Basque Freesurfers

Basque Freesurfers

No Trophies — The Switched Kickout Surf Syndicate are new generation of creative freesurfers from the Basque Country and they're determined to do things their own way.

It’s 8am when the guys go into the water. The full moon is still out and their eyes are red. The pillow marks on their cheeks are just fading. Like most kids who put images of Kelly Slater up on their walls or in their notebooks, I was fascinated by the competitive pros when I was little. But today, I admire guys like Biarritz locals Juan, Charles, Stan, Simon, Steven and Malo. These talented riders, who reject comps to surf and create without compromise, are pushing the sport in a different direction. And they’re here, every morning, to do what they love most.

“We are nobody and we’ll stay nobody,” is their collective battle cry. “We’re just a group of people with different personalities messing around.” They get their boards from local charity shops or shape them themselves, follow their own crazy styles and surf whenever, wherever and however they want. When they do pick up sponsors, they stick to smaller brands who understand their ethos and support their art instead of their image. But they’re happiest representing themselves and recently formed The Switched Kickout Surf Syndicate to share ideas and build a likeminded community.

There may be more to surfing than “the urge to win and produce results” but that doesn’t mean you have to live in the woods and burn your laptop, either. These dudes ride and survive on a local, sustainable level and it’s a whole lot more fun, they say, than busting their balls on the World Tour.

Stan Piechazek, 22

In between working in a couple of different surf shops, playing drums, painting, drinking and surfing non-stop, Stan also does some work with RVCA. He rocks around in oversized jackets like an old Russian Mafiosi, ties his jeans with a shoelace, walks barefoot and only washes his hair to go to work because he has to.

Says Stan: “I’ve never competed and never surfed for anybody but myself. And for me, freesurfing is everyday surfing. I admire anybody who stands by their surfing styles or lifestyles. I like extravagance. I’ve never been tempted by contests in whatever sport: there is too much stress, too much downside. I don’t like to be compared to others either. Maybe I’m just saying that because I’m not a great surfer, but I have fun. That’s what counts.”

Steven Dunn Videau, 24

Steven has only two things on his mind when he wakes up in the morning: surfing his Michel Junod ‘pig’ longboard and fixing his 1971 Triumph TR6 motorcycle. He carries a comb in his right pocket so he can evenly spread his hair gel, and he gets his Cycle Zombies and Captain Fin & Loser Machine T-shirts all the way from California, where he spent a few months recently on a break from his job at a surf shop in Anglet.

Says Steven: “Dane Reynolds lives his own life. That’s what freesurfing means – surfing freely. And I don’t think it’s just a fad. People are fed up with the money-making machine that is the surf industry. Stopnik, Brian Bent, Max Schaaf, Mike Black, Rudy Jacques, Bud Ekins, Dick Dale, Da Cat, the fifties, surfing, old cars and old bikes. Those are all my inspirations!”

Juan Lagarrigue, 24

This hairy guy, with a weird taste for flowery jeans, has an incessant urge to please the people he loves. He moved from Bordeaux to Biarritz two years ago and recently picked up Insight as a sponsor. He’s a talented graphic designer, who works for local surf magDesillusion and the Surfrider Foundation, and a passionate photographer who takes inspiration from his surroundings and the people he meets.

Says Juan: “We are nothing and we’ll remain nothing. Just a group of friends with different personalities who mess around. We are not the first to do that and we won’t be the last. We do it for ourselves, and that’s what inspires and motivates us. [The Switched Out Surf Syndicate] is just some kind of “melting pot” where we can share our nonsenses amongst friends. Above all, surfing is a way to express ourselves, a creative outlet, whether we’re in the water or elsewhere. Everybody posts their latest shit, what they are doing, writing, listening to or shooting. We have our own vision of surfing and the style associated with it, we’re just trying to do it in our own way.”

Charles Prat, 22

“I’m off to work!” shouts surf shop worker and student Charles Prat at 9.30am after a one-hour session at the Côte des Basques. This anarchic blond punk, also part of the Insight fold, surfs every day, everywhere he can. He loves skateboarding and is happiest with a leather jacket on his back, a silver skull on his finger and the Growlers turned up loud.

Says Charles: “The Switched Kickout Surf Syndicate isn’t about promoting us, it’s about promoting surf differently. I know that other people [and brands] try to do that, but we are simply saying, “Hi, do you like to mess about on a surfboard? Great, us too.”

Simon Routa, 24

Simon’s life turned upside down when he discovered surfing just two years ago. He gave up on being a sports coach and physical trainer and now works odd jobs at various grassroots surf brands, getting up at 6am every day to catch the right tide. When he’s not getting waves, or playing guitar, Simon’s dreaming about surfing in shorts on the Californian coast.

Says Simon: “We don’t care if people say ‘freesurfing is just another trend’. Those people will get bored and we’ll still be here surfing these spots on our own.”

Malo Bourdet, 25

In his graduation picture from the School of Communication in Lille, Malo looks every inch the scholar. But his passion for surfing keeps him out of institutions and in the sea for usually three sessions a day. As a founding member of The Switched Kickout Surf Syndicate, Malo makes it his mission to celebrate freesurfing not just as a fad, but as a way of life.

Says Malo: We don’t want to look like the guy that struts all over a contest, warms up under a tent with his headphones on and wears a blue or red lycra. It’s like driving a rally car, that’s cool for 15 minutes but I’d much rather drive a Jaguar or be behind the wheel of an old MG with a past. [Car] tuning can be really cool, but trying to look like every other rally car can often lead to bad taste. There is a fine line. I think surfing is the same.”