Great Bretagne

Adapt and overcome… Something plenty of us on Planet Earth have been forced to do over the last months. With their usual annual trip into the back of beyond shelved, the Manera team opted for something a little closer to home, and sent two of their riders, Paul Serin and Maxime Chabloz into the sleepy backwoods and rugged coves of Brittany…

Words: Paul Serin
Photos: Matt Georges

My favourite time of the year is definitely the annual Manera trip, every year the destination is wild. 2020 was planned to be an epic one yet again, but things turned out a little different because of the pandemic. But instead of cancelling the trip, we adapted and, as we couldn’t travel out of France, we decided to stay in France! 

Maxime Chabloz and I are pro kitesurfers, but we love to try new things all the time, and on a trip like this you have to be riding all the toys, especially with a brand like F-ONE who make a lot of them… Even though I’m French I’ve mostly remained in the southern part of France my entire life. So I was really excited to finally get to ride on the west coast and in Brittany. 

We got on board an old campervan in Montpellier with Matt, the photographer, then picked up Olivier, the cameraman, in Toulouse and Maxime a bit further up the road. Now that the team was complete, the mission began. The goal was to find the best conditions along the French coast. In theory, following the wind sounds dreamy, but in the real world it’s actually way harder than you think… You definitely need a bit of luck to bring in some epic shots…

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The road trip started in the south of France. The biggest mission on this trip was to drive the camper, it was old, and driving a beast like this on the tiny French roads was pretty exhausting, but we managed, and without any scratches. As the forecasted conditions were pretty unique – 40 knots onshore and massive waves – that was a good warm up. Back in the old days, we would only have had kite gear with us for a trip like this. Today, if you don’t have a foil you feel like you’re missing out on sessions everywhere. 

We moved up to the west coast and started to hit the water in Oléron. Days upon days we scored good conditions in every discipline, but what was good with the foil is that it was a session saver, multiple times. A small onshore one-meter wave in Quiberon became a pretty good session for Max and I. I don’t know if it was the feeling of freedom or something else, but seeing nature, seeing sunsets and having this freedom of sleeping everywhere and anywhere we wanted was just amazing and hard to describe. I was just happy to feel the water every day on my skin and to have the chance to play with the elements. This is what we took from our lockdown.

We dove into the French culture along the way and went to check on the old stones in Brittany. Crazy to think that people put them here ages ago without any kind of machines or anything. Maxime couldn’t wait to climb on top of them, like a kid, and was struggling to get back down afterward, like a kid also… 

We got lucky and a pretty big swell arrived in Crozon, a place far from every big city and with world class wave spots everywhere. Etienne Lhote, a local and a former pro kitesurfer, joined us for a few days and helped us to find the best spot to take on the swell. We surfed the first few days of it and got pounded by some huge sets, stuff I’m not really comfortable with, and nor is Maxime. Olivier loved to remind us that we suck at surfing, and he would only film our barrels and nothing else. We tried our best but none of us managed to emerge from a barrel… 

One morning the swell was still pounding the shores and we found a spot with some mellow lines. I was so excited that I went in the water at first light with my foil, took off on a small white water roller and pumped all the way back to grab the incoming swell lines. The feeling is just insane, and once you get into a good rhythm with the sets, it’s an infinite circle of fun. I probably took 20 waves with just one take off that morning and I could hear the surfers saying: “Oh it’s a foil, look at this guy he’s flying above the water!”. At one point they were definitely a bit frustrated to see me enjoying that much riding… but that’s just how it is! Crozon is definitely a unique and wild place, where the pandemic seemed so far away. We enjoyed watching the sunset while drinking cider, just like a normal end to a day back in normal times. 

After those precious few days in heaven, we went further north hoping to ride a tidepool in St Malo. The plan was to ride with a wing or a kite, but instead a huge storm came in and ruined the wind, so we ended up jumping and foil pumping in the pool instead. Pretty good fun!

This trip was different. A small team, not too far from home but far enough. I guess in 2020 if you didn’t adapt, you’d just have to stay home. Maxime and I travel the world all year long and sometimes we tend to forget to enjoy this life we live. The pandemic helped us realize how good these moments are that we get to experience, and to enjoy every second of every session as if it will be the last. And just like this, we spent countless hours in the water, switching from kite to foil to surf, all in one day. Even if our bed wasn’t the most comfortable bed ever, we were so tired after every day that we slept like babies. Isn’t that how life should be? Do what you love and do it a lot…

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