Soöruz Lacanau Pro, August 13th-23rd
From August the 13th until the 23rd, the Soöruz Lacanau Pro, stage of the Professional World Surf Championship, celebrates its 30 years of existence on the waves of Lacanau-Océan, France. Nicknamed "the French Pro", this ASP competition recognized around the world, has long been at the centre of surfing’s developement in France and Europe.
Real institution through which the European public discovered Kelly Slater, the Soöruz Lacanau Pro has also revealed future European stars by confronting them with the world's best surfers, like Jérémy Flores.
Regularly copied by the big Anglo-Saxon brands of surf industry, the French Pro definitively remains turned to the youth with the Oakley Pro Junior, excellent laboratory to detect junior surfers under 21 years.
1979: AN AVANT-GARDIST BET It all began in 1979 when a handful of surfers from Lacanau decided to implement an international surfing competition on Gironde’s waves, like those already existing in Hawaii, Australia or South Africa. The first in France and Europe appears to be a bold and risky bet by the lack of locals’ experience, but especially by the warnings of one of the founding fathers of the French Pro, Jacques Hele : " The risk of this bet is success ! In fact, I told all these crazy surfers from Lacanau that this approach has two consequences : either it is a total fiasco and it stops there, or it's a success, and there ... there I've warned them that they are condemned to do better every year !"
Free event for the public, financial resources are timidly coming from a couple of local partners, but the closure of the budget for this "Internationnal Surf Grand Prix" is naturally done with the sale of merguez sausages sandwiches and a raffle ! After a difficult year in 1981 with the withdrawal of the main sponsor few weeks before the event, which forced its cancellation, the Lacanau Pro continues its course as predicted by Jacques Hele, president of the French Pro for 18 years.
This concept of competition "on the beach" is adopted at the end of 80’s by the major surfing Anglo-Saxon brands, who find in this a great medium of communication : to establish proof of plagiary, the concept of yard bungalows glassed-in used as judges’ cabins and prepared by the organizers of the French Pro 1990 is now practically used on all surfing competitions in the world, and remains still relevant today.
2009: A RECOGNISED INSTITUTION
Nowadays, the Soöruz Lacanau Pro raises the small resort of Lacanau to the rank of world capital of surfing in France and Europe with its 350 000 spectators and 50 000 users who follow the live-streaming** on the web.
As for sports, after having been won by the biggest names like Kelly Slater, Wayne Bartholomew, Tom Curren, Martin Potter and Joel Parkinson, the Soöruz Lacanau Pro has been the builder of the famous "Euroforce" : Jérémy Flores and the Basque Aritz Aranburu enter the Top 44 thanks to their final in Lacanau in 2006 and 2007; last year, the valiant Tim Boal wins its place in the elite by reaching the 1/8 final and the Portuguese Tiago Pires imitates him rising in the quarterfinal. The French and European surfing is no longer hidden in the anonymity he knew in the twentieth century, confronting Anglo-Saxon and Breazil hegemony : the French Pro remains faithful to its credo, to compare the best surfers on the planet to riders the from the old continent. A retrospective of these great years of founding one of the biggest surfing competitions in the world is published in a book prepared by the photographer Thierry Organoff and a DVD is on sale soon, full of anecdotes and packed with interviews of the creators of the French Pro.
**Live broadcast on internet in sooruzlacanaupro.com
STARRY CURTAIN RAISING : THE OAKLEY PRO JUNIOR 2STAR
In phase with this desire of European performances, the Oakley Pro Junior is still here this year to discover new talents such as Marc Lacomare and Joan Duru, future stars of French surfing : the Junior competition men and women reached the rank of 2Star with a $15 000 prize money. The Oakley Pro Junior grants the man winner 1500 points (750 for women), counted for the qualification to the World Junior Championships final at Narrabeen in early 2010. Like every year since its creation in 1993, the winner receives a wild card to participate in the Soöruz Lacanau Pro, to confront the world’s best surfers like the Brazilian Miguel Pupo, title holder. Moreover, and since last year, Oakley is organizing a parallel competition that brings together all the winners of the Oakley Pro Junior in the world, to confront on the Balinese waves in fall.
SOORUZ LACANAU PRO 2009: THE 30th TITLE HOLDER
This year again, the Soöruz Lacanau Pro is up to its ambitions with 11 days of non-stop surfing, $160 000 prize money at stake, the whole punctuated by animations and free concerts each evening. Who will succeed the title holder, Nathaniel Curran? The success of surfing flagship may be compromised facing the horde of French and European surfers stimulated to settle with the current Euroforce in the Top 44.
photo credit : L. Masurel ASP Europe
Roller of Nathaniel Curran during 2008's final.