It is a recurring dream: I am in the middle of the city, London, Paris, New-York, it’s unclear. It’s all built-up, a concrete jungle. I walk into a familiar room but there’s a new window I never noticed before. I look through and right there, 300 yards away, they roll in: the most perfect waves you’ve ever seen. Why! I never knew those waves were right there in my backyard! How could I miss that, why has no one told me? And then I wake up. I am in Brittany. I walk to the window…
Brittany holds a special place in my heart. I have been holidaying there every summer since I was 6, and going to the same sleepy fishing village in the South Finistère since I was 10. This is where I fell in love with waves and started bodyboarding. By the time I reached 18, I wanted to ride waves standing. I never really thought of doing that in Brittany: there was no surf scene, no point of reference. The obvious destination was the South West of France, the cradle of European surfing.
As my surfing awareness grew, the name ‘La Torche’ appeared more and more often during my breton holidays: I knew it as a windsurfing spot, as both my very blonde and very tanned cousins sometimes went there to try out their coolest carving 360s. But surfing? ‘Ah yeah, there were a couple of surfers out there’. So La Torche became a surfing hotspot. But what about ‘our’ local beach? A couple of years later, my aunt reported that having visited in the winter, she saw the biggest waves right on ‘our’ beach (which I this point, I shall name ‘K Beach’ to ease the literary flow) and two people with actual surfboards catching waves! Unheard of! The quest was on.
Every summer thereafter I looked and looked and never saw anything bigger than 2ft. Always too windy and certainly no surfboard on the horizon.
Fast-forward: 2017. I decided to take a stroll to D Beach (one up from K Beach) as I’d heard it was the most consistent spot. Not that I’d noticed any significant difference in swell size over the years, but hey! As the cove started coming into view, I caught a glimpse of, 10, 20, no, 30 people in the water. Sitting on boards. On a totally flat ocean. What had happened?? Where did they all come from?
Summer 2018. The weather is all over the place. Heat peaks never reached in living memory (thank you climate change!), followed by a violent storm. My chance. I pedal frantically through the rain to D Beach. The rain curtain opens up and I finally see them: perfect peelers, little barrels on slabs, of an unmistakable breton emerald green. And in them, surfers. Good surfers. No wait, very good surfers. Who are they? How did this happen?
THE ORACLE: DAMIEN MONFORT
“Why didn’t you tell me?” is pretty much the first question I ask Damien Monfort, a 22 year-old local who grew up near D Beach and has been surfing there for the past 12 years. Twelve years??
“I really started surf when I was 10 years. I trained at the ESB La Torche for 3 years, once a week, until I was ready to surf regularly with my local friends, Paul et Corentin Dehais, Thomas Nicolas and Mael Gall. That’s how we filled our free time, everyday if possible, we were so motivated that we cycled there, rain or shine, returning at night, even when the conditions were bad or too windy at D and K Beach!”
Right, so La Torche clearly played an important role there. But surely, Damien is a pioneer of D Beach, right? Turns out, not really.
“My mates and I just wanted to be like the "big brothers" of D Beach (Thibaud Ramond, Thibault Lucas, Thibaut Crechmine… wait a sec, why are they all called variations of ‘Tee-beau’ ?) and the pro breton surfers from La Torche (Ian Fontaine, Gaspard Larsonneur, Thomas Joncour..). Thibaut C. shreds even in small conditions, he inspired me a lot!”
I reel at how much I have been missing. I feel I am the victim of a KitKat Break conspiracy. Anyhow. In 2018, it is clear that surfing is no novelty on D and K Beach.
“The new surf scene is exploding! The Krawa Krew (our crew: Mael Gall, Esteban Marrec and Titouan Loubatié) is probably the main crew of young surfers at D and K Beach. But there are local groms who are rapidly catching-up, like 14-year-old Emile Bazile. There aren’t that many girls, but it certainly improved in the last few years!”
Just wow! And that is just ‘my’ spot. Look at the growing pool of groms in Brittany and you wonder why the region is so often ignored by international surfers.
“There is such an exciting wave of new talent in Brittany! Titouan Canevet, Hugo Tosetti, Theo Julitte, Tom Goasguen, Aurelien Buffet. And the girls, Illona Goasguen and Maelys Jouault are all posting very good results in competitions.
I did some competitive surfing, both short and longboard, but my best result was with my high school team, when in 2015 we came 2nd in the French Championships. These experiences remain incredible memories for me, but my best memories are from freesurfing.“
So how does Damien feel about the crazy new influx of people in his local spot? Last time I was Biarritz, I read that ominous graffiti on the wall: “RESPECT LOCALS. GO HOME”.
“When I started surfing, my mom didn't want to leave me alone in the water, so we had to wait forever in the car until someone turned up .. nowadays when you go for a dawn patrol you realise that the spot is already full! I think the scene exploded here because it's the only surfspot within a 40min drive radius. As long as new surfers respect the surf etiquette, everything is okay! On D Beach we are pretty lucky compared to La Torche because there aren’t as many beginners, except in the summer. Beginners are usually from other regions. Other bretons tend to stick to their surfspot and don't move too much, except when the conditions get too big or too windy, D Beach becomes a fallback spot. But it's a rare phenomenon.”
“As long as they follow the surf etiquette”. That is probably what makes Brittany one of the most welcoming places on earth to surf. And it is just as well, as of May 2018, D Beach boasts a surf school.
“The new surfschool is own by friends of mine and I welcome it! It could motivate young groms to begin earlier and give them the opportunity to improve their surfing right on their doorstep! I wish I had it when I was younger! The school has to teach priority rules because D Beach is small and it’s quickly crowded.”
So what’s next for Damien?
“I am studying at a Business school in Bordeaux and I'll try to find a surf club to do some contests in the South West! I am also helping friends who are running 2manyriders, a surf media agency that recently launched a surfcamp in Soustons near Hossegor.”
THE HOLY PLACE
Damien sums it up perfectly: he’s surfed great spots in Brittany (Tronoen, La Palue, Port Rhu…), he surfed Oahu’s North Shore (VelzyLand, Rocky Point and Backdoor), but his favourite place on earth is D Beach.
“The rarity of perfect sessions makes D Beach a mythical place. If you are there at the right moment, it could be unforgettable: the landscape is amazing and so are the people. It's an incredible feeling to share perfect glassy waves with friends, with the sun falling on the castle ... “
A mythical place always has a castle. And that shall be the only clue about where ‘my’ spot lies. It’s easy enough to find if you do a little research. But the reason I love it so is because unlike so many costal areas around Europe, it hasn’t changed in thirty years. No major constructions. No hipster cafés. No coworking surf spaces. No Aperol Spritz Balearic DJ sunset session. No gentrification. No mass tourism. And I understand how those who say ‘RESPECT THE LOCALS/GO HOME’ feel. But I’d like to be as generous, open and breton as Damien and trust that as long as we all respect surf etiquette and share the aloha spirit in and out of the water, then dear readers, you are all welcome!
Follow Damien Monfort on Instagram
Visit 2manyriders surfcamp
Chief Storyteller at Swellbound