Anais, An Eloquent 35-year-old Author Who Found In Surfing A New Beginning

FIRST WAVES is a format where female surfers, both amateurs and professionals, simply tell us in their own words, about their first relationship with surfing, and how it has changed them.
They are beginners, professionals, activists, mothers, students... They are all different but they share the same passion: surfing. And they could be you!
[Click here to find all their inspirational stories]

 

Today I'm happy to introduce you to Anaïs. At 35, she's now in Mexico surfing and writing her second book, but a few years ago she was working in an office in Paris. 

This incredibly brave author shares with us how a surfing lesson totally changed her life. I find her story very inspiring, and I hope you'll do too !

[Follow her on Instagram: @anaisvanelanaisvanel]

 

HI ANAIS, COULD YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN A FEW WORDS?

Hello, my name is Anaïs, I'm 35 years old, I left everything 3 years ago after a long Parisian career that lasted 12 years.

I grew up far away from Paris and one day I realized that this life was not the one I had dreamed of as a child. After a surfing course in the French “Landes” that acted as a trigger, I decided to radically change my life, to move to Hossegor, in order to devote myself to learning how to surf and writing my first book, Tout quitter, published by Flammarion in September 2019. It is an autobiographical novel that relates all the sensations I experienced in this new life of reconnection with nature and myself.

I am happy with this successful reconversion because I now live from writing. I flew to Mexico in February 2020, where I currently live, to surf, of course, and write my second book.

 

Anaïs, holding proudly her first book, about how she left her Parisian life  thanks to an epiphany after a surf session
Her book in French: Tout quitter

 

WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SURFING TODAY?

Surfing is now an important part of my life, a vital need. In my book Tout quitter, I explain how these moments in the ocean have helped me to find myself, but above all how they have given rhythm and balance to a meaningless daily life, essentially based on intellectual activity.

In this new life, which had no bearings in the beginning, surfing was my beacon, and still is today. Surfing is a return to the state of childhood and wonder, the central theme of my book.

 

COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT THE MEMORIES YOU HAVE OF YOUR FIRST WAVE(S)?

The first word that comes to me is joy.

A feeling so simple that it's hard to find sometimes. The transformation of my body too, not only physically, but the access to a relaxation I didn't know before surfing.

The first waves are often foamy when you start, but they are moments of very simple joy. In the water I observe many surfers who seem to have disconnected from these moments of joy, who seem to have forgotten the euphoria of the beginnings.

 

Anaïs seems indeed quite happy to go surfing
Photo Credits: @stephanebellocq

 

WHAT WERE YOUR MOTIVATIONS FOR STARTING SURFING?

The feeling of being a beginner again, the excitement of learning something new.

For years I felt like I was going in circles. We live in a world where specialisation is the rule, where you learn to know just one thing inside out. Today, I think that this is a mistake, that we need multidisciplinarity, that we need to learn, that we need to become beginners again. As I say in my book, "Il faut s'offrir l'ivresse d'un nouveau monde, et se laisser conquérir par lui." ("Let the euphoria of a new world be offered to you and let it conquer you.")

 

DID YOU HAVE ANY FEARS OR A-PRIORI ABOUT SURFING?

Neither fear nor a priori, I just felt so alive during this surfing course that I wanted to continue exploring these sensations. It's a world I didn't know at all, I came to it almost naively, and I think it's probably the best way to start something.

  

 WHAT DID PUSH YOU FROM DREAM TO ACTION, WHAT MADE YOU TAKE THE STEP TO CATCH YOUR FIRST WAVE?

 

For me there is no first wave, it doesn't happen like that. There is a lot of time in the water, to observe, not to take any waves. It takes a lot of time before taking a first wave. There's no mystery about it, what made me take the plunge is the strong desire to surf, and how you go from dream to action: by going surfing!

 

DID YOU HAVE ANY DISCOURAGING MOMENTS? WHAT MAKES YOU KEEP THE FAITH TO CONTINUE TO TRAIN AND PROGRESS IN THESE MOMENTS?

Yes and often! Surfing is an ungrateful and extremely difficult sport, the ratio between time investment and progress is often disappointing. What made me keep my faith is that surfing for me is “l'existence d'un monde et la profession de foi qu'on formule, qu'on finira par le trouver. Le surf, c'est ma carte de Willy le Borgne” ("the existence of a world and the profession of faith we’ve formulated, that we will end up finding this world. Surfing is my One-Eyed Willy map.") As I say in my book, we all have a map to a treasure in the attic of our memories. The intensity I put into surfing is the intensity Mickey puts into finding the map.

In any change of life, there is a willingness to throw ourselves into our new life, sometimes inordinately, and this has been my case with surfing. As a result, I hurt myself twice: once in the face, and once in the knee. I had to stop surfing for a total of six months, and the recovery was really hard. But I hung in there and kept going.

(cf. The Goonies)

As in Spielberg's masterpiece "The Goonies", Anaïs sees surfing as her One-Eyed Willy map
Image Credits: Wikipedia

WHAT DOES SURFING BRING TO YOUR DAILY LIFE? DOES SURFING PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT?

 

Surfing brings me a truth about myself that helps me move forward. Surfing highlights what you need to work on. Sometimes I get in the water and I find that there are certain blockages that resurface, it's very interesting. Sometimes a bad surf session means something deep, and sometimes not, it's a big job to learn to make a difference and especially to step back.

 

WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS IN SURFING?

Children. Because they don't have these adult inhibitions yet, they don't want to do well, they don't want to skip steps, they just want to have fun.

 

WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONVEY TO YOUNG AND LESS YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THEIR FIRST WAVE?

Have fun! And enjoy the ocean, because surfing is also letting yourself be lulled by the ocean offshore, spotting dolphins, seeing a sunset from the ocean.

Pay attention to this environment in its entirety, and if you are a beginner, take lessons. It's important for you, and for others.

Surfing teaches humility, you should never overestimate yourself, at the risk of hurting yourself or someone else.

 

Thanks for your great story Anaïs
Photo Credits: @anaisvanelanaisvanel

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