cream head for a 100% Mamas session at Guethary.
Posted by Wilma