pods for primates : a catatogue of surfboards in australia since 1900
home catalogue history references appendix

joel de rosnay:  france, 1964 

Joel de Rosnay:  France, 1964.

de Rosnay, Joel:
Frenchman with a passion.
Volume 5 Number 5
November 1964.

Copy courtesy of the Graham Sorensen Collection.

An extremely wide ranging interview that covers the history of surfboard riding in France, de Rosnay's surfing carreer, and his comments on the recent world contest in Australia.

Other Articles
Mickey Munoz: Are we all pros?, pages 16-17.
Unaccredited:Why Girls? pages 36-41.
Bruce Brown: Africa - the perfect wave, pages 48-55.
John Pennings: North Narrabeen with Pipeline Quality, pages 78-
John Ramsey: The traffic mess off Waikiki, pages 56-59.
John Fowler: Interview with Nancy Nelson, pages 75-77.
Oceanside Contest, page 71.


Page 26
Frenchman with a Passion.

Joel de Rosnay, recently returned from Australia and the World Contest, is a Frenchman with a passion - for surf.
As one of France's leading surfers and few surf photographers, Joel has capably served as SURFER correspondent for the past four years.
We chose not to correct the grammar in Joel's interview in order to retain the personal discussion feeling it has.
Joe speaks of the French surf - contrasts it with other surfs of the world - and tells of the development of French surfing, problems, and his own surfing background.

How long have you been surfing?

I began surfboard riding in 1957, but , I used to bellyboard ever since I was ten years old.
I live in Paris, 500 miles from the place where surfing started.
Every year, for the summer holidays - and this for 25 years - I went to Biarritz, in the Bay of Biscay.
In France the student's vacation lasts three months in the summer.
It was fantastic for surfing, and I had a lot of time to practice.
The water starts getting fairly warm in March, and we go for long weekends to prepare the season.
With a lot of friends, we surf from March til November.

How did you discover the sport?

I was 13 when I heard for the first time about surf riding. I was on the beach in Biarritz, and I met a body surfer from California.
He taught me how to body surf with one fin serving as a rudder.
He was amazed by the kind of surf we had there, and all the time he told me fantastic stories about men riding big waves standing up on special boards.
I never met him after he left, but from that time on I became attracted by this sport.
I saw films from Australia, photos, and newsreels.
In 1956 I saw a very good film called "Hawaii, Island of Dreams," showing the surf in Waikiki and Makaha.
I think I saw it four times!
At that time I was practicing water skiing, and snow skiing and racing for a Paris ski team.
My great chance came when, in July 1957 in Biarritz, I met an Americain writer, Peter Viertel, also an enthusiastic skier.
Peter came to Biarritz with Richard Zannuck to film "The Sun Also. Rises," from the Hemmingway novel.
They saw the wild waves, and decided to send for a balsa board from California.
Peter gave me my first lesson: how to wax the board and how to paddle out.
Then, after a week, he left.
I then met two body surfers from California, one had spent a few days in Hawaii, and was able to surf a little bit.
They told me the position of the feet on the board.
During several days I pearl dived all the time because of the habit of having belly boarded.
I was paddling too late to get the wave; desperate, I thought I was far too far in the front of the board and tried to catch the waves with half of my body in the water, even wearing fins to go

Page 27

 Illustration by Leo Bestgen
Black and white portrait.

Pages 28-29

Photograph, caption on page 29.

On a surf safari late in '63, Joel and his fellow surfers discovered surf in the river La Bidassoa  (a frontier between France and Spain).
They were able to surf for a half a mile in the river itself on fast waves with strong offshore winds blowing directly into the surf. Philippe Gerard surfs here between France and Spain.
The houses in the background belong to Irun in Spain, while the photograph was taken in France by Joel de Rosnay.

Page 29

All this seems ridiculous now, but I had nobody to tell me what to do.
I also tried sort of rubber gloves with small pieces of rubber sticked between the fingers, like a duck.
This did not work, either, because the water came in and they became heavier than lead!
After these little troubles, the passion of the sport got me and soon I was progressing fairly well.

How many people were surfing in Biarritz when you started?

Only three - Jacques Rott, Peter Viertel, and Georges Hennebutte.
Jacques Rott lives in Dax, several miles from Biarritz.
He is in the wood business, and is very sportive.
He skis, plays volley ball, and practices Judo.
He was the first man I saw standing up on a board pushed by the wave, and this sight is groven in my memory!
For a long time Jacques had tried to surf; in '55 he built a sort of Gondola, with a turned up nose like a ski, and spent a lot of time polishing it like a varnished table.
Result: at the first wave the thing was sucked down like a bit of soap going down the plug hole and Jacques went straight to the bottom!
His first good board was a balsa one.
He made it on the measurements he got from the author of the film "Hawaii, Island of Dreams" and tried it in 1957, when I began to surf.
This board was 12 foot long, and weighed 45 pounds.
Also, at this time Georges Hennebutte was trying rubber surfboards!
Georges is an inventor and always has a lot of original and amusing ideas; rubber surf boats, artificial waves, surf lifts, etc.
He tried to put plywood on a sort of long mat.
The funniest thing was that the instrument was always deflating when Georges was taking off!

Page 30

How did surfing become of importance?

For a long time a lot of locals have been fantastic body surfers.
The belly-board was introduced around the 30's and body surfing just after the war.
So some strong men, used to fighting with 12 to 14 foot waves, were soon very taken with surf riding.
Michel Barland, Andre Plumcoq, Robert Bergeruc, the Moraiz brothers, began to progress very quickly.
They were joined by some rugby players, as in New Zealand and Cornwall- Pierre Laharrague, Paul Pondepeyre.
Unfortunately, in '58 we had only about seven boards, including three balsa Malibu-type boards that Peter had ordered for him and for me.
Michel Barland and Jacques Rott began to make hollow plywood boards, then balsa boards.
Finally, in 1959, Michel was able to turn out the first foamies.
He had a lot of trouble with bubbling plastics, and bad resins, but persevered with courage.
Thanks to him and Jackie, the sport thus spread quicker.
In September. 1959, I met Carlos Dogny from Peru.
He helped us a lot in founding the first club, the Waikiki club, and in giving us the rules of the contest.
After that the kids began to enter in the game, and in August, 1960, we were able to hold the first National French Surfing Contest.

How would you describe surfing in France compared to what you have seen on your recent trip around the world?

When we started surfing in France, we always had a sort of complex of the famous rides we saw in the movies or from photos, Waikiki, Rincon, Sunset ...then we discovered new spots; visiting foreign surfers told us that we had fantastic conditions.
After my trip I am now persuaded that our surf can be compared with the best places in the world.
And what is more, hundreds of miles of unexplored coast may well reveal some terrific new spots.

Where did you encounter the best surf on your trip?

I think it was in Ala Moana in Hawaii.
The conditions were perfect, six-foot plus, strong offshore, but not too strong.
Every mornIng I surfed at six o'clock; there were hardly any people at that time.
I was amazed by how shallow the water was at certain places, and could easily imagine how dangerous it could be with the big waves, in Banzai for instance.
We had a trip to the North Shore, as the radio report announced six to eight foot in Sunset, but the wind was too strong and the water choppy.
However, we got some amusing surf in the inside wall at Chun's reef where Joey Cabell did a fantastic exhibition.
I also had a very good surf in Sequit, California, and North Narabeen, Australia.
In Sequit I found the water so icy that I wore full-length pants, suit, and boots; this made the water tolerable, and was also easier to walk on the rocks.
The locals looked very surprised at the sight of this black frog-man.
I remember a really beautiful blonde girl with a very tiny bikini surfing at Sequit, in spite of the temperature.
I got some good rides as the waves were four to five foot, but the kelp played me a lot of tricks.
Once my board was completely stopped and I did a beautiful "chin on the nose!"

Did you see anything that you would consider as good or better than your French surf?

I didn't stay long enough in each country to be really able to judge the surf, but if I take a bit of what I saw and what I have seen in the movies and magazines, it seems to me difficult to find anything better than Sunset or Haleiwa, for instance.
We have no problem as far as the size of the waves is concerned, as our average is four to ten foot and easily reaches 18, but it is in the shapes.
However, our surf is one of the most versatile in the world.
Conditions can change completely with low tides or winds.
These tides are unbelievable, and sometimes when it is low, you have to walk a quarter of a mile of beach to get to the water.
The surf which seems to be most similar to ours is the Australian surf.
Same kind of coasts, sandy beaches, outside reefs, powerful swells.
The beach of Manly looks exactly like "La Chambre d' Amour" in France, a beach surf with beautiful peaks.
No wind or slight off- shore until 10 a.m. and the evening from 6:30, like we have in September and October.

How long have you been shooting pictures of the surf?

Since 1959.
I never had the, right equipment, because it is so expensive, but little by little I am getting it together.
Taking surf pictures is just a hobby for me, as I have not enough time or money to spend on it.
At the moment I am preparing a thesis to be a Doctor in Science at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, and it takes up most of my time.

Do you find it's difficult to shoot pictures when the surf is good?

Yes, very difficult!
You always have the horriqle impression that you are missing the best moment, because of the tide coming in or the wind changing.
Happily, my young brother is a very good surf photographer and helps me a lot when the surf is up.

What type of people surf in France?
How would you compare them with surfers you met around the world?

In France we are still an underdeveloped country in surfing compared to what I saw in California or Australia.
The surfing possibilities are fantastic, but we haven't got any big city on the surf such as Los Angeles, Honolulu, Sydney, Lima, or Durban.
And this is a very important point.
Biarritz is a very small town, a holiday resort, and really only lives three months in the year.
This goes also for the other spots we discovered along the coast.
From Easter til November surfers begin to come from the big cities, Paris, Bordeaux, Dax - exactly like what happens for snow ski resorts.
So that is why I think our beaches will never be overcrowded as in Malibu, or Sydney beaches.
In Biarritz, the experienced local surfers are still largely the same as they were five years ago, but some kids are making fantastic progress.
It is curious to notice that the people who started surfing in France were between 25 and 35 years old.
I was the youngest, being 19.
Now the best surfers are around 15 and 16.
The majority of them are still at school, making the most of their three-month vacation.
Biarritz surfers have never tried surfing in the winter, but some of them think this is a good idea.
I am sure if they do, they will make great progress.
Compared with the surfers I met around the world, the French surfers have the same passion for the sport, and the same surf slang!
But the young gremmies, if they like surf trunks, tee shirts, or transfers, can't be picked up in the street as the "Surfie" in Australia, recognizable by their yellow hair.
I must also add that there are less than 300 surf club members in France, and perhaps 30 good and experienced surfers.
Exactly as other countries, we have some big-surf riders, who spend the whole day waiting far outside fpr the "one out of the blue," or the "Pet d' Artic" as we call it, and others who are very good hot-doggers with a wide repertory of tricks.

How were you invited to Australia?

I was invited by the ASA on the results of the French National contest of 1963.
As you know, there were no finals, and no National senior title last year, owing to bad weather conditions.
I had more points than any of my rivals; in full knowledge of these results, the ASA invited me as "the logical representative of France."
Needless to say, this free trip round the world gave birth to a great deal of jealousy among a small group of people, who have done their best to tarnish my reputation among the international surfers by writing false information about me.
I won't hide that I find this very disagreeable, but when you know you are in the right, then the only thing to do is to take it philosophically.

What did you think of the Australian World Championships?

I think they were really fantastic!
The organization was quite perfect, the welcome of the Australians unforgettable.
I have participated in some international snow ski contests before and I know just how difficult it is to organize something of this scale, and I want to congratulate the Aussies on doing a fabulous job.
That goes also for Ampol and Quantas (sic), who did marvels, dispatching all the foreign representatives from their country, lodging them in

Page 31

Left top: Joel Moraiz surfs in a beautiful curl at La Barre in France.
Above: Jean-Marie Lartigau, 16 years old, surfs a balsa big gun at La Barre in September of 1963.
To the left: Jean successfully executes a rare right slide at La Barre.
Photos by Joel de Rosnay.

good hotels, and organizing endless receptions and meetings.
During the heats and finals, policemen and scouts were controlling the crowd evaluated by the newspapers to be approximately
Three TV channels were giving the finals in direct, while surf boats and helicopters assured the security at sea.
Next year the Second World Surfing Titles will be organized by Peru, which will sponsor the trips of a lot of foreign representatives. The impulsion is now given throughout the world.

Do you agree or disagree with the results?

I completely agree with the results, but I must admit that during the major part of the finals I picked out Joey Cabell and Mike Doyle more than Midget.
Suddenly, just before the gun went off to announce the end of the finals, Midget took off on the best wave of the day.
He was really outstanding in the wave, displaying all his knowledge of surf in his personal and characteristic style.
The judges gave him the maximum points, and I think it was the wave of his victory.

What improvements would you make on the judging system?

It is very difficult to answer.
We have discussed a lot about this point, and created an International Surfing Association to precisely put together the surfing rules throughout the world and take the best of them.
Perhaps the best will be several competitions like in Peru, with an overall winner.
The paddling races should be optinal.
The details of the judging can be easily surmounted, number of judges, number of competitors by heats, duration of the events, etc; a most difficult thing is to decide, as Phil Edwards says, 'What is good" in a surfing exhibition.
Perhaps imposed figures, and improvised exhibition, as in a skating contest, could be a solution.
It might be a good idea to open in your magazine a special article on suggestions for Championship rules.
Meanwhile, I personally thjnk that we shall have to stay pretty close to what happens in the ski world: i.e. select from national or international "classics contest" as the Makaha International Surfing Contest, the Peru contest, the Huntington surfing contest, the
European titles - a national team for each country.
The best surfers will go in team A, the kids will wait in team B to win their selection.
Every year or every two years, each country would send two or three representatives of her National Team to the World Titles.
All this is, of course, only given as suggestions. I think there will have to be a lot more discussions before coming to an important decision.

Where are your best surf spots in France, or are they in France, Spain, or Portugal?

The Atlantic coast of France, where surfing is possible, is approximately 500 miles long from the North of Britany to Spain.
Surfing is possible in good conditions in Jersey (Channel Islands) close to Britanny, in Cornwall, and in Ireland.
So it is sure that very good conditions prevail at the North of the Bay of Biscay; we have yet to discover these new spots.
In Spain, some very , good secret spots have been reported and I am sure that after the Biarritz area, Spain will soon become a surfing paradise.
In Portugal, the major inconvenience is the water temperature; the coasts are far from the Gulf Stream which brings us the warm water.
However, the waves look sensational with offshore conditions prevailing during long periods.
From all this it turns out that the best spots for the time being, and for some time yet to come, are Biarritz, La Barre, Guetary, Hendaye, St. Jean de Luz, and Hossegor.
La Barre is a pier at the mouth of the

Page 32

river Adour.
It is a very fast left slide with the swells from two peaks 200 yards from each other.
A strong rip current along the pier helps to paddle out.
Guetary is our major big-surf spot (the waves easily reach 15 to 20 feet).
It is an outside reef going straight to the horizon, forming a point.
At the top of the point the big waves begin to break.
The slide is almost always a right, with often 400 yards ride.

What type of conditions prevail throughout the year?

In the Bay of Biscay the water temperature is around eight to 11 degrees centigrade in the winter (46 to 50 F.), 13 to 150 in April (56 to 60 F), 22 to 25 in the summer (70 to 74 F), and in November 17 to 18 C (62 to 63 F).
The heavies are rolling from September to November, with some good offshore conditions in the morning, and sometimes during several days.
During the period of the equinoxes the surf reaches 15 to 20 foot.
In April and May the conditions are also very good.
But the main season for all the surfers, because of the warm water and all the friends who come, is July and August.
Exactly as in other countries, we are always trying several spots before staying in one definite place, driving caravans of cars for miles to "have a look at the next spot."
But with experience, we now begin to know what sort of conditions correspond to what sort of winds and swells.
I never saw more than 20 to 30 people surfing at the same time on our big beaches.
In more difficult places like La Barre or "SainteBarbe," when the heavies are rolling, never more than 10 to 15.

Do you get many American and Australian surfers in Biarritz?
Yes, quite a lot and more and more every year.
We learned a great deal from them; The article in the SURFER about "Le Surf France" in 1961 contributed very much to make French surfing conditions known throughout the world.
I saw in the town of Biarritz some California boys with the map published in the SURFER, trying to find their way to la "Cote des Basques!"
Before this article, Preston Leavey came from Hawaii and taught us how to make a hot-dog board.
After the article, I began to receive letters from foreign correspondants asking about the conditions down here.
Lots of questions, also, from U.S. soldier-surfers stationed in Germany and other parts of Europe.
From Hawaii we saw Jimmy Dicker, Jan Lee, Bill Davis, Gaylord Wilcox, etc.
From California - Dave Rochlen, Terry Pleasants, Beau Walker, Gudy Wilcke, and Bill Cleary.
From Australia - Mick Hickey, Peter Troy, Brian Cole, Bob Keenan, etc.
From Peru - Carlos Dogny, Armando Vignati, Joaquin Miro Quesada, etc.

Have they been good representatives of the sport?

Yes, very good on the average, the best being those I've just mentioned.
They brought pictures, movies, and helped us a lot in progressing.
You can see now a real difference in the young kids who have been in contact with all these very good surfers, and the old team which is still very prominent in the heavies.

Who would you consider to be the best surfers in France?

Among the Biarritz surfers, three stand out from the others.
They are Jean- Marie Lartigau, 16, French 1963 Na-tional Junior Champion; Andre Plumcoq, 32; and Michel Barland, French 1962 National Champion.
Jean-Marie is a natural surfer, very strongly built.
He has a very personal and smooth style, displaying a tremendous sense of balance and timing.
In the small surf he is unbeatable and is very good in the big ones, too.
Andre Plumcoq is the perfect athelete - during the winter he lifts weights and bicycles to keep in form.
He also has a very personal style, doing his own tricks in his own way, doing it very well.
Andre "Dede" can be as good in the big surf as in the small.
Michel Barland is a strong personality in the French surfing.
He makes surfboards with his friend Jacques Rott, and spends all the time he gets when he is not at work in his mechanical construction, by trying new shapes of boards and discussing about foams and resins.
He is fantastic in big surf; he is always seen taking off on the biggest wave of the day, and goes out in tough seas crossing the breakers like a steam boat!
A good

Page 33

surfer, too, in the big waves is Bernard Giese, 22, from Paris, second in the '62 National Contest.
Finally, I would rank also Philippe Gerard, 23, Arnaud de Rosnay, 18, Vice Junior Champion in 1963, and Eddy Ladd, 18, all from

How would they rank with, for example, Midget Farrelly and Joey Cabell?

You must realize that in France we are very few surfers and we only started seven years ago.
So, the standard of surfing is quite low compared with other surfing countries, because the more surfers, the more choice you have.
I can only say that Jean-Marie and all the young kids and I have great hopes, because one day, especially if they surf during the winter, they will be able to compete with the top surfers of the world.

How long do you think it will be before France is a major surfing power?

I think it could take quite a long time.
Perhaps three or four years.
The main reason is that, as I tol you before, we haven't got any big city on the surf.
Had Paris been on the sea-side, I think France might have been as important as California or Australia.
Another reason is that some people think of surfing in terms of touristic profit.
In one way it is good, but not if it forbids the sport to spread to other places and if people who don't really know anything about surf should want to organize it the way they want.

When do you anticipate the world contest to be held in France?

It will depend on the backing we get from air companies and other big firms.
It could take quite a long time because it means a very important effort all round.
But I think if we could put the expenses together, with Jersey, Cornwall, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, it could be organized at the European level.
However, we will have to wait a little bit before these countries, especially Spain and Portugal, become real surfing powers. Nobody knows, the sport is growing so fast that maybe soon...

Where would you hold it?

I don't know.
Everybody would have to vote about it, but I would personally like it to be in Biarritz because a lot of people are able to organize it very well, and because the town is the real center of the sport in France, and the place where it all started.

Would the townspeople favor a contest of this sort?

Yes, I am sure they would because of the importance it would have for their resort.
The publicity could be very good, and if it does not cost too much money, they will be an important help in the organization of the contest.
I saw in Australia the result of the team work of the surfing specialists of the ASA and the townspeople of Manly in the organization of the championship; it was fantastic, and a great honour for the sport.
I must confess that in France I am anxious to see that the surf does not fall into a kind of touristic organization.
When some local people on the French coast will realize that the real surfers will not go against their interests, then a profound and durable understanding can be counted on.
Only at this time will we really be able to organize the World Titles.

What does surfing mean to you?

It is a real passion. It means friendship, liberty, holidays.
I like to meet surfers from foreign countries, speak for hours: about the technique of a cutback, the rip of Sunset, or the shape of boards.
I like to teach young surfers, organize clubs, and give facilities to my friends to enjoy the sport.
Be in a car with a few friends, looking for the best spot, then rush into the water to find perfect glassy conditions - this gives me terrific happiness.
Surfing is a new field, almost a new way of life.
I would like to think I was a sort of promoter, but not a profiter.
That kind of person comes after the promoters, and their first goal is to try and destroy their influence.
I am not the slightest bit interested in making a profit from surfing; the sport for me will always remain a passion and an occasion to meet and talk with other humans, from far distant countries, about the same passion.
Sometimes you meet someone who will talk to you about surf, a light shining in his eyes - that's enough, he will be a surfing friend.

Page 48
 AFRICA - the perfect wave.
By Bruce Brown
Page 50

Cape St. Francis - the perfect wave.
Robert August squats low and trims for maximum speed on the unbelievably long wall. (cropped)

Page 78
All Timer Down Under
North Narrabeen With Pipeline Quality
By John Pennings
Bob Kennerson drops to avoid the fast-folding section on the classic April 27, '63, day at North Narrabeen.
Incorrectly captioned as:
Jim Getteys squats in a wave that could easily be mistaken for the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii.

Page 71
Above left: Men's winner, Joey Cabell, cuts back during the recent Ocean Beach Pacific Coast Championships.
Above right: Winner Cabell.
Below right: Runner-up Phil Edwards.
Photos by Bev Morgan.


Surf conditions were not good at the Ocean Beach Pacific Coast Championships.
Small, unpredictable waves, combined with early winds made competition difficult.
The judging in the men's semi~finals and finals came under attack by many obselvers.
Rumor has it that Butch Van Artsdalen tossed a dead fish into the Judges' stand with the comment that "Something fishy is going on here!" Others felt that Richard Chew and Bobby Patterson surfed better than they placed.
From the Judges' view- point, they called them as they saw them and their decisions were final.

1st Joey Cabell
2nd Phil Edwards
3rd Donald Takayama

Jr. Men's
1st David Nueiwea (sic)
2nd Corky Carroll
3rd Rick Irons

1st Joyce Hoffman
2nd Margo Scotton
3rd Nancy Nelson

1st Pete Peterson -Sharon Barker
2nd Hobie Alter -Laurie Hoover
3rd Mike Doyle -Linda Merrill

Page 4

Surfboards Hawaii, page 6.
"Fred van Dyke knows what he wants in a surfboard.
After last winter is is still satisfied with the big-wave board Dick Brewer built him and is looking forward to many years of satisfaction.
This can happen for you, too.
1333 South King Street, Honolulu, PH. 503-087."

Dave Sweet Surfboards, page 14.
"For those who don't understand!
Every Dave Sweet surfboard is custom shaped to the customer's exact specifications.
We shape 95% of the board by using adjustable molds (we now have 47) and then each board is hand-shaped exactly to the customer's order. By eliminating most of the hand-shaping, we are able to retain the high-density outer foam and make a much stronger board."

Harbour Surfboards, page 9.
"The Banana Model", rider Rick Chew.

Weber Surfboards, page11
"No Gimmicks," cartoon (Rick Griffin?).

Jacobs Surfboards, page 52.
"The Concave."

The Surfboard Builders' Manual ($3.00), page 54.

Hobie Skateboards, page 60.
Featuring "Joey Cabell, Makaha International Surfing Champion."

Gordie Surfboards, page 71.
Two board portraits, 1950 and 1964, see below.

Jack Halley Surfboards, page 74.
Featuring "Chuck Dent, Shop Manager."

Gordie Surfboards.
Advertisement with two board portraits, 1950 and 1964.

Volume 5 Number 5 
November 1964, page 71.
Gordon Duane, Waikiki, 1950.

Gordon Duane, 1964.

Volume 5 Number 5 
November 1964.

Linda Merrill, San Clemente.
Photograph by Bev Morgan.
Noted as Surfer's first cover of a female surfing.

Copy courtesy of the Graham Sorensen Collection. 

Return to Surfer Bio menu
home catalogue history references appendix

Geoff Cater (2012) : Joel de Rosnay : France, 1964.