Pre Brexit and Covid the trip across the channel was a regular one for my partner and me; just pack the van with a few boards and the dog, and off we would go.

This started again last summer but with more hassle with the pooch passport now gone and the ever-changing Covid rules but once there it was easy and the French as welcoming as always.

One more wave. Photo: Jamie Elliott

I have been shooting with Rob for a good few years now and we have always talked about making a little trip. Plans had been laid for a North East bolt over the winter but for various reasons, it never came off, however, the main plan was always France, just surfing and shooting.

Will it just be onshore or even worse, just be massive and un-surfable?

If it all worked out, we would be on the usual diet of logging with the odd day of bodysurfing thrown in for good measure. Newly married and yet to have a honeymoon, Rob bravely asked his wife for the green light on a surf trip, with me, to France.

Somehow he sold it to her and the plans were made and the ferry booked, it was on!

Rob Hope clutching his beloved. Photo: Jamie Elliott

Apart from that, the planning was easy, pack the van, get on a ferry then chase the swell for nine days.

As the trip got closer and the long-range forecast became available, the anxiety set it. Will we get waves? Will it just be onshore or even worse, just be massive and un-surfable?

Various checks and the conditions changed every time but it started to settle as we got closer to leaving, then started to show what we hoped for, small, clean and offshore, all week, logging heaven. Oh yeah, and it was going to be sunny all week as well!

Twinkle toes Rob Hope on the fives. Photo: Jamie Elliott

Snugg and Chariots of the Sun provided the rubber for the trip, 4/3 for shooting in up north and 2mm jackets for the board short sessions in the south. Last minute and with Malcolm providing the goods: 3/2 Snugg suits and custom beaver tail jacket for Rob.

The night ferry over is a god-send leaving the delights of Plymouth behind to be delivered into Roscoff early in the morning with a much-needed full English to see us on our way.

Just a short drive from there and we were straight into head-high surf in Brittany, two grown men frothing like kids but one big question needed to be answered for me, shoot or surf?

Out there! Photo: Jamie Elliott

A couple of new boards made that decision fairly easy, surf!!!

After a couple of hours splitting an a-frame peak, goofy Rob on the left and natural me on the rights, we headed in to have a quick feed and get on the road again. The warm waters of the South were calling and wind had gone onshore.

Local french stylemaster. Photo: Jamie Elliott

About halfway down the country is a little log spot I know and with it is a good park up for the van. Reaching there in the early evening the place was packed, carpark full and people everywhere. Who could blame them? Saturday afternoon in the 25-degree sunshine.

We managed to park up and a quick check revealed a busy beach but no one surfing the waist-high perfection straight out front. Shorts on and straight into the second surf of the day.

Hanging tash, Rob Hope style. Photo: Jamie Elliott

It was a short session as the tide filled up quickly. Time to feed and get back in as it drops back out. The beautiful evening light meant my decision was easy again, bust out the housing, get in and shoot. Gutted I wasn’t surfing but the French evening sun and the shots made up for it.

Rob was becoming more stoked with every passing day and lost in disbelief that he had never surfed in France before.

The following morning was an eager surf check but it had gone flat with a full tide, time to go get pastry and head further south. The further south we got, the warmer the water was, Rob’s wetsuit firmly ditched and beaver tail on! A small left peak revealed itself at the next spot so a frothing Rob was in in a flash.

Time for me to shoot again but this time I took out a much-neglected 1984 Nikonos V and as I write this I still have no idea if the shots came out, the roll left unfinished as I continued to neglect it for the rest of the trip.

As we progress south to one of my favourite spots the afternoon onshore kicked in but brought a little increase in swell size. Time to surf again and not shoot. Another fun session resulting in noodle arms and the need to eat then make the final push south for the last day of the swell and the next pulse kicking in. Into the real South West France where the wetsuits weren’t needed – not bad going as it’s only May!

Speed section. Photo: Jamie Elliott

Rob was becoming more stoked with every passing day and lost in disbelief that he had never surfed in France before. The waves, the weather, the food, the people:

“Why have I never done this before?!”

We’d hit that point of the trip where it felt like we’d been away forever and only just got there; we have forever left here but were soon to be heading back. I think that is when I know I’ve fully relaxed and switched off from the daily grind and really keen to not go back to it.

Local legend. Photo: Jamie Elliott

Hanging around the South West corner in small clean surf, catching up with old friends and surfing with new ones, I could stay there forever.

It is almost paradise, not quite the tropics!

As the pulse in the swell died and nothing showing on the horizon a new south swell started hitting further north and it was time to move on back up the coast. Two foot at ten seconds should be perfect logging back at a previous spot, or so it seemed.

That first surf check, walking over the dunes, has the swell arrived or just not existed? Greeted by a reeling left, it was on again. Logs out and straight into it before the tide gets too high.

On the reverse. Photo: Jamie Elliott

Still building, the sets were around head high on 6’5 Rob and he was loving it. After a few waves it was time to switch the log for the camera and get a few shots. A similar evening session went down, back in a wetsuit we stayed until dark, Rob spending as much time on the nose as possible and me swimming against a constant rip that came with a longshore drift I’ve never felt there before.

The next morning brought an early thunderstorm followed by clear blue sky and a slightly smaller swell. After shooting 3 waves I decided enough was enough and it was time to surf for the rest of the trip, time was running out and I wanted my share. Time to be selfish. I had taken an 8’ midlength with me and was loving it. Why had I never owned one of these before!

Down the line. Photo: Jamie Elliott

It was time for a last-ditch effort on the food front, moules frites, the thing that had been missing from the rest of the trip and right out front of the restaurant was a beach with a little shoulder-high a-frame on it. Did I mention Rob was yet to have his honeymoon?

Well the waiter was sure convinced we were on honeymoon today, admiring Rob’s style that he’d obviously copied from Freddie Murcury then delivering some elaborately decorated ice-cream and banana splits.

Oh well, best get the shorts on for one last warm surf before we head north to Brittany and the ferry home.

Jamming. Photo: Jamie Elliott

One last surf in the north gave a hint of what was to come, chillier water, onshore breeze and strangely more people in the water. The 3/2’s back on for a quick surf and then that’s it, time to go.

With that, it was all over too soon, off to the ferry and a well-deserved shower before we got back to the other halves. Two blokes in a van carrying surfboards and customs couldn’t resist the opportunity to pull the van over to have a search.

Off the bottom. Photo: Jamie Elliott

As they opened the van to reveal a pile of boards and the stench of freshly consumed fajitas mixed with pissy wetsuits, the poor woman’s eyes nearly started to bleed, the door quickly slammed shut and we were sent on our way!

Au revoir to beautiful France, we will be back soon. Until then, keep sailing Bob!

Right, I’m off for a diabetes test due to the volume of M&M’s and coca cola consumed in the making of the piece.