With Mikey Picon dropping off the elite tour a few years ago, it is only Tiago Pires and Jeremy Flores that have been able to fly the EU flag on the ASP World Tour for more than two years. While Aritz and Tim Boal made it for a one year before dropping off, for many it seems that Europe has been woefully under represented at the elite level. With world class waves, a viable surf industry and a stacked European pro surfing leg, surely there is no reason why the Euro’s aren’t making it the grade? Are they lazy, unlucky or not just good enough? Or, as some people think, is there a conspiracy against the Euro Force?
Working with both Oakley and the French Surfing Federation and traveling and coaching European surfers Marc Lacomare and recent ASP World Junior runner up Ramzi Boukhiam, Yann Martin is in a good place to examine these questions. We talked to Yann to see where he thinks European surfing is headed.
Can you just provide your background, role and experience in French surfing?
I am originally from Morocco and I lived there for 18 years. I was three times Champion of France, runner up European champion and 20th at the ISA World Open. I spent a few years in France team, then worked in the industry for Arnette and Town & Country and for the last 9 years for Oakley as Sports Marketing Manager for Europe for surfing. From there I started to train and coach sponsors riders of the brand.
How hard do you think it is for European surfers to Qualify for the world tour?
I think in the past the European surfers have had a complex towards other surfers in the world. It was hard to ride for us in the winter and the surfers didn’t have the budget to travel and continue to grow. Now though with the brands they have given the means to have young Europeans traveling. The result is that today we have some Europeans close to qualifying like Marc Lacomare, Aritz. Ramzi, Charly, Maxime Huscenot and Joan Duru.
It’s been a while since the last batch of Euro surfers qualified. Why do you think that is?
It is difficult to know exactly why. I want to look more to the future and put all my energy and experience so that it changes. But the fact of not being a national sport here, surfing is much less practised here than in Australia or the USA and therefore is less strong at the top end. Also traveling alone against a horde of Brazilian, Hawaiian, American or Australians is still hard. Surfers such as Miky Picon and Jeremy opened the door and showed everyone that to be French and a WCT surfer was not impossible. Things have progressed since thanks to surfers like them.
There has been some close calls this year going against Euro surfers – for Marc against Parko for example, do you see any reason for that?
Marc and Jeremy have both felt some bad judgment against Parko this year. I hope it is not because they are Europeans!! The particular one in the Quik Pro France, with Marc vs Parko, was one of the greatest misjudgments, well according to the surfing world. I think the race for the world title may have influenced something and also because the judges like Parko quite simply. (Decide for yourself on the heat review here)
Are there any changes that need to be made? Either by surfers, ASP or from a European angle?
We have to work hard to question constantly for coaches and surfers. I think this is the best response to prove that we have Europeans with places on the World Tour . The ASP must also get to work to change some rules and shelter the Top 32 less. On the two circuits, the points are not the same and significantly distort the rankings. For example, I think in a place like Hawaii, the surfers in WCT start in the round 64 while all the WQS surfers who compete all year round start at the round of 96! It gets even more complicated with the numbers of returning Hawaiians in both prime events there and at home they are all very strong. It makes getting a result Hawaii even harder.
How would you describe the future of European surfing in general?
The French and European surfers are increasingly being noticed on the WQS round and I think there will be a few more on the WCT. The level of surfing is significantly higher in Europe now and there is s six Europeans in the top 50 surfers on the World Tour ranking close to the qualification. Aritz, Marc, from the WQS and Jeremy is counting on his World Tour. So it’s looking good.