Jan 18 '24
A Conversation with Ambre Victoire
In Biarritz, France
Portraits by: Rupert Tapper
"I got my first wave when I was 7, my dad pushed me on his board. I grew up watching my dad getting my brother into surfing, and my mom pushing me into ballet. I think he became a really talented skateboarder because he wanted to find his own way. He’s a really good surfer too."
“I grew up around Bordeaux, it was a 45 min drive to the ocean. I ended up here in Biarritz after my studies in Reunion Island. I couldn’t surf as it was during the « shark crisis », we were not allowed to go in the water, I could feel the frustration of the surfers.”
“I grew up with a dad that’s a surfer and a shaper. I never really got into surfing when I was a kid. Only a little bit in the summer some times I would go catch a wave. I was more focused on ballet in the city. When I finished high school I was craving for nature that’s why Reunion Island was a beautiful option to hike, rock climb, be on the ocean. After feeling the frustration of not being able to go surf I decided after my licence at Uni to go to a place where I could finally enjoy the ocean and surf without fears of being attacked by a shark. So I thought about the Pays Basque. somewhere I’ve been when I was 12 years old and loved it, Guéthary.
“This is something that happened really organically. I never thought it would become serious. I blocked surfing for a really long time, it was around me growing up from my dad, but the environment stressed me out, it was very much oriented on short boarding and truster in my surrounding. It clicked when I lived in Reunion Island, people couldn’t surf because of the shark crisis. I felt the frustration of many people on the Island with world class waves, and not being able to surf. It made me really appreciate the love for this activity, and gave me desire to get into it In a more committed way”.
“Reunion Island was really good for rock climbing as well. I got really into it. It’s a very niche special community. Super cool. I got addicted to it when I started. I wanted to get better, really fast.”
“From there I went back to France, I spent a weekend in Guéthary at Parlementia. I was with my parents and their friends, they had a great place with a bunch of good boards, longboards, guns. That’s how I started to surf everyday and got really into it. I actually even surfed some big waves, 2.5 meters. I borrowed my Dad’s gun. It was so fun to push my own limits.”
It’s actually funny I always loved Guéthary, somewhere I’ve been when I was 12 years old and felt in love with the place.
“I got invited to Guadeloupe for a month. There was this wave that's really good, a cyclonic swell in January it was really good and for five days, it was pumping and just really long rights in the harbor. I was really committing to it. The first day I had like five hours session and I think after like a bunch of waves I was already doing some hang 5, I was so excited about it. I felt I could learn fast and that was very stimulating.”
“Ballet fully relates to long-boarding. It’s dancing on the water. It’s more of an expression than a sport. It’s just like dancing. It made it easier to feel comfortable to cross step I believe. Balance and coordination helped me. Feet-work, on the board, while feeling my body and the rhythm of the wave was a fun thing to learn. I felt such a strong connection to the water. I felt in my element. Feeling the energy of the wave, where to be in the moment.”
“I went to Australia after Guadeloupe as I couldn’t stop there. I needed to feel more. I bought a one way ticket. I didn’t do any research before moving there, I arrived in a really not nice suburb of gold coast with a really bad English. Of course trying to pick up the Australian accent was really tricky for me. During college and high school from my generation we had really bad education in English. If you didn’t have the chance to go abroad and get immersed with anglophone you were probably suck at it. I had a very little money on my bank account and spent almost all in my ticket. I arrived there and had to find a job asap. It was hard I felt not at my place felt really depressed, It took me a couple of months to figure out a nice life.”
“I had no education on classic surfing culture. I didn't know much about this world but I enjoyed watching beautiful longboarders. My dad understood I liked longboard so he made me kind of a performance longboard in truster, that I snapped on one of my first days at Snapper Rocks. I joined some friends on a trip to Byron Bay. We ended up at Wategos Beach. I didn’t have a longboard mine was broken, I saw people surfing so well. They were ripping. I cried all day. Crying of rage. I was so frustrated, I wanted to have fun on this perfect waves. I knew that this is where I wanted to spend my time and get better until I could feel comfortable to express myself on the waves. It came out like this, which surprised me.”
“I stayed a year and a half in Byron. I got into Yoga and wanted to develop my body skills. There were a lot of good classes there. I was going but always trying my own interpretations of things, watching videos, going to a lot of different classes and making my own sauce with the vocabulary I would absorbe. I enjoyed pushing limits and challenging myself.
“I wouldn’t want to put myself in that situation again. I’m happy I lived through it. But was super stressed out. I’m proud of figuring myself out through those challenging situations. The work on the side with the yoga. Training all the time eating and living well. I was obsessed with it. Being in Byron was a good place for pushing in this direction. I believe every age and moment we are going through in life are so different. Today if I would go back there I would never being so hard on myself. I was so committed. I had something to prouve to myself. I’m glad I chilled out a little and became way more easy."
“The crossover between this area and Byron. The vibe and different bubbles of people that cross over between these locations. It allow me to connect discover a community and end up in similar places around the world.”
“I remember the first festival I’ve participated to was the Byron Surf Festival, that was super nice. It was a special moment to see all this amazing surfers together."
“When I came back to France. I was invited to the Gliding Barnacle in Portugal in 2019. I was working at a restaurant in Guéthary. I just suddenly quit because they wouldn’t give me the days off. It was a 9 hour drive. It was my first time there and I met some people that became friends now. Meeting more people in this community gave me trust in evolving in this kinda vibe. So I moved to Morocco, and ended up meeting some people with who we decided to make a surf movie. We ended up going to Sri Lanka and Java for 2 months and that’s when COVID hit. Surfing was shut down but we found away around it. But then I got sick with a fever and blood issues, a kidney infection. I didn’t want to fly back home. The nearest hospital was 7 hours away. It took me 4 months to realize I needed to go back home and take care of myself… I’m so use to pushing myself but needed to get healthy. We finished filming in France and Mexico.”
“After that I went to California for a few weeks.I remember surfing Malibu when the swell hit and it was pumping everyday. Super crowded but people could understand the traffic there and they wouldn’t complain if I wasn’t wearing a leash not like most of the French crowd… »I remember catching my self wishing one day to participate to the Vans Duct Tape, and a few years later I receive my first Invitational for the DT in South Africa Cape Town. I was so stoked but also not feeling legitimate to be part of this 16 talented women riders. I wasn’t in the best shape I remember starting summer in France quite early and strong. I wasn’t surfing much during the winter here. But I got very excited to meet everyone and experience the invitational without expectations but only having fun and meeting people.
As soon as we got off the plane there we partied! Such a fun vibe to be with everyone celebrating together! We had such a nice crew taking care of us. I wasn’t in the best shape I remember starting summer in France quite early and strong. I wasn’t surfing much during the winter back in France either.
I remember the first heat. Everyone was ripping. All these girls I looked up to were there. It was so unexpected I won on my first invitational.”