Introducing the world’s first Surfski Festival held on the 16th and 17th April aimed at bringing together leisure paddlers and new surfski paddlers. The Finistere Surfski Festival is organised in partnership with Guisseny Paddle, Barrachou Paddle and Tom Thorpe from Surfski Dynamics . The surfski festival was born out of the need to open up surfski paddling to those who enjoy the sport, or are new to the sport, but yet aren’t ready or are not interested in entering the elite competitions. Helen Trehoret the event organiser talks to totalSUP about the festival and why people should put this event on their list for 2022!
Hi Helen, this festival is the first of a kind! Can you explain why you are organising the event!
I come from a SUP background, during my second pregnancy I found it increasingly difficult to stand up and paddle. I saw someone paddling a surfski and thought it looked amazing. I then contacted a surfski dealer, and that was the start of my journey. I started with the Nelo 510, it was perfect for me, a beginner boat, very stable. It allowed me to develop my stroke, whilst feeling completely stable.
The passion for surfski evolved from there, then I started paddling more and more. I entered a few competitions, but quite frankly there is a massive gap between paddlers like myself (leisure competitive paddlers) and the other 3 females on the French circuit. This gap is too big for me to bridge at this time in my life, and made me stop competing, what was the point. I would always arrive last, coming into the finish line as the last boat picks up the racing buoy, not a great feeling. I spoke about this issue amongst other females, and we felt the same. The gap is simply too big. This is not against the top paddlers at all. But there is just a massive gap between the intermediate and more advanced paddlers, especially in female paddlers. I started to question my own surfski journey, are national competitions the correct place for me? probably not. But I must belong somewhere. I compare this to running, just because you enjoy leisure running, meeting up with friends and doing 10 KM doesn’t mean that you become the Olympic champion, but in not wanting this, doesn’t mean you are a fraud.
After traveling around the USA I found that there were a few good surfski festivals where the vibe was more inclusive, this is exactly what I wanted to recreate. We need to create an atmosphere where racing isn’t the sole reason to surfski and if it did, coming last doesn’t mean that when you arrive everyone has already gone home. Growing this sport is done from the grassroots, and this is a festival to promote those grassroots.
During the various lockdowns, I was able to share my vision with Tom Thorpe a surfski / kayak instructor based in Plymouth, UK. We decided that we needed to open up surfski paddling to the masses, it’s such a great sport, but relatively unknown, and in this, the Finsitere Surfski Festival was born. The festival is designed to get people together to share their passion of surfski, not matter the level. The goal is to make this sport open and accessible.
Well first of all it is where I live! and where my business is based. The village, Guisseny is ideally suited for surfski paddling. Depending on the prevailing winds and the swell you could have flat water or a rolling wave for 2 KM. The bay in Guisseny is safe, so you can test your limits, in a safe environment. This comes back to the goal of making the sport accessible. You don’t need to do a 40 KM downwind in 30 Knots to be a surfskier, surfskiing is about getting in the bucket and getting outside.
But why Finistere? Finistere in my opinion is one the best places to paddle in Europe, the orientation of the land means that there are conditions to suit any sort of paddler, from beginner through to expert. There is flat water, surf, down wind you name it. Added into this that Finistere is relatively under developed, so that when you visit Finistere you see the real France, there are no amusement parks or hotels, it is still authentic. Which is basically what Finistere is, authentic. By coming to Finistere, you will focus on paddling and merriment. Two things we do well.
What can we expect at the festival?
This is the 1st year for the festival, and the first year a Surfski Festival has been organised. We will have 2 instructors on hand to give workshops from downwinds to technique. The goal is to have fun. We are still putting together the final pieces, it hasn’t been easy organising a festival at the end of the pandemic. Uncertainty has certainly not helped. But we are positive that we can bring a good atmosphere to this event!
We are in talks with Nelo to bring the first Nelo 510 Surfski Cup to Finistere, this would be a game changer. We will also have events geared for families to bring people to this festival. We have had good support from Micky Mcdonald from Think Kayaks, who has really supported our vision.. We hope to announce some more big names to the festival. The location is perfect, we can’t promote our area much more. To be part of the first-ever surfski festival will be epic. I really think that we need to change the sport. Focusing on winning, and competitions can only sell a few surfskis, it’s time to consider surfski as a more intrinsic sport. Having fun, catching your first swell and laughing with joy that is the surfski feeling I am trying to promote!
The festival will take place at the Port du Curnic, Guisseny and the evening celebrations will continue at the center found in the center of the village. We have a paddle centre equipped with a classroom and a funky terrace, so we can enjoy a bbq and beer together. April is a great month. The temperatures are OK at this time of year. We don’t have snow or extreme temperatures. As we are found on the gulf stream, temperatures are relatively temperate. The sea conditions should be great, the storm season has normally ended by April. So we can expect good conditions for learning to surfski in ocean conditions.
TotalSUP long-time contributor and Barrachou Paddle owner Helen Trehoret talks to TotalSUP about her venture to develop a network of SUP events, aimed at increasing female SUP participation. The first the Wild Women SUP Symposium was hosted in September 2022, based out of Cannich, Scotland. This event held specifically for women SUPrs was led by […]
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