In Vendays-Montalivet we realised that the France Pro Surf Championships were going to take place further south in Hossegor the following day. We decided to drive through the night to make it that far south and three hours, a breakdown and some terrifying driving later we made it. The motorway had been cut down into one lane for long intermittent stretches with nothing but a line of cones seperating us from the oncoming juggernauts haring past us in the opposite direction. The A63 is the main road from France into Spain with thousands of lorries using it every day. Every mile or so you pass a truck stop filled with lorries carrying fruit and vegetables, and products up from Spain and Africa, and returning back down to pick up their next load.
These guys do a lot of miles and have little patience for a lovely vintage van with its precious cargo of Carlos and I inside, travelling at a civilised 75 kilometes per hour. So there were some tense minutes that seemed to stretch forever as our little van was rocked by each truck speeding towards us just a few metres away. These were made tenser by the truck that sat on our tail flashing his lights and beeping his horn and forcing us off the road into a layby. Bad karma Mr Spanish truck driver, very bad karma. We made it in one piece but I'll admit I did at one point say a little prayer to the universe, the spirits of my ancestors and my guardian angel asking them to keep us safe. Seems to have worked okay.
We arrived in Hossegor and stopped at the bar still open for a cold beer before finding what seemed like an excellent parking spot right on the beach where the competition was so to take place the next day. Not so smart after all as we were kept awake all night by the beautiful chorus of drunk surfers, tractors pulling the stage onto the beach and other vans looking for somewhere to park. Two very tired people emerged from our van in the morning to find ourselves in the middle of one of Europe's biggest surf competitions. We opened up the van and made some breakfast and watched the people troop past us to the beach; first the early morning surfers, then the photographers, then an endless stream of impossibly beautiful twenty-something surf groupies (will I ever be that thin again?), then the families and locals.
It was unbelievably hot and we took turns watching the van, watching the competition and melting in the heat. We have a lot of surfboards with us and looking around we noticed not a single van had boards on their roof. We'd also been warned about theft so we passed a somewhat stressful day in the heat until it just got unbearable and we decided to risk it and go for a swim. The sea here is pretty heavy, with huge waves crashing against the shore. Great for surfers, body boarders and the brave. I found the least scary spot and made a run for it. Getting out again without getting pounded requires timing and speed. If I'm going to be a surfer's wife I think I'll need to find a way to get over my nervousness of waves. I'm a diver and much happier underneath them.
Hossegor is arguably the centre of Europe's surf industry, this small town a mix of transient surfers and well-to-do locals. We may stay a few days. Sam needs a clean. We want to get to know this area a bit more, I'd like to do some yoga, Carlos wants to surf. Time for a little break from the road.