For Román Frejo, the spanish pro-rider (Spain Champion 2011 et 2013, 4th at World Series in Oléron, 6th in Bilbao, 4th at the ISA World Championship), things happen as fast in life as they do on the water. And Josune, his pretty wife, is not there to slow him down, quite the opposite. The two lovebirds met almost two years ago, got married four months ago, have lived under the same roof in England and Spain, have traveled throughout Thailand and have just embarked on new adventures Down Under. Here is the expat journal of 2 spaniards in Australia. Expect to read about love, sharks, kangaroos, barbecues with a decent dose of tapas and mucho Stand-Up Paddle !
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia — Hi everyone, before starting this journal, we are going to tell how with different life courses, we ended up in Currumbin Creek, in the suburbs of the city of Gold Coast in Australia. Don’t fret, it’s a happier ending than Titanic !
Like most things on this website, padddle surf is at the root of this story.
Josune : I had been living in England for three years and had just finished my midwife studies. I had some time off so I decided to pay a visit to the Basque Country, my home region in Spain and visit family and friends. A week after coming back, one of my photographer friends asked me to give him a hand at a local SUP race over the week-end. He kept saying that I should keep my focus on the “tiny midget with the pony tail” at the front of the race (Román: hey ! I’m not a midget, the board was just too buried deep in the water ! ) and to take lots of pictures of him. That’s what I did and, in doing so, I couldn’t help making a few flirtatious innuendos…
Román : It had been two months since the World Championship in Peru. I had just signed my contract with the Starboard Spain team after a pretty good season and I was working as a sailing instructor on a campsite in Alicante. The race season was just starting in Spain and I had arranged a calendar of events for me to attend. That week-end, a race was taking place in Hondarribia, it was a first edition and the organizer was a friend. So I packed the van and off I went. A good race, plenty of laughters and the face of a photographer to I could not stop nagging to until I had her phone number.
After a whole summer in Alicante together, which put an end to a distance relationship filled with hours on Skype, countless numbers of flights, flash trips, and many headaches… we decided to live together in the UK, notably with the help and support of Starboard UK (thanks Sam Ross !).
I took part in various races and demo events there and I have to admit that in the UK they do know how to organize a SUP event !
Although we like England very much, we both wanted to make the most of our common tastes for travels and new culture discoveries and decided to try our luck somewhere a little warmer. A good climate, work opportunities and a place where I could carry on training and improving were the conditions we were looking for. The answer was pretty obvious : Australia.
20 degrees Celsius throughout the year, large hospitals where Josune would be able to find work, numerous SUP schools … on paper Australia had everything we were after. Some athletes I knew were training within the same group and I was eager to join – although I have to admit, what I was hearing about the intensity and the frequency of the training sessions was rather scary.
To know that Paul et Angie Jackson were in Gold Coast was very comforting as we knew we could count on them if we needed anything when we would arrive. We had met at various international competitions, among others, the 11 Cities in Holland and the Battle of the Paddle in California. We do not forget of course, Chris Parker, Supracer’s boss man, and whom we would like to thank as he has been an important liaison facilitator with Gold Coast.
We spent one last month in Spain and took advantage of that time to get married and turn our wedding party into a huge farewell party with our family and friends. We set sail once the hangover was over. First stop, Thailand !
Our original plan was to spend Christmas with our families and leave in January. But we received an email from Mathieu Rauzier, Starboard’s design engineer, saying that he had met the love of his life and that we were invited to his wedding in Thailand at the beginning of November.
We are going to skip on the long family discussions (thanks Mat !) about spending the Christmas dinners and celebrations over Skype but we have to admit that it was worth it as Mat and Yoyo’s wedding was wonderful and half of the Starboard staff was there.
After an amazing week-end on Koh Samet, a paradise island where the wedding was celebrated, we decided to carry on our Thai trip in the footsteps of Mark Dickinson, an adventurer who leaves no one indifferent. He took us to Koh Chang where he founded Tiki Tours, a SUP excursion company and where he knows every secret spot of the island. Elephant rides, natural waterfalls and of course plenty of SUP were on the programme. And we witnessed for the first time the phenomenon known as bioluminescence : under our boards, at night, glowing green sea waters caused by micro-organisms when they are disturbed by oxygen. Incredible !
During the rest of our stay, we were based in Bangkok where we split our time between board testing for the 2015 Starboard collection with famous riders and technicians and local visits. We felt particularly privileged to spent time with one of the most influential persons in this sport, and a truly great man, Bart de Zwart.
Many thanks also to Svein Rasmussen and Caren Forbes (Starboard) for their support and hospitality during this beautiful Thai stop-over.
As we are heading to the airport, we feel both sad to leave Thailand but also very much excited about our next destination…
Next stop : Australia !