The latest episode of Trav’s Trippin, in which our intrepid explorer Travis Grant and his trusty sidekick Rico Leroy head back to France for an all-star charity adventure race against a stack of Olympians and World Champions…
>>> Follow all of Trav’s adventures at SUPracer.com/trav
Where do I begin… France, or rather my entire European trip has been nothing short of amazing!
It’s supposed to be Summer here in Europe but they’re still waiting for it… the weather was the only thing that wasn’t perfect for me the past few weeks, so despite hardly ever pulling out my boardies it hasn’t taken away from having an awesome time.
The whole Euro trip has been non stop since I arrived. These short stories don’t really do it justice but I hope you’ve gotten a sneak peak into what we’ve been up to. If you ever wanna do some great SUP races and generally just have a fun time, come to Europe next Summer!!
So last time I chatted with you I was in Germany. Alain, Rico and I left straight after the presentation and headed a looong way South to the Pyrenees. The crazy Summer meant that there was still snow in the mountains, even at the bottom of France, so we drove 14 hours through the night to try and get in some snowboarding.
We arrived 4am Monday morning, just as the sun was rising, but unfortunately our mountain was covered in fog and the snow had turned to rain. Oh well, we certainly tried!
So instead we headed over to the coast and to Biaritz, where we had some well deserved sleep then went out for an OC-1 session with my NSP team mate, trippin buddy, tour guide, legend, nice guy, and mate Rico Leroy.
Rico is like the Brian Keaulana of Europe. He does everything in the ocean and has all the toys, all the contacts and all the local knowledge. If we can’t go snowboarding we’ll go surfing instead. Nickel! (means “perfect” in french).
So that was Monday and Tuesday. Then on Wednesday afternoon it was the start of our 4-day adventure race!
It’s called “L’Odyssée Du Flocon à la Vague” (I just called it “the race”…) and is basically a big charity event that raises awareness about clean water.
It’s an amazing event that has an excellent message. I was stoked to be invited (thanks to Rico for hooking us up!) to race and have fun alongside two dozen French Olympians, World Champions and celebrities. It was called a race, but it was more about having some fun adventures and trying to raise awareness about water quality.
First thing we did was a 45 minute hiking race straight up a mountain to the start of the snow. On one of the steepest mountains in the Pyrenees…
There’s a whole story behind this race; it follows the trail of the water, from the first snow flakes on the top of the mountain, down through the rivers and eventually out to the sea. Pretty cool!
So that was fun. We gathered some snow in our water bottles and had to carry it with us the rest of the trip, all the way back to the ocean.
After an awesome dinner we got an orienteering kit and had to race back down the mountain (in the dark) to the village at the bottom. Was kinda like a treasure hunt at night.
Rico and I finished 3rd on the way up and 2nd on the way down, but again it wasn’t really about the racing (though we’re all athletes and super competitive haha), it’s more about having fun and promoting the message of the charity.
Next day (Thursday) we were greeted with sunshine!! And boy was it welcome. Thursday was bungee jumping, rock climbing and body surfing down rapids. Yes, body surfing down river rapids…
We spent the night in Lourdes, a bizarre holy town that has this famous cave, to which religious pilgrims travel from all around the world. We went there at midnight and watched the ceremony. Pretty crazy… I walked through the cave and touched the water that was apparently blessed, holy, the maker of miracles, etc. So hopefully it was a good sign for the rest of the race!
Oh and Jamie Mitchell and mr. Boss Man also rocked up on Thursday night to join the race, so I wasn’t going to be the only one who had no idea what the French race director was saying!
Friday was some fun SUP and kayak races in the river, followed by white water rafting and another great lunch (that, as always, featured cured meats, baguettes, wine and a dessert). On Friday night we drove from there back to Biarritz. I made the mistake of jumping in the car with Jamie and Mr. SUPracer instead of taking the athletes’ bus.
We were halfway back to Biarritz when Boss Man woke up in the back seat and said “Hey Jamie, you know we’ve got 5kms til we run out of petrol right…?”
From there it was a mad scramble the next 15 minutes as we looked for a petrol station. We found a couple on the map nearby but were already flatlining the petrol meter before we got close. The first one on the map didn’t even exist but we managed to find the other one before we ran dry. It was an unmanned station and to our horror none of our credit cards would work… France has some weird credit card system and none of our Aussie cards would go through. Jamie and I tried a few each and then Boss Man finally pulled out his card and saved the day.
This wasn’t part of the adventure race but it sure was an adventure. I’m pretty sure if Chris didn’t wake up we’d still be on that highway haha.
So after that we had another great dinner/party Friday night and then got ready for the final day on Saturday. It was meant to be a grand finale with 5,000 people watching us abseiling and fly-foxing our way down the cliffs into the ocean at Biarritz.
Unfortunately the European Summer didn’t cooperate, and we awoke to find torrential rain and very few people on the beach. It was a shame for the organisers that more people didn’t get to see it, but for us athletes it was still great fun.
The first order of the day was to hop on a flying fox and land in the ocean, so the rain hardly made much difference to us…
It was pretty cool. I’ll let the pics do the talking but again, doesn’t really do it justice. L’Odyssée Du Flocon à la Vague was an amazing event and my hats go off to the people behind it. Hope I can come back again next year, had a blast! All the other athletes and celebrities were super fun to hang out with as well, like I said it was less of a race and more of a good time, as you can see below… haha.
We finished up Saturday night with yet another great feed, yet more wine, yet more baguettes, yet more cured meats and yet another party. Fun times. I could get used to France… So a huge thanks to everyone who ran the event and who helped me out in this country.
Many thanks to my main sponsor NSP for giving me great race boards, as well as Jim Terrell and Quickblade for looking after me with great paddles and great advice, as well as FCS, VestPac and Patagonia for keeping me going.
This European part of my trip wouldn’t have happened at all without my ski buddy, on-the-road-manager, personal photographer and French cuisine expert Alain Teurquetil, awesome travelling with ya!
And a huge thanks to my mate Rico Leroy for making this a super fun few weeks. Merci beaucoup buddy, everything was nickel!
So right now it’s Monday morning, I’m at Paris airport and I’m about to hop on a flight to Hawaii.
On Wednesday I start the epic Olamau Race, a six-man outrigger event that goes for three days on the Big Island of Hawaii. Gonna be great to catch up with all my paddling friends over there and get some serious ocean racing done.
I’v had a blast in Europe, now stay tuned for Trav’s Trippin’ in Hawaii!!
>>> Follow all of Trav’s adventures at SUPracer.com/trav