Laure Mayer lives on the opposite side of the planet from where she grew up in France, bringing a certain cosmopolitan elegance to the waves of Byron Bay. Between commitments to her surfwear business Lore of the Sea and her sponsor Oxbow, she found time to take us on a tour from her European origins to her adopted Antipodean home.
You originate from a place better known for snow than for waves. How did you start surfing?
I was born in Annecy in the Alps and moved to the Basque Country when I was young enough to really put down my roots there. We moved for my dad’s job. My parents are mountain people. They love hiking. Everything I did in my holidays as a grom was either hiking in summer or going snowboarding in the winter. I got really hooked on snowboarding and so that was my first board sport. In the Basque Country you can snowboard quite easily because the closest resort is like an hour and a half’s drive. We would go there every holiday, and as soon as I had my license I would drive myself up for the day on the weekend. But when I became a teenager, I also got interested in surfing. It’s similar in a way, but my parents don’t surf so I didn’t have anyone to take me. When the first surf club in my town Saint-Jean-de-Luz opened, my parents signed me up for it.
How did surfing take over from snowboarding?
I can’t even remember the last time I snowboarded! The truth is, I was a decent snowboarder – I was good enough but I reached a point where I wasn’t really getting better anymore. At the same time I had started surfing, and I realised there was so much more progression I could have in surfing. And so I started surfing more and then my life and my travels took me to places where I could surf more than snowboard. Surfing took over my whole life! It’s been seven or eight years since I’ve been to the snow – and I don’t miss it!
How did your migration away from the Basque Country come about?
I got to do a uni exchange in Portugal, so that’s when I started surfing other places. I had only ever surfed the Basque Country before. Then I decided the next language I needed to learn in addition to French, Spanish and Portuguese was English. So I convinced my parents to let me go on a gap year. I looked for a country that was English-speaking and that had surf, and I ended up in Australia.
Has it been all about longboarding for you since day one?
I started with a longboard my boyfriend got me for my birthday, and then when I moved to Portugal I got my first custom board from Lufi. I only knew longboarding and I never considered going on a smaller board. I was really into it. I wanted to learn how to noseride like Kassia Meador. I just wasn’t interested in shortboarding so I was always hunting for longboard waves. I’ve never really been scared of bigger or heavier waves, as long as I’m comfortable with the board that I’m on. I would just ride my longboard in any conditions. There was a surfer from Brittany on my Erasmus programme and we made friends with a group of longboard surfers. This group of guys took us under their wing. We would surf from Lisbon all along the coast to Guincho – there are so many spots. It was so special.
How did your Australian adventure initially unfold?
I got a job prior to coming over – I never actually backpacked like a lot of people do. Aside from surfing and snowboarding, I also danced Flamenco. It was a big part of my life and my dance teacher is like my second mum. She happened to have a cousin who owned a company in the Northern Beaches of Sydney. So that’s how I ended up in Australia 12 years ago – she called him and that’s how I started my Australian journey, doing picking and packing for a ski and snowboard gear distribution company. I couldn’t speak a word of English so picking and packing was probably the only thing I was able to do!
Both your current home of Byron Bay and the Basque Country are considered to be versions paradise. In terms of surf, what’s the biggest difference between the two?
What they have in common is that there’s the ocean and there are waves and people surf. But they’re so different in terms of culture, lifestyle, society and daily life. In Australia, surfing is anchored in the population’s culture and you can surf at any time during the day – it doesn’t really matter what tide it is, you can always go out and find a wave. In France, it’s so tidal you have to have to work around the tides so much.
Something your original and adopted homelands have in common is that they are both incredibly sporty nations. What’s your view of contests?
The competitions I do are the ones I get invited to. If I’m invited, I like to honour that invitation and be a part of it. But if some of the girls are really competitive, I don’t like the hassling. I don’t really have that in me, and I’m lucky that I don’t need to. If I’m in a heat with other women I’m cheering on their waves like, “Wheeeee!” I’m much happier being a freesurfer, it just suits me better. Some people are in it for the performance, but I’m in it for the feeling it gives me.
Tell us about your film Obseassion.
It was such a great project and trip, and I’m so happy with the outcome and the message of the film.
The idea was to do a women’s surf film in Europe, so we did a road trip from the Basque Country in France, through Spain and Portugal. I picked five friends of mine to feature. The idea was not to show the famous chicks, the ones we see in magazines who we already know. I just wanted to feature women who are truly passionate about surfing and do everything they can in their lives to be able to surf the most they can. Often the people who get featured in magazines and films have a certain look, but I just want to show real women with a real story to tell. In France we have a phrase “surfeur du Dimanche” – the Sunday surfer. These people they only surf one day a week and that’s great. But that’s not who I wanted to feature. I wanted to feature the kind of women who get out there no matter what.
Looking ahead, do you have more travel lined up?
I love travelling and I have a few projects following on from the film. I’m planning a few trips for 2024, and one of them will be another filming trip on the south island of New Zealand. I want to do a winter one, so I’m going to go freeze my arse off over there! I’m very excited about it! And then a few longboard surf coaching retreats in the Maldives, Lombok, Australia and Morocco.