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The girl from Maui

Bright, lively and bursting with passion for her island surroundings, French Rip Curl surfer Elise Garigue talks about how she was seduced by the spirit of Maui.

Words by Cathy Struthers

Photo by Ted Grambeau

Why did you flee France for Hawaii?

My mother had always been attracted to Hawaiians and their Aloha spirit. She wanted a new life and dreamed of new horizons. We first arrived on Maui in 1995 and we spent the first night in our car. When we woke up the next morning we discovered the most stunning beach right in front of us. For three months we slept in the car before finding a small house to move into and today, 11 years later, we’re still there! After a few months of living there, there was no way that I was going anywhere else. Those first months were difficult, but it taught me a lot. Without the hard times you don’t appreciate the good ones.

How did you start surfing?

I took it up alongside the other Hawaiian kids on their foam boards, where the surf is small. To begin with I surfed on my own as nobody gave lessons, but slowly I progressed to the bigger stuff and the locals began to accept us. Surfing also helped me meet people like Matt Kinoshita, an important figure within the community, who took me under his wing and signed me to his team. I’m lucky to be considered as one of the protégés for the older generation of surfers and, in that sense, surfing really allowed me to blossom. I love being in the ocean, around nature where I feel a sense of calm. I’m focused on the waves and it’s a little like meditating. Another world.

You live a unique lifestyle…in a house with no electricity or running water?

I live in a small valley in a tropical rainforest with a stream that brings us fresh water all year long. We divert and store this water from the stream for our running water. There’s no electricity and we use oil lamps or batteries to play music. We have mobiles instead of a landline and park our car at the entrance to the rainforest. We really are out in the wild.

What have you learnt from life on the islands?

The Aloha spirit. To be generous and welcoming. To live in moderation. Less stress. To not take things so seriously or complicate life. To live as a big Hawaiian family where your friends are part of the family. For a girl to stand her ground in the line-up you mustn’t be afraid of others or let yourself be put down by others. This is where the Aloha spirit comes into play. You need to remain strong and still be feminine.

How do you stay fresh and beautiful, despite the harsh sun and surf?

I always apply maximum factor sun cream during the day and wear a hat. At night I apply a carotene night cream. I carry a small bottle of diluted conditioner everywhere I go and rub it on as soon as I’ve rinsed out the saltwater. I also like to massage my scalp and once a week I apply oils at night that I wash out the following morning. I use natural products as much as possible. Occasionally I’ll make a clay, papaya, egg and avocado facemask. I love using essential oils as perfume – Egyptian geranium, Picaqué oil and jasmine. I try to be happy and smile a lot. If you’re happy on the inside, you’ll look beautiful on the outside!

Any advice for wahines who fancy a trip to Hawaii?

Take things slowly in the surf. The waves are something else here. It’s all reef breaks and the size of the waves can grow quickly. Avoid surfing when the swell is getting bigger as you’ll soon find be scared and need to get out. Push your limits slowly but surely.

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