Aired on 2020, Jul 02nd  in Legends and much more! / Podcast

Interview with Joel De Rosnay

Alhoa everyone and welcome to the 9th episode of The Temple of Surf, The Podcast.

I would like to thank the thousands of you that already followed the previous episodes.

Today with us Joël de Rosnay, is Docteur en Sciences, scientific writer and  famous for pioneering surfing in France in 1957 and created the Surf Club de France in 1964.

You can listen to the episode on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, Soundcloud and other major podcast platforms!

If you prefer to read the interview please see below (forgive us about spelling mistakes, the transcription is automatically generated)

TTOS: Welcome to the show. Where are you today? 

I'm in Paris, confined, like everybody because of the virus. 

We have to stay home most of the time. 

You know, I can see on the webcam, my friends surfing in Guetary right now, they have a good time

TTOS: Today. We're going to talk of course, about your upcoming book, surfing, your history and much more, but the first question that I have for you is….What is the most important thing, in your opinion, in surfing ?


Freedom to choose a wave, freedom to decide what you want to do on the wave …. Even if that freedom is changing now because of so many people are surfing….you have to select the right spot, the right time and go very early in the morning.

The freedom has changed a little bit in the last 10 years, but for me, “surfing is freedom”. 

TTOS: When did you start to surf? It was a 1950 something. Right? 

It was 1957 on a proper surfboard, while before I started surfing when I was 15, but on my tummy, it was a body board called “planky”. 

TTOS: At that time it was it was totally different right? surfboard were barely available, correct? 

It was difficult to have a surfboard, I had two boards coming from United States in balsa wood, transparent fiberglass and brought by Peter 

At that time they were not making boards in France yet, there were no factories and surfboards were all coming from abroad, all quite expensive. 

TTOS: those boards were quite heavy compared to the ones of today….

Well, it's just a big change now because there's so many surfboards made in France, secondhand boards. I have 12 personally…

My longest boars is 10 foot 4’….. my short board is seven, two , single fin, two fins and quattro.

TTOS: I’m sure my wife will divorce me one day because of the number of surfboards I have…. 

Our mistress is a surfboard. I spend a lot of time with it, but my wife she is  not worried. 

TTOS: If the surfboards were the problem, then there is no problem at all…. Right? Do you remember your first surfboard? 

I remember it very well. You can see a picture of it on my website ( )

It was a balsa painted board with stripes green and yellow with the name of my girlfriend at the bottom…

It's not a secret anymore

TTOS:  ah, romantic …. do you still have that?

Yes, it is in the surf museum and you can see a picture of this first surfboard surfing for the first time a’ la Grande Plage of Biarritz.

The French national archive of filming INA has still pictures of it.

TTOS: You created in back in 1964, the “Surf Club de France”…56 years after how surfing in France has evolved?

Back in ‘64 we still had a few people, maybe not more than 30, but we organized a lot of contests and we invited people from England, Cornwall, people from Channel Islands and  surfers from all of the world came for surfing, but particularly in the seventies, because I wrote an article on “Surfer Magazine” in 1971 (that you can still find in the website) that attracted a lot of surfers in France. 

TTOS:  What is your favorite memory of those years? 

One of my favorite memory was a famous spot, which has disappeared now, called “La Barre” in the city of Bayonne.

It was a place close to the pier…a fantastic left ….use the current to go out and surf back. 

It disappeared because they created another pier and the surf has gone, but that was a fantastic souvenir. You can go on my website and see pictures of this famous left. 

TTOS: You had a huge and extraordinary career professionally. Do you think that being a surfer, helped you in some way in your professional life? 

Very much. I tell you why, because there's a word which is difficult to translate in English from French. 

It's called “la glisse”. 

“La Glisse” is a concept of going with the elements, finding your way, I think this concept can apply to life and in business. 

In difficulties you slide away  like your slide in surfing on a wave, which is an erratic thing that you cannot forecast…you're on it.

Life is the same….

I talk about “la glisse” in my new book, which is coming the 18th of June. 

TTOS:  Yes, exactly, let’s talk about the new book, what we should expect from it?

I tried to explain the passion of surfing…why is it a sort of addiction…. why the waves are always different….the conditions are always different…..nothing is the same. 

It's like life…. Unpredictable…. surf gives a lot of pleasure, but it is a short time pleasure, yet it's very intense. 

That's what I like about surfing, cannot be reproduced…It's erratic and gives a lot of pleasure for a short time.

I tried to explain that in this new book, I tried to explain how you can apply that to life and management and business in a complex situation, as a word that I tell you in French, it's called a “déséquilibre controle”….balanced disequilibrium 

You know, you are in disequilibrium, but you're trying to correct it with balance all the time. It is the same thing in business. 

TTOS:  It's very actual also for today because of what happened with the coronavirus pandemy. Everything changed, right? 

Yes, there is nothing we can do about the virus, there is something we can do to adapt to the erratic conditions to benefit from it. 

For instance, in the confinement in which we are today, I try to make it positive for me and for my family in reading more books, in talking to each other with FaceTime, in concentrating our nutrition and management of the body. 

I have five or six different instruments in my home, basic, a bicycle and nice a rowing machine and we use this all the time

Confinement and the virus has created conditions in which we can concentrate on ourselves. Unfortunately, we cannot surf, but there is a gadget you can buy, which is called the future reality…special goggles… are the surfboard and you see the waves….you're in the tube surfing!

I have put it in the museum visit in Biarritz, “la cite de l’ocean”, even the spray water in your face when you surf…

I gave a lot of interview about surfing, but we don't talk enough about what happens under the wave….the economy of breathing on the wipe out… the apnea to stay under the wave

I'd like to talk to you sometime about the risk and the dangers and about a physical preparation to avoid drowning

TTOS:  We can talk right now….if you want…

I think on the wave is one thing under the wave is another thing and we spend more time under those waves then on the waves. 

TTOS:  what people should do in order to prepare themselves?

Don't panic. 

I do a lot of meditation every day. It helps me very much when I'm under the water, being sort of…relaxed. I know I’m going to be out and people will see me.

Here in France, in the ocean the problem is that waves are 14 seconds apart … you go under a wave that holds you down for 14 seconds…then you get the second one, which is coming. 

You have to be trained,very well trained. 

I’ve been training  a lot during the winter in swimming pools, you know, I’m 83 years old…. I need to be careful, 

TTOS:  As you said, we spend more time under the water, so we need to be fit, but I guess the mental fitness is essential as well, right? 

In the water it's a sort of spiritual experience because the ecosystem is a complete systems that gives you pleasure. 

And I wanted to be in it all the time, I clean the water the most that I can, I want to thank the ocean for what it gives me. 

TTOS:  Looking back at your career, is there something that you would have changed?

No, I'm very happy to have been able to have a scientific career, writer, speaker, professor and, at the same time ,practice sports.

I really like so much skiing and surfing…..I won't…..I won't change. 

TTOS:  We talked about the book that will be released on the 18th of June….and then? what's next because  I think… you cannot stay still, right? You need to do a lot of things all the time…..

I’m thinking about the next book on complexity… a lot of new properties from complex systems. 

It's very philosophical, very scientific, but I'm very, very interested by how new property can emerge from a complex system where every element doesn't have the property of the global new property 

how do they manage by interaction to create something completely new… I'm interested in that 

TTOS:  We're gonna finish our interview with a short Q/A session please  answer the first thing that comes up to your mind….

The best surfboard that you have ridden

I have a good chance that I have a friend an Australian friend living very close to me in Biarritz.. 

He knows me very well, he knows my body so well and how I paddle 

His boards are always very, very well fitted. 

My best surfboards now, are both made by him….nine/six, nine, four fins, which I really like very much … pointed nose. Pointed Tail and quite light, but at the same time, very strong. 

I like this board very much….his name is Phil Grace….everybody knows him.

TTOS:  Who's the best shaper of all time?

Well, for me, it's Phil Grace. That's him!

TTOS:  Your favorite song? 

Carly Simon…I like her very much. That reminds me the seventies in Boston.

The Bee Ges as well together with Dire Straits .

TTOS:  Your favorite surf spot….

Guetary, we called it Parlamentia.. It's a rocking break. He breaks always at the same time opens left and Right.. 

I also like in Hawaii Alewa and in Mauritius ,Tamarind Bay 

TTOS:  Best surfer of all time….

I like Joey Cabell….for me he remains an example of style with Mike Doyle. And, and particularly Phil Edwards, 

They introduced so many things in surfing.

Phil created this famous drop knee turn cut back…..beautiful….you can't imagine a better style. 

They were beautiful surfers and they're models for me. 

TTOS:  last question….. your best relationship advice…

Be open, always open with people, listen to what they say, respect their difference, respect the differences. 

Don't try to judge them benefits from the character, different characters, benefited from talking to people and exchanging in a very nice way. 

Don't be competitive. 

TTOS:  I think if communication, right? If, if we had more communication in the world, maybe there would be  less problems, right? 

We should tell our children. 

TTOS:  We should. We must.

Recorded in May 2020 

Leave a comment


scritta green