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 we meet Jeanne, a joyful and passionate young woman, who overpassed her water phobia (caused by a traumatizing event) and now both works for surfing and is kind of addicted to it now...
Here is her story.
[Follow her on Instagram: @jeannekalbach]
HI JEANNE, COULD YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN A FEW WORDS?
Jeanne Kalbach, 23 years old, I am from La Rochelle (France). I work at “Surfing Iroise”, a surf school in Le Conquet where I am in charge of business development. And I am also a student at the University of Brest where I have a professional degree in Management and Development of Organizations, Sports and Leisure Services, specializing in nautical and development.
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SURFING TODAY?
I have a double relationship with surfing. First in my job: when I work, I don't practice, but I make the sport grow. Otherwise it's a hobby (and a good excuse to travel). (right now I'm in Martinique!).
COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT THE MEMORIES YOU HAVE OF YOUR FIRST WAVE(S)?
It's a little bit peculiar because, my first waves, I took them with a bodyboard: my father pushed me in the waves when I was less than 10 years old. I've always lived by the sea and above all I have a family very water sports-oriented.
Once I went swimming with my sister when I was 10 years old, and I got carried away by a baïne (a pool of water with a strong current directly connected to the sea). It was very traumatic, so that I couldn’t go back into the water until I was 18.
And eventually, one day, I was keeping the towels on the beach and all of my friends were surfing. They insisted and encouraged me to test... And then finally I totally fell for it!
WHAT WERE YOUR MOTIVATIONS FOR STARTING SURFING?
I got a little sucked in, so to speak!
I'd say first of all, I’ve really appreciated surfing for this feeling of disconnection. But mostly for this opportunity to share beautiful moments. The sea is about sharing unforgettable times with friends and family. Finally today, surfing is also for me a moment of reconnection with nature, and an occasion to leave my brain on the beach haha.
DID YOU HAVE ANY FEARS OR A-PRIORI ABOUT SURFING?
Yes, a real fear of the current! At the moment I'm also quite confronted with the big closing waves. But hey, you get used to it, and above all you cope with it and learn!
WHAT DID PUSH YOU FROM DREAM TO ACTION, WHAT MADE YOU TAKE THE STEP TO CATCH YOUR FIRST WAVE?
I started with one of them on a huge tandem longboard, on 20cm waves! It allowed me to overcome my fear.
Then, since my family was also practicing, it was an opportunity to share some more time together! It's great to go to the beach on a bike with my family, to be all in the water and to share the coastline together 😊
DID YOU HAVE ANY DISCOURAGING MOMENTS? WHAT MAKES YOU KEEP THE FAITH TO CONTINUE TO TRAIN AND PROGRESS IN THESE MOMENTS?
My last moment of discouragement was actually yesterday: after 2 months without having been in the water, I was really out of physical condition! I had the impression that I was back to the beginner level in the “white water”...
And what keeps me going... well, I have no rational explanation! But it's clearly a matter of addiction haha.
WHAT DOES SURFING BRING TO YOUR DAILY LIFE? DOES SURFING PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT?
Well surfing gives me a job, which is not bad!
Otherwise it brings me people who understand when I decline a coffee because I’d rather take my chance on waves. Surfing is above all a lot of meetings, friends. It's very enriching. Especially as the surf culture is super developed which is really nice to discover.
Other than that, surfing also brings me, more concretely, my dose of sport and joyful sharing moments in the water!
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A WOMAN IN THE WATER TODAY? DO YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT RELATIONSHIP WITH MALE SURFERS? HAS THIS RELATIONSHIP EVOLVED (with your habit, progression)?
First, there are many more men than women surfing. Some of them are very nice but others are really becoming a drag. If you have the misfortune to put on a short springsuit and you're the only girl in the water, you feel like a little piece of meat.
I've had some remarks like, “a girl only has to surf longboards, or stay on the beach in a bikini". But luckily, I've never really been bothered in the water.
In the end, it soothes the guys in the water when groups of girls arrive to surf. Girls are often less focused on performance and more on the fun of surfing.
That's also why I’ve created the Facebook group "Surfeuses Bretagne" with a friend, to organize surf sessions between girls, without being bothered. We set it up about 2 years ago, and it's very nice, we meet regularly with female surfers at a spot where we share a bungalow for the weekend. And we’ve already had guys joining the group and sharing a session with us!
WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS IN SURFING?
Stephanie Gilmore without a doubt, and... my sister (who is a little less famous though)!
IN WHAT WAYS ARE YOU TRYING TO BRING SURFING IN THE FOREFRONT TODAY?
To show that there is another side to surfing (not too dumb), I try to develop surfing in the school where I work with schoolchildren, employees of some companies... and of course by developing surfing for women.
WHO WOULD YOU DREAM OF SEEING AT YOUR PLACE TO TELL ABOUT HER FIRST WAVE?
My partner in crime, Floriane!
WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONVEY TO YOUNG AND LESS YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THEIR FIRST WAVE?
If you feel like you want to try, it means that you are already motivated, and it definitely means that you are on the right track.
You have to tell yourself that even if it's sometimes ungrateful, surfing is really worth persevering. We've all started one day and, above all, the level doesn't make the passion! (to be meditated when you receive tons of water on the face)
If you want to share your story with us, send it to us at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org