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Beaches of France boast surf competitions, WWII relics

    By Emily Tall. November 7, 2011 - 5:56 pm

It came as no shock when one of my good Spanish friends asked me  to go to the southern coast of France one weekend.  He already knew my answer would be yes.

After months of whining of how much I loved the ocean, how much I needed to see the ocean and how much I longed to be by the ocean, I am pretty sure he caught my drift. This one weekend in particular, however, boasted something special: the Quicksilver Pro France Surf Competition.

I had never been to the South of France and the last competition I went to was the  Eddie Aikau Quicksilver Competition a few years ago.  So I packed my bags and headed out on the six hour drive to Hossegor, France.

It was very surreal to me to be in Europe, particularly in France where thoughts of Paris come to mind, in the middle of autumn surrounded by beach bums and surf junkies.  My last image of anything revolving around surfing stayed in Hawaii.  The whole weekend brought back so many memories and made my longing for the islands  even stronger.

Besides the side plate of nostalgia, it was an incredible weekend. The setup was perfect; there was one big screen set up on the boardwalk and the other right on the main strip of the beach so that you could watch the competition up-close and personal from wherever you were standing.  Something caught me off guard, though.

On both big screens, even though the spectators came to watch a surfing competition, the national French rugby competition was being shown.  I have never seen so many people mesmerized with a television set, especially when the waves were so entrancing, the world´s best surfers were only meters away in the water and because they were watching a rugby match.

We were able to see the Expression Session set where top surfers such as Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater had the chance to show off their best moves in the water.

It was more than a little strange to have a French man yelling out over the loudspeaker the entire length of the set. It definitely felt like a Twilight Zone episode.

The highlight of the entire weekend had nothing to do with the surfing competition.  Although yes, I did happen to take one of the world´s best pictures of Kelly Slater running down toward the water and yes, I was able to experience my first European surf competition, my highlight was something much smaller in comparison.

Though the competition took place in Hossegor, we stayed roughly 15 minutes away in the town of Labenne.  Since my friend had been there before, he knew exactly what he was doing when he chose the spot. About a three minute drive from our campsite was a little-known beach spot with a little something special.

The beach was wide and long, with waves crashing close to the shore. It also had something I had never seen, nor had ever thought I would see.  Three old bunkers from WWII are scattered about the beach, half buried and covered with graffiti, giving this particular beach a feeling of melancholy.

Though I may have been thinking about Hawaii during the entire competition, seeing this old bunker beach really opened my eyes to realize how different the ocean can feel on the other side of the world.