Ah, Biarritz. Beaches lined with hoards of pasty sunbathing Europeans in banana hammocks slather massive quantities of sunscreen on one another, as they bask in their smoky, cigarette-laden European air. They line the rock wall along the contest site, so obviously foreign to the surf scene, rapidly snapping away photos of all the competitors as they walk past. It's apparent that they have no idea who any of these surfers are, but they damn well aren't going to miss a chance to have their very own photo of some longboarder who may happen to turn out to be someone important.
Though Day One included more shivering and free espresso overdoses than actual surfing, the rest of the 5-day event featured the surf and sunshine that dreams are made of. At dawn on the second day I woke to the merciless glare of the early morning sun through my hotel window and quickly hopped up to check if the waves had also chosen to partake in the same glorious metamorphosis. They had.
"There’s waves! It's glassy! It's good! It looks so fun!" shouted to my once-sleeping, now-disgruntled roommates as I ran around the room loudly gathering my towel and bathing suits and gear.
For the remainder of the contest the surf remained waist to shoulder-high, and the surfers remained sweaty and sun burnt, stuck together on the neon pink Roxy bean bag chairs cursing the day we ever wished it were sunny.
The competition ran surprisingly drama-free. There was no hair-pulling, dive tackles, or head butting – just plain, boring world-class surfing. The women longboarders are an especially jovial bunch, finding endless opportunities for entertainment even once eliminated. We spent our remaining time on a variety of European adventures including, but not limited to: renting scooters and wreaking havoc on defenseless French pedestrians, invading the streets of San Sebastian in loud, obnoxious hoards, buying tacky neon headbands and other heinous Spanish paraphernalia, and nearly breaking each other's necks as two pros attempted the fabled "dual-diver-shoulder-stand-triple-axle" off the diving board in the hotel pool.
But the surfing mattered too. The contest saw some amazing talent and some even more amazing eliminations. We were all a bit shocked to see Kassia Meador, Summer Romero, and 2006 World Champion Schuyler McFerran eliminated early in the competition, leaving just the 15-year-old Frenchie Justine DuPont and the ever-feisty Jen Smith in the final.
With the crowd divided, home team vs. visitors, the French vs. the incoherent, we, (that is, the English speakers) celebrated a shared victory when Smith pulled through, winning the title and bragging rights for a whole year.
Women's Longboarding is in its infancy as an ASP-sanctioned division, and thus a $35,000 purse may seem ludicrous to many surfers who scarcely consider longboarding a sport, much less, women's longboarding. But, judging from the amount of young guns coming up, the 9-foot-board-bikini-combo is likely here to stay.
"Look out for the young ones like Kelia Moniz and Justine DuPont- they're like thoroughbred horses, raised to be longboarders. They're going to take over in years to come," Jen Smith advises.
Despite language misunderstandings and obligatory travel charades, close encounters with the smelly, and the paramount hassle of longboard transportation, the Women's World Longboard Championships in France will no doubt bring competitors back next summer, that is, if they've recovered from this year!
Roxy ASP WWLC Final Results
Jennifer Smith (USA) 11.00 def. Justine Dupont (FRA) 11.50
Roxy ASP WWLC Semifinal Results – 1st to Final, 2nd eliminated
Semifinal 1: Justine Dupont (FRA) 11.50 def. Chelsea Williams (AUS) 7.95
Semifinal 2: Jennifer Smith (USA) 11.00 def. Janna Irons (HAW) 9.00