At just 25, Mélanie Fosse is already a 5-time French surfing champion. We grabbed Mélanie for a chat about being an international competitor, and why she’s hung up her wetsuit to open a surf school on the stunning island of La Reunion.
So Mélanie, tell us about life in La Réunion... Well, I opened my own school last September and I now have a really nice regular clientele. In addition to teaching, I have just been on the cover of a magazine over here and some TV coverage of the school is planned for a national French channel next year. But it’s difficult to coordinate everything... I’d like to keep participating in national and international competitions, but I simply can’t fit it in at the same time as being an entrepreneur, a girlfriend, and a surfing teacher!
How is your surf school going? When I opened the doors in September 2007, the rivalry was really tough but I hope the worst is over now. I am the only female surf teacher in La Réunion Island so that caused a few raised eyebrows, but I love teaching. I have really enjoyed seeing the school develop: the clientele seem to be satisfied and I have the impression that my work is starting to be recognised and people are interested in it.
Do you have a female-only clientele? Absolutely not! I would like to show that surfing is a sport for everyone at any level, it is not only a male elitist sport. I’d like to prove that women of all ages and abilities can try and enjoy surfing by getting out there on the waves and finding their own rhythm.
How do men take to being taught by a female teacher? Men seem to be okay with that, but I still have to continually prove how good I am in order to be respected. I am lucky to have a bunch of trophies and titles under my belt which helps me to justify myself but I don’t like having to do that.
How old are your students? I have students from 4 years old to 50! I have groups of young people and teenagers who are in national and international competitions and adults who have just discovered or want to improve their surfing.
The job sounds pretty different to competing... Yes, but I am never bored as my work changes every day. I have to admit that I miss competing - it was not easy to make the transition from a surfer to a teacher. I miss the atmosphere and the adrenaline of the contests. I miss meeting people from every corner of the globe, creating new opportunities, and never knowing what is going to happen... But I love my new job and I am the happiest person in the world! I love adventure. Today, I get my adrenaline kick from being a female entrepreneur.
Does your personal life suffer with being so busy? My boyfriend is a tennis coach, so we both have the same attitude and similar schedules. We’ve been thinking of expanding the company or creating another one in the future. We both love children and we would like to create a multiple-activity company where surfing, tennis, etc, would be offered.
Will the expansion happen soon? Well, trips outside La Reunion are the first step but for the moment they remain a project in the pipeline. We have a lot to do before reaching that objective. And personaly, it is difficult when you have a job, a company to run, look after all the administrative papers, communication, events to set up - and it’s even harder when you are a woman! I don’t want to neglect my private life at the expense of my job.
What are your secrets for success? The secret of success is to believe in your project and to commit to it totally, no matter what happens. You have to go to the end of your dreams. Even in the worst moments, never give up because it doesn’t always turn out like you expected. That’s why it is important to be surrounded by people who love you. When you do not believe in your strength any more and when you lose your faith, people around support you and believe in you. That has spurred me on, because I desperately do not want to disppoint them. But if I did not believe in my dreams I would not do it. I’d like to thank the man I love (my didou!) for his support for it is not always easy to bear me when times are hard! And I’d like to thank my family who is and will be always here for me. And thanks to Cooler as well for recognising my work. Thank you!
Words: Elisa Routa Photographs: Anthony Nollet