While we’re at the ispo tradefair in Munich, listening to the wise words of Burton’s front woman Donna Carpenter at the Women in Boardsports lunch, we’d like to share the wisdom and inspiration of another icon of female board riding: Maritxu Darrigrand, Marketing Director of Roxy Europe, who shared her story at the very first WiB retreat in Saas Fee back in 2009 [click here to read Donna’s story]
Write up by Sam Haddad
A lot of things happen from being in the right place at the right time.
I was born in Africa. I lived there until I was 16 in the sunshine and then came back to Biarritz, which as most of you know is where surfing started in Europe.
It was the 1970s and the first surfers were coming over from the USA and Australia and I was going to the beach and seeing all these beautiful guys. For a young girl it’s kind of a dream but my parents hated it. They wanted me to be in school and not just sitting on the beach but that’s also where I learnt to speak English and that’s how I got into the world of surfing.
In Africa I’d always been in the water so I had the knowledge of the waves but there were no surfboards there of course, we had like a wooden plank curved at the end and we used to lie on it and ride the waves. In Biarritz when I started to be more connected to surfing the guys I was hanging out with said I had to learn to surf and a friend of mine shaped me a surfboard. I was still riding lying down at first but they were like, “You have to stand up now.” It was a great experience. I’m sure you’ve all felt it, the first time you take a wave, you’re doing nothing but you are the queen you love it. And I still have that feeling now which is great.
I’m sure you’ve all felt it, the first time you take a wave, you’re doing nothing but you are the queen you love it. And I still have that feeling now which is great.
Travelling is in my genes. My Mum was born in Morocco and my father was born in Vietnam, so as soon as I was old enough I wanted to check out the world, so I went to California. I’d always dreamed of there especially as I knew all the guys which probably helped haha. And then I got to Hawaii and being on the North Shore, especially at that time was such a strong experience.
There was a cinema in Biarritz, in fact it still exists, and I found a way to make my living which was to bring back surf movies from America and in summer just open that cinema with three friends. Every night we’d show a surf movie and at that time there were no videos or anything so everyone that was in Biarritz at the time came to a packed cinema to see a surf movie and that was how I started the business.
I didn’t see snow until I was almost 20, in California of all places.
Some friends took me to Mammoth and said I should start skiing. I wasn’t afraid of anything so I was like why not? They took me right up to the top of the mountain and I had a bit of a hard time but still right away got the feeling of skiing and snow and actually found that I really liked it. I decided to spend the next year in a new resort that was coming up called Snowbird in Utah and I thought oh could be a good place to go.
There was nobody there and just powder, powder and more powder. I didn’t know what it was like to ski the pistes, I was just a powder kid. I’ve have such good memories and it was really the people that made it. We were just discovering stuff for the first time. I then crewed in a yacht race from Tahiti to LA and we won and I was like the only French person on the trip and first woman ever so I got a lot of media. I spent the whole summer in Tahiti and then we sailed back to California and spent another weekend in Snowbird and everybody was asking me about Chamonix but I had no idea as I’d never been to the French Alps so I thought maybe it would be a good time to see what’s going on over there!
Everybody was asking me about Chamonix but I had no idea as I’d never been to the French Alps so I thought maybe it would be a good time to see what’s going on over there!
I knew someone in Biarritz who’d rented a chalet in Argentiere. I had no idea where it was but thought, “Why not?” and it turned out to be the best place in the world as I spent my whole time skiing in the Grands Montets, which is such a beautiful place. Chamonix is my heart, every time I go there I still feel there is something special about the valley. And then it was also the beginning of going into powder.
When I was in Snowbird I’d met Mike Doyle, the man who invented the monoski, so I asked him to send me some so that I could promote them in the Alps. People were like, “Woah, what is that very strange thing?” and some people in Chamonix are very narrow-minded but a few people were very interested. Alain Robert, for example, and then all these guys got into it and I think we were at the beginning of what is now all those sports such as snowboarding as it’s all connected. It was a great experience to be at the beginning and I decided to bring the surf movies to the mountains to make a living.
I remember going to Val d’Isere to show a surf movie in a little church and at first people were kind of stoked as they’d never seen surf movies but after a while they got bored so the next season we decided to put on ski movies as I met the filmmaker called Dick Barrymore. And then we’d end up cutting a piece of surfing and then skiing and then windsurfing and that’s how the whole concept of Nuit de la Glisse started. At the time there were no videos just 16mm so you literally had to cut a piece of film and then tape it. It’s not that long ago but it’s changed radically. And people really enjoyed seeing all these movies and then of course snowboarding came along so we showed that from the start.
We’d end up cutting a piece of surfing and then skiing and then windsurfing and that’s how the whole concept of Nuit de la Glisse started
Around this time I’d met Alan Green and John Law, the founders of Quiksilver in Australia. They knew we were showing movies so they suggested we brought some product to sell it. So one day around 1978 (I forget things so excuse me if the chronology isn’t exactly right!) we received a bunch of board shorts in my house, and that’s how it started, just selling some boardshorts at movies. By showing the movies it was doing the marketing too as we were showing a new way of dressing up and then showing the clothes there. Nothing was planned it but it just worked out that way, showing movies and selling a few clothes.