[Back when the Parthenon was still freshly buffed marble, Greek mariners shared tales of seductive creatures that lay on the shores of the Mediterranean. They had porcelain skin and hair of silk, but it was their voices that made these Sirens irresistible. When their sweet melody made it beyond the waves, passing sailors were drawn to the shore, wrecking their ships on the rocky coast to be stranded within earshot of the ineluctable sound. Like the ancient Greek sailors, surfers are willing to risk everything once they find what calls to them. Perfect waves are our siren song and many a career, relationship, and bright future have been dashed to pieces on the rocks that front them.]

A career, a house, a wife, and kids are good reasons to stay put. But when you have nothing to lose, a siren is that much more seductive. "When you are 25 years old with no wife or children, the decision to leave and go search for perfect waves in exotic locations is an easy one," says Todd Lee who, in a previous life, was a native of Coolangatta, Australia. "In fact, it was the best decision I have ever made."

Twenty-five years ago, Todd booked tickets, said goodbye to friends and family, and fell in love with one beauty after another: Honolua Bay, Sunset Beach, Puerto Escondido, Jeffreys Bay. Each spot was a siren in their own right, but he was truly seduced when he reached the indulgent land of baguettes, brie, and barrels: Hossegor, France.

Photo: Testemale

"When I arrived in ’88, it was just at the end of the summer vacation period," says Todd. "During that year, the months of September, October, and November were all time. It was a new world. Everything was new. But it was never a conscious decision to move and stay in Hossegor. I was on a world surfing pilgrimage and, honestly, there are many places I visited where I could have settled, but Hossegor had it all. The waves are phenomenal when all the conditions are assembled, the social life is nothing short of amazing, and the cultural diversity living in Europe was a total change from Australia."

After 22 years, Todd did end up with a wife, kids, and all the responsibilities that keep you from looking for your siren. Lucky for him, he already found his.

Photo: Maassen

[Featured Image: Photo by Testemale]

[This series originally appeared in our August 2012 Big Issue, “The Distant Shores”]