The appearance of the freestyle movement in the early 1990s and its subsequent media coverage encouraged the development of new surfing sports and disciplines. From the Opal Coast to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, the windsurfers of yesterday have been replaced by funboarders and kite-surfers.
From windsurfing to funboarding
The history of windsurfing and how it developed is vague, with numerous inventors claiming to have created the sport. However, whatever its origins, this new discipline appeared in the United States in the mid 1960s and took off in popularity a few years later, largely thanks to the sport’s living legend, Robby Naish, who became the first windsurfing world champion at the age of just 13!
An Olympic sport since the Los Angeles games held in 1984, windsurfing experienced revolutionary changes in the early 1990s. Equipment began to change, the freestyle movement was born and windsurfing evolved to develop into funboarding. The following sportsmen and women have contributed to the growing popularity of funboarding in France: Nathalie Lelièvre, five times Women’s World Champion; Patrice Belbéoc'h, Men’s World Waves Champion in the 1990s; Franck David, the first French Olympic Champion in Barcelona in 1992; the highly media-friendly Robert Teriitehau; and Antoine Albeau, many times French and world champion in slalom and the world record holder for speed.
The phenomenon of kite-surfing! Kite-surfing is in!
Also sometimes known as fly-surfing, kite-surfing involves gliding on a small surfboard (a bit like a wake-board) pulled by a kite. This water sport was first devised in the 1960s but only became a reality in 1984 thanks to two brothers, Dominique and Bruno Legaignoux from Brittany, who were passionate fans of surfing. However, it took until around the year 2000 for the safety issues around this sport to be resolved and for kite-surfing to become popular not only in France but all around the world.
Now very much in vogue in France, this new sport has taken over from its close relative, funboarding, thanks largely to French champions such as Jérémie Eloy, Alexandre Caizergues and Sébastien Garat. In addition, other surfing activities have benefitted from its growing popularity. Similar kite-boarding sports exist on land, such as mountain boarding, kite buggying and snowkiting.
And there’s more...
The arrival of freestyle and the radicalisation of surfing sports have led to the development of other disciplines, such as tow-in which consists of surfing giant waves towed by a motorboat. This technique is particularly popular in La Torche in Brittany and Guéthary in the French Basque country – for daredevils only!
The seas and oceans around France are also popular with sea kayakers, who are more than happy to tackle the waves. Other sports include body boarding (surfing lying down on a foam board) which first appeared in the 1990s and is now very popular on beaches throughout France.