If you missed other stories in the French Connection series, links are below.
LACANAU, France (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hollywood screenwriter, Peter Viertel brought surfing to France in 1956. Since then the surfer lifestyle has evolved and expanded. Today you can find everything from stand up paddle to tandem surfing and even the Hawaiian outrigger canoe.
Surfing in France is about as far from golden Waikiki as you can get, but Hawaiian water sports have taken off none-the-less. In fact, France holds a special place in surf history. French professional surfer Rico Leroy explains, "We have a long history with contests cause I think the oldest contest is the Pipe Master, it's one of the oldest contests and the 2nd oldest contest in the world is the Lacanau Pro." Started 37 years ago, the contest attracts surf pros from around the world. Lacanau is also home to the biggest surf club in all of France. "We have 400 member and it's really developing the surf in the area. We do almost every weekend a contest for the kids. Weekends for fun, canoes, standup, waterman exchange games, longboard, tandem - all the time there's contests," said Rico.
You heard right - canoes! Hawaiian outrigger canoes to be exact and 4-man canoe surfing contests. "The one-man canoe two-man canoe just appears like 2 years ago and before that it was only Tahitian. So we start to build canoe two years ago. We build the woo W-O-O company in France," said Rico. There are a couple of design differences with Rico's surfing canoes. He rigs his on the right, there's less rocker and the ama is bigger but they work essentially the same way, although..."This is difficult in France because this is beach breaks so it's not point breaks, you can't go around the wave, you have to go through the wave," said Rico. Which makes canoe surfing here a little dicey, just look at the broken boat!
Stand up paddle surfing which was introduced five years ago has also sky-rocketed in popularity. But the French have gone one step further developing the hydro foil stand up. "I'm not crazy it's just everything when you try something new at the beginning people, they think you are crazy," said creator Bruno Andre. He took the tow-in hydrofoil technology originally developed by Maui resident Laird Hamilton and added a whole new element - a stand up board and paddle. The ride is a bit higher and a whole lot faster than traditional surfing. He says, "You feel like you're flying like a bird, no more noise, no more white water behind your board it's completely different."
Don't be surprised if you see it in the water's off of Oahu! Local pro, Brian Keaulana saw the viral video online and decided to try it out for himself.
"I saw this guy with a hydrofoil stand up and surfing and ripping and it was a guy from France. Once I see something, I have to try it. Like everything you just experiment but hydrofoiling is such an extreme sport, not everybody can do that," Brian explains.
The Frenchie and the Hawaiian hydrofoil SUP-ing at two surf spots on opposite sides of the planet. Brian says, "The exchange of culture is a waterman's world, regardless of where you come from."
Click HERE for a link to the WOO company on Facebook.
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