Vincent Duvignac is one of many talented surfers from the South West of France who dabbles in competing, but whose true passion (and speciality) lies in travelling and getting ridiculously barrelled.
Now with a sponsor who build their brand around searching for waves and a young family to tend to, Duvignac is able to dedicate more time than ever to doing what he loves best. However, this year he’s been putting some time and effort into European comps in order to secure a place on the French team in the ISA’s, and has been rewarded with a string of solid results.
Toby Butler managed to intercept him during the height of his competitive season, just before he returned home to compete in the World Surfing Games, which kick off today:
TB: Vincent, how are you doing? We managed to hang out for a couple of days in Caparica but since then you have competed in Biarittz, Zarauts and again in Portugal?
VD: Yeah, things are going well! I’ve been competing in order to get selection into team France for the next WSG in Biarritz.
TB: Awesome stuff, and it went well? How are you feeling for the year ahead?
VD: I just wanted to run the Euro season and keep a foot in the competing spirit. I’m not a huge fan of competing all year long, seems like a waste of my time, and I don’t have that much time as a father and as a surfer who prefers to freesurf. I train all year long to keep my body healthy, I was feeling good at that time, and with the WSG approaching I wanted to show that I could have my place in the France team. I had two fifth places in Caparica and Zarautz with goods scores and a win in the traditional Easter Comp in Biarritz (QUIK Maider Arosteguy). A bad result in Santa Cruz reminded me that that was enough competing for now.
TB: I wanted to mention the Wave Garden’s latest addition. I understand that you’ve played a part in a few edits for various locations, including their most recent, somewhere in the Basque Country. What were your thoughts on the latest technology?
VD: Yeah, I’ve had a few opportunities to surf the previous version of the Wave Garden, with people interested by the project and to collect video content for WG (by night for example). I had lot of fun but the Latest addition, Cove, is way more exciting. You have the opportunity to surf 3 different waves (3 modes) with way more frequency. You can surf and improve your technique much faster whilst having more fun. This is all about having fun and pushing your performance.
TB: I’d love to chat a little more about your home in Southern France and your thoughts on the growth of surfing in France and Europe. I have seen a bunch of special programs come about in France for groms, we don’t have that as much here in the UK, is this pretty new? Did you have similar things yourself as a grom growing up in France?
VD: Nowadays sponsors give more attention to the kids. There are more logistics and contests, which is good. The only bad point is making the sacrifices that come with that at 11 years of age. That’s bad for a proper childhood… But of course it gives more professionalism and a great level of surfing to France and also Europe in general. If a young surfer doesn’t forget why he’s surfing, it makes sense and this kind of mentality can bring them to the top.
When I was a grommet, around 12/14, we trained with sponsors and the French Federation, for sure it is a huge opportunity to evolve and learn faster, especially if you come from an eccentric little town like Mimizan. It seemed like during the economical crises, the budgets and attention towards the youth dropped, especially in smaller towns, but now we have lots of competitions being supported by the best brands, trainings and meetings for the kids. Surfing is becoming famous and being seen like a real sport, in this way there are more considerations from the schools and public. I can’t say it is bad. I just hope surfing will not loose its spirit!
TB: When you were younger how did you find it as a surfer breaking through from Europe? How did that transition between an underdog to becoming a well-known name in European surfing play out for you?
VD: Coming from Mimizan, and after being sure my life was about surfing, I knew I had to be mobile and surf different waves, especially to start showing my face around Hossegor. I was scared of hollow waves, and big waves… I had to face my fears, try and fall, again and again. When I was younger, La Graviere was famous, but not so crowded and was breaking a lot during winter. Believe it or not I had many sessions at La Graviere or La Piste solo or with just a few guys, and after a few falls, I realised those places were much easier than surfing home. At home, over 5ft is a mission to get outside. Hossegor area the waves are breaking in front of the beach! At the same time I was getting good results in the competitions, and I tried to surf in the finest way possible, just to balance with my not so flexible body! I had good sponsors like Quik, then Rusty, Reef and now RipCurl are helping to put me on the Euro scene.
TB: Was it hard to find an opportunity to get in front of the right people/sponsors and stand out? Did you find comps to be a good way to spread the word and get into contact with the companies you did or have you found free surfing and producing clips and content more effective?
VD: Because I had no idea with sponsorships, I got in touch with Quiksilver when I was 12. It helped a lot, especially when you don’t know what surfboard to get, and don’t really have money to get wetsuits and move away. I was training with guys like Jeremy Flores and Joan Duru. It was the race between us from 12 to 16. I ended up spending hours and hours in the water, but my mind was more focused on freesurfing… After being sponsored by Rusty, the crisis left me with nothing for 2 years, and I had to look into, and understand, how things worked. I was doing my best to re-find a sponsor. I hate to ask for anything, you’ll never see me asking for crowd funding, many people told me to do this shit but I have 2 legs and a brain in a huge necessity. My dream was to surf and get on to the WT!! I would hope, surfing world is tiny, and at least I had a little name in the jungle. No CV was necessary; I managed to surf and talk with people working for brands like Reef, and then Ripcurl, who gave me a second career.
TB: And now, you are getting more to a stage where you can choose to spend less time at competition’s and more time chasing swell and gathering content. How do you fit family amongst pushing yourself towards these new goals?
VD: Yeah, it is more about free surfing now, which allows me to organize my time between my son and surfing, my two priorities, in the right order. I’m so happy to be a young father. I really wanted it, even if it meant I had less time for surfing. I’m not competing all year long because of my son, which is the best excuse! I don’t want to miss those precious moments. That’s the real life!