I've watched the World tour online countless times, Teahupoo, Bells, Pipeline etc but have always wanted to attend an event in person, especially to witness Kelly Slater before the inevitable end of his tour days and a possible 10 titles!
Thankfully because we have the good fortune of being only a one and a half hours flight and a 30 minute drive from one of the tour stops in Hossegor, France, I finally made the pilgrimage to watch Slater and the rest compete and free surf. For a modest fee, Ryanair got me there, Alamo hired me a French hatchback car big enough to slide a board into and Quiksilver kindly supplied press passes so I could hang out in the thick of things at the beach.
The first heats were on the Sunday I arrived in solid 4-6ft waves, so a rapid drive to the beach meant that I caught some of the action along with the thousands of other spectators lining the sand in Seignosse. To stand and hear names like Irons, Martinez, Fanning etc being called out over the tannoy and be able to watch these guys surf was kind of surreal. The atmosphere of a WCT event is unlike any other surf competition I've been to- the French crowd were amped, applauding and cheering every great carve, cutback and air and the riders were mobbed as they got out of the water.
That is until Kelly Slater appeared and all others were ignored. I have to admit to being a little star struck myself when in his presence and also astonished at the attention the man received. Every move he made was followed, watched, photographed and filmed. Whenever Slater was in the water crowds flowed up and down the sand tracing is movement in the surf and as soon as he exited the ocean onto the beach, the stoked mobs descended on him. I'm sure he's used to it by now but it still must be kind of trippy getting that kind of adulation.
I also had the chance to watch Slater free surf that evening with a few locals paddling alongside which has to be a talking point for any surfer...in what other sport can you watch a mega star compete and then join them later on the field of play? I'm not sure you'd get too close to Beckham for a kick about after a match!
Attending a WCT event was a great experience and one that I wont forget. So a congratulations to Mick Fanning on his win and a big thanks to Quiksilver for their hospitality: