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 Katell, a strong and kind woman who has rediscovered her body through surfing, and just made it to the 2019 world championship in less than 2 years! So impressive! And she's right now on the 2020 Para Surfing Championship, we cross all of our fingers for you Katell.
Here is her story.
[Follow her on Instagram: @katellropert]
HELLO KATELL, COULD YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN A FEW WORDS?
I'm 47 years old, I live in Brittany (France), I'm a single mom of 5 children, I live more in my van than in my house... I take part in a lot of events related to boardsports in general and to disability (it's my superpower!).
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SURFING TODAY?
Surfing has become a focal point in my life, I need it, I recharge and I find myself as soon as I'm on my board. It's, I think, the only moment I manage to pause and wash my head!
COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT THE MEMORIES YOU HAVE OF YOUR FIRST WAVE(S)?
My very first wave was when I lived in Tahiti, I had taken my kiddos on a bodyboard and we had surfed a few waves in Papeeno or at Venus Point! At that time I was standing up and anyway, I felt too old to take surfing lessons!
My first wave on a surfboard: May 12, 2018 at the spot called “La Torche” during the pro-junior! Just 6 months after the accident that cost me my legs and part of the mobility of my arms... an incredible day! A real Breton weather: wind, waves, a brightness that you can only find at home... and I was pushed from there! There I found a feeling of freedom that I had lost, my body was free again, I was making a real connection with this element that has always accompanied my life!
WHAT WERE YOUR MOTIVATIONS FOR STARTING SURFING?
Sports motivation before my accident: running, diving, horse riding, mountain biking, ragga dancing, rollerblading... everything stopped in January 2018. I had a huge frustration not to "play" anymore with my body as I used to and especially to have lost all control of my movements. When I saw this initiation to surfing, I signed up right away!
DID YOU HAVE ANY FEARS OR A-PRIORI ABOUT SURFING?
None! I was almost born on the rocks! My family house was facing the ocean, it's my natural environment.
WHAT DID PUSH YOU FROM DREAM TO ACTION, WHAT MADE YOU TAKE THE STEP TO CATCH YOUR FIRST WAVE?
The opportunity, not so common, given to people with motor disabilities, to discover adaptive surfing (laying on the stomach).
DID YOU HAVE ANY DISCOURAGING MOMENTS? WHAT MAKES YOU KEEP THE FAITH TO CONTINUE TO TRAIN AND PROGRESS IN THESE MOMENTS?
It’s not in my nature to be discouraged! What is however complex for me are the constraints due to my disabilities: I have no thermal regulation so it's impossible for me to surf in cold water... I also need a major management: an attendant in the water, a specific wheelchair for the launching and some help to put on and off my wetsuit ... but I like it so much that I federate people around this activity, which allows me not only to train almost all year long but also to get specific boards designs from shapers.
WHAT DOES SURFING BRING TO YOUR DAILY LIFE? DOES SURFING PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT?
Surfing is part of my reconstruction. I have regained my self-confidence, I feel capable! Participating and performing in international adaptive-surfing competitions has brought me not only a recognition that allows me to boost a well-scratched ego... but it has also brought me a huge social network worldwide where benevolence and kindness is the rule.
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)?
Ah... vast subject ... it just so happens that I can only surf with an attendant who compensates for my upper limb handicap while paddling, and that my assistants are men! and ... they are really adorable!
On the other hand I have had quite significant experiences... like this competition in the Spanish Basque country where I had to fight to participate in an open, being the only woman in my category... a competition that I won... with very violent reactions from some male competitors who argued in front of the judges that I was a woman so my results should not be retained in a men's competition! Edifying, isn’t it? I went as far as to affirm, on the podium, that in competition as in free surfing "no gender in the water"... it’s since became my nickname!
WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS IN SURFING?
Models that are not very well known, because I identify with disabled surfers. My idol is Jesse Billauer, a surfer who had an accident during a surfing competition when he was 17 years old, he became quadriplegic (so he is in my category, and we surfed together in San Diego !!!) he never stopped surfing! He exploits his waves with a real professionalism when you know the physical constraints of being tetraplegic.
IN WHAT WAYS, AND WHY, ARE YOU TRYING TO BRING SURFING TO THE FOREFRONT TODAY?
By taking part in disabled-surfing promotion days, I was also godmother of the pro-junior at “La Torche” (France) last year, I also spread my little experience via social media.
WHO WOULD YOU DREAM OF SEEING AT YOUR PLACE TO TELL ABOUT HIS/HER FIRST WAVE?
My idol? ;)
WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONVEY TO YOUNG AND LESS YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THEIR FIRST WAVE?
There is NO reason to hesitate! in order not to have any regrets in life, we must do what we feel like doing! If I, at my age and with disabilities such as mine, can surf, then go for it! And don't be afraid of the glances of others, more experienced than you are, they were once beginners like you!
If you want to share your story with us, send it to us at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org