I was lucky to spend a few days with the Vans pro surf-team recently in the lushly wild Mundaka, a pocket in the Basque region of northern Spain that brims with adventure, surf, and a raw, primordial energy that is apparent and palpable in it’s vast mountains, Neolithic cave-painting remains and breath-taking vistas.
Sharing waves, camp fire stories and heart-pumping hikes with the Vans team, I sat down with 25 year old French-Caribbean surf queen Maud Le Car to chew the fat, and find out more about this intoxicating force of nature, delving deeper into her motivations and passions.
Settle down for a read with the phenomenal Maud Le Car.
25 year old Maud Le Car Rips. Whether she’s busy following the WQS (Women's Qualifying Series) surf tour circuit (where is is currently ranked in the top 30), free-surfing for shoots and videos (including this video of her surfing in high heels, which went viral some time back), or exploring her creativity through art, Maud seemingly throws not just vast amounts of hard work into her work, but equal parts of passion. I love watching her surf, with a radical, unique style that is highly impressive and always fun to watch.
Maud has been surfing since she was 12 years old, practically considered old in the modern day, with groms taking to the water younger and younger. But if there is something that is apparent from talking to Maud that has clearly stood her in good stead, spurring her on, progressing, seeing her take on a number of wins on the QS, is her ethos towards bettering herself and continuing to progress and move forward from both successes, and failures. Reflecting that
“I think in everything you’re doing in life, you sometimes hit a wall, in that you have bad moments and good moments, and you just to grow from these experiences…”.
Competitive surfing, and sport in general, can be a double-edged sword, and with the mental game playing as big a part as the physical, Maud shares that
There is a quote I love, they say you fall maybe 8 times but you stand up 9 and that is the real thing… this is how a contender and a champion make the difference. Because it's not about the same talent, we all have the same capacities. It’s a matter of how you’re going to use it, and how you handle the failures and bad moments, how you’re going to rebound”.
Failures can be formative in any profession, and I love how Maud attests that this has been a major motivation and impetus for her to continue prospering as a professional surfer on the tour. I wonder what else helps her to stay grounded and to not let the pressure overwhelm her?
“I just remember…the simple things and why I’m surfing, and my passion...I’m super grateful for everything surfing brings to my life, and just the simple fact of being in the ocean and connected with nature”.
Seeing Maud playfully surfing during our sessions in Mundaka, I was struck by her unique style, fusing aggressive, hacking manoeuvres with a creative, powerful feminine style. It is brilliant to watch, and excites me when I ask her when is in store for her with her surfing now?
“I just want to keep improving my surfing…push myself a little bit harder every day. and just be the best I can be.
"This is my full motivation, to be at 100% of my capacity, … we have no limits, so I just want to go further than I can, and be proud at the end”.
With positive role models like Maud flourishing on the womens pro- circuit, it seems there has never been a more inspiringly progressive time in women’s surfing. With champions like Stephanie Gilmore, Carissa Moore, Tyler Wright and more holding a motivating flame, illustrating that the days of women needing to surf like the guys to be considered on their level is long extinct, that feminine creativity and expression, fused with strength and powerful executions, makes for an incredible display of surfing.
Close friends with fellow pro surfer Coco Ho, Maud expresses that “its just just good to always be with passionate people who are always pushing themselves surfing”. With a dominant force of female chargers on the competitive circuit, the professional side is prospering. In the every-day surf realm though, sometimes it is still common to see a more masculine-heavy lineup at most surf spots. I ask Maud why she thinks this could be, why aren’t there more women in the water, it is, after all 2017? “I think the problem is that women sometimes have limits because that’s true it's a physical sport, and there's a lot of men doing it, and you won't want to look shitty at the beginning doing it
The thing is ..some people are like oh you're lucky. you're a surfer, you're blond, tanned, it's super sexy…No, surfing is NOT sexy! You have water in your nose all day, dreadlocks, sand everywhere and you fall, you fall, you go in the sand… You just have to get past those things... It's like ok, maybe the boys are good at surfing, but it's not only exclusively for boys… I truly think a girl surfing is way more graceful and more beautiful to watch."
There Is nothing shameful in the fact that sometimes women may worry a little more about what we look like, seeing as we are still often judged on our outside cover. Maud shares that her girlfriends have similar fears when she pushes them to try surfing expressing that, “everyone's gonna tease me. I’m like bah, no one cares, we all begin from a point, nobody is looking!”.
I think that as Maud proposes, once we let go of the fear, of worrying what we look like or what people are thinking of us, then we can really embrace the task at hand. Fear can be a paralysing obstruction to personal endeavours, and once we shake off those fears, it is incredible what can be achieved.
Maud’s passion for surf goes hand in hand with her passion for art, with much of her inspiration stemming from her travels on the road as a professional surfer. I wonder where the main sources of inspiration for her art stem from on the road? “I think it’s a period in life…I know my drawing is a lot inspired by what I’m feeling at every moment in my life, and it’s a way of expressing for me, for what I’m feeling. I think I’m inspired by everything I’m living around, especially my travel, you go to countries, the Caribbean, or Australia or America, and the art is so different. I just love to be inspired by the art I see in the street, or local artist and what they are doing and what inspired them, and just looking all around, and change your perception of things.
From holding her own art shows, displaying her art which is a mix of paintwork, sprays and drawings, I enquire as to what exciting projects she currently has on the go? “For the moment I'm doing my quiver, it's half animal half woman. I love to draw women’s faces, it really inspires me;
"Because I love women, and I think they are really beautiful. There’s something strong that makes me (think) ...ok I really want to that way, to be a bit feminist (haha)”.
Two thumbs up to that. And with surfers, the marine-dwellers that we are, spending so much time in nature’s great soup-bowl, conservation is often is at the forefront of people’s minds, and is also playing a big role in Maud’s art with a forthcoming project “drawing… mermaids with recycled plastic glass just to raise awareness to people for recycling … I give money to an association to give money to recycling, getting plastic out the water, cleaning the beaches…”.
It’s good to see professional surfers like Maud playing a critical part in not just raising awareness of the importance of the conversation of our marine life, but also being an active participant.
After we wrapped up a busy few days in Mundaka, one thing that really struck me about Maud was an infectious, happy energy that was palpable in talking to her, and watching her out in the water. Asking what stokes her out most in life, she visibly glows as her shares :
"I love the sparkle in life...and just enjoying the little, simple things. I'm just stoked by a brief...moment in the day, by watching a wave, and having a good feeling on my board”.
And with that, we're off for a hike through the verdant forest of Mundaka, smiles on our faces, and adventure in our hearts.
The new Vans Ultrarange versatile shoe is out August 1, learn more at Vans.com/UltraRange
STAY TUNED FOR MORE IN THE WHY I SERIES, COMING SOON.