Not All Lollipops & Rainbows - Amaury Lavernhe
Amaury Lavernhe or ‘Moz’ as he is known by many is one of our sport’s finest ambassadors. A 2x World Champion and arguably one of the most technically advanced riders within bodyboarding at the moment, you would expect him to be full of passion and optimism for competition. However, as the old saying goes ‘It’s not all Lollipops and Rainbows’. Moz has put his competitive desires on the back-burner, instead turning his focus to improving his own riding (Is this physically possible!) and the riding of young guns within his coaching academy, all around the world.
We had a chat with Moz to gain an insight into his past, present and future. So that’s enough from us… We’ll let the man himself deliver you the cold hard truth.
MM: Tell us about what you’ve been up to Moz, what’s your daily routine like these days?
MOZ: Pretty much the busiest time of my life, but I love it and I’m trying to put it all together.
Waking up super early with my daughter, having a good stretch, then Oliver wakes up and we get in action. Organizing the day depending on the waves and tides. I’m super motivated with my surfing lately and feel that I could get to another step technically surfing so am combining this with my academy in Galdar, working on the renovation of my house , my online store www.alstore.es, the distribution of Sniper and Reeflex, my physical training, the family adventures and some good video projects on the way....Better being in shape and ready for anything!!
How did you get the nickname Moz?
From Reunion Island back in the days, another grom had the same name, Amaury, so my friends decided to call him MOMIR and me MOZIR which came as Moz later on. And then for many people it’s actually easier to remember and to pronounce than my real name.
What was it like growing up in Reunion Island?
It seems like a dream today when I think about it but I’m so thankful to have had this opportunity. Many islands are amazing on this planet and I visited many of them but trust me Reunion is just on another level. Tropical lagoon, ice and sometimes snow on the top, active volcano, rain forests, dry volcanic desert… All on the same piece of rock. This is for landscape but the most awesome is culturally which is pretty much all races and religions of the world living together in peace and harmony...Something hard to imagine today for many people.
So, I guess growing up there opened my mind and I would love that my kids spend some time over there at some stage.
Bodyboarding was everywhere, amazing riders since back in the 80's, an event of the world tour each year. The best set up for a kid to connect to the sport really.
Why did you move from Reunion Island all those years ago?
I moved from Reunion when the shark crisis was at its worst and after my friend and hero Matthieu Schiller died at the beach where I started bodyboarding. It was too much for me to handle, we were losing the access to The Ocean and I could see that politics had no care about it. Even worse some of them where fighting to close the Ocean forever to humans which they’ve almost done.
Are there still the same problems with Sharks in Reunion?
It seems to be calming down lately, many people are surfing, most of them with shark shields, and as its summer now, waves are pumping, water crystal clear and about 40 degrees in shade. Most of the problems happen in winter where waves get bigger, more rains and wind, dark come earlier etc..
So today it’s a political war, the local government is divided and things are not really advancing.
It’s still prohibited by law to ride outside of the security system that the government put in place. Depending on the conditions, if the water is clear enough, they close and secure a spot with boats and divers to allow riders to ride safe. Seems crazy but it works and the last time I was there I only surfed with in this system.
Things have changed. When I was young there were sharks to eat everywhere, a fisherman could be a hero catching a big one, but today he would be treated as a murderer even if the country of France catches 20000 tonnes of shark for food and cosmetics every year. The biggest hypocrisy.
For 15 years now, it has been prohibited for the local fishermen to sell the meat of sharks. They were catching 1 or 2 shark a day which would be 300 to 500 sharks a year (France kills 2 million "Roussette", a small shark famous in French food) which would be enough to regulate. Now the fishermen are not catching sharks. If they do, they cut the line even if its few hundred meters from a famous beach. Why fight hours with a shark you can't sell?
Meanwhile France rent out their fishing territory to countries such as Thailand, China etc. These guys come with massive boats and destroy everything without any restrictions...this is the sad reality!
Did you have many encounters with Sharks in Reunion Island before you left?
Yeah, I had many of them but nothing crazy. I can't tell you how many fins I’ve seen in my life, how many sharks I saw spearfishing but never had troubles with them. When I was young and we were surfing after strong cyclone rains, the water was dark brown and I remembered my mum being scared for us to get infections from the water but not sacred of sharks at all.
One of my friends, a good bodyboarder from Reunion, has already seen four shark attacks in his life, some serious stuff. I don’t think i could handle that.
Why did you choose Gran Canaria to move to?
In 2011 there was an ISA contest in Gran Canaria followed by an IBA contest in Fronton, so I was there for 2 months for training. Being there alone I fully realized the potential of the place, combined with the level of riding of the locals and the island vibes that I need to live happy. I also met my wife during this trip which pushed me to come back. I went back to Reunion in January 2012, the shark crisis was getting worse, so in September 2012 I decided to come to GC, rent a place, bought a car and start a new cycle over there.
How was the integration into Canary Island life?
My integration into Canary has been tough at some stages but I guess you have to pay the price to live in such a paradise…
I’m an islander and I know what island rules are, but you must give people time to connect with you and see how trustable you are.
I actually loved the fact that not only my surfing had to deal with my integration. Guys here have such a good level in Bodyboarding, world-class waves for the sport and they will not be impressed just by a name. They want to feel you, analysing your reactions. You can't be too competitive, and you must learn to accept that someone could bite you anytime, anywhere on the islands.
What exactly happened in 2013 between Ben Player and yourself with the IBA world tour?
2013 started with an amazing calendar having Pipe, Itacoatiara, Arica, South Coast and Fronton. In September Ben had won the contests at Pipe and Chile while I had won in Brazil and Australia, so we were perfectly tied waiting for the event in Fronton to happen. I had been living in The Canary’s for two years, so was super exited to have the finale battle at this location.
Fronton was cancelled that year, no chance to break the ranking. At this stage, in the case of two riders tying, the official rule was to compare the final ranking of the year before for each rider. Being in front of me on the 2012 IBA ranking, Ben would get the world title. When I found out about this rule, I thought that things would not happen this way and that a solution would be found. Unfortunately, they decided to crown Ben as the new 2013 World Champion. Don’t get me wrong, Ben is one of the riders that has inspired me the most since I start bodyboarding, and even if I won’t forget what did happen, I will always have so much respect for him, something deeper than any world title or any world tour, something about his riding and what he represents in the sport.
Must have been hard to deal with?
Super hard to deal with this and it was the stage of my life where I realised that its dangerous to mix work and friendship.
I wanted to stop competing, feeling devastated and after it I was felt sad about not having the support of the riders, I respect the most.
But this is Life and Life is tough, we are not in a movie and you must fight for your positioning in this world even in Bodyboarding.
Must have been even harder to still love bodyboarding and the IBA after the result?
My love for bodyboarding never went down cause it’s pretty much what I need to feel good, but my competitive side was close to shut down as for me this situation was so unfair.
My relationship with the IBA (APB) has changed since that really, I have respect for everyone, but I won't forget.
A few months after I saw an article in Riptide with Ben, his trophy and so many guys with him, I felt pretty bad about it but as my wife told me; the most important thing is not the world tour or any title, bodyboarding is much more than this.
Was winning your second word title in 2014 redemption and proof that you were the legitimate winner for you?
I was stoked for sure, but this had nothing to do with the year before as some riders where not present on the tour, waves were different and things change but yes it was good to achieve another goal I have been fighting and working for.
Bodyboarding is such a subjective sport and even if I was winning 10 world titles I wouldn't be the best bodyboarder in the world.
What’s the current state of the tour?
In my opinion the tour is going bad, but it’s the whole bodyboarding industry that is having a tough time. The APB directors are trying their best, the promoters are working hard, the riders are losing their mind trying to follow the tour BUT something goes wrong. Bodyboarders are passionate people but they are pretty incompetent, and we are super limited sometimes when the time comes to do something else like business, communication etc. And this is the problem with the tour and bodyboarding. We need people outside of the sport who know what they are talking about.
Imagine if our sport had press conferences and public interviews about what’s happening on tour like the IBA/APB chapter, why Fronton was not on tour, why they changed this or that... The stories would be different with more public content.
Are you competing in 2019?
I won't be on tour this year, i need time to focus on new projects and need a bit of free surfing because I feel I still can improve my surfing.
Doing Pipe at all?
I would love to compete at Pipe but it’s just out of budget at this stage and to me even if its Pipe I’m not really attracted by 20 min 4 men heat. Maybe the contest should be only for the top 24 so they have more time to make man on man or something.
Do you think Fronton is one of the world’s best bodyboarding spots?
Fronton has got something special for our sport and it’s why the level of the local riders has been so high for so many years.
This wave has different faces, from the perfect bodyboard park to your worst nightmare and it’s easy to be confronted by your limits. I mean you could be as fit as you want but if you hit the bottom hard with your head you done.
There are so many waves around the world but this one is not only good for bodyboarding, it’s made for it!
Must be pretty rad to have moved to Fronton and to be able to compete in, and win the event there?
Yeah actually it was pretty crazy to compete this year with my family on shore, all the people from the academy, my local friends etc. Feeling like home even if it’s clear that I’m not Canarian and not even trying to be so. Just a natural relationship with the good vibes and a sincere support of local people. Amazing feeling really with my kids starting to be conscience of what their dad has achieved.
Tell us about the event at Fronton, such an incredible event, why wasn’t it sanctioned by the APB?
It’s a pretty long story, but I guess the promoter and APB could not find a deal which is sad for the sport. The best outcome would be a public and official interview where both parties could explain what did happen.
To me Fronton is one of the best venues in the world for bodyboarding and it should be a world tour event in any way possible. Hopefully they could discuss this year to see this event back on track.
What do you think is good bodyboarding?
Good bodyboarding is fast, sharp and clean lines with conscience of your style and positioning.
How do you teach it?
Starting from the base and going step by step. Repeating technical issues with good inspiration from top riders, putting your ego on side to really understand where you are at in the sport and what could bring you to the next level.
What do you love about coaching?
I love sharing my vision and experience of the sport depending on every personality and goals that a rider could have. Adapting my teaching to the situation and clearly seeing that a rider is improving through my courses and tips.
Seeing kids growing with a pure love of the sport and being young myself again sharing the same passion for bodyboarding.
Who are your best students?
I have few of them but specially one from Galdar who landing an ARS at 10 years old.. The Spanish fédération is following some kids of the Galdar Academy.
Pretty rad that a French bodyboarder from Reunion Island is teaching the next generation of rippers in the Spanish speaking Canary Islands.
Yeah, it’s pretty amazing and I love it. But I’m always trying to explain to them how big bodyboarding has been in the Canary’s for so many years, who the local legends are, how they inspired me and how cool it is to see the next generations coming strong. Anywhere I go I just love to share my bodyboarding vibes and to see guys sticking to it.
I’m now in Senegal, Africa then I will go to the Ivory Coast in March, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Portugal, France, Spain, Panama and few other projects coming up. Bodyboarding is NOT dead!!
How crucial is fitness to being the best?
Fitness is big part of our sport. In bodyboarding, you must be super complete with strength, flexibility, muscular resistance, cardio etc. Being in shape for the surf you will have later today is important, but it’s mostly a long-term plan to be there as long as you can. With time, I learned that intensity is not the most important, consistency is. Depending on the waves and water temperature you surf, your physical abilities are different, and you have to be conscious where you’re at and what your goals are. Some really good bodyboarders don’t really train on the side of bodyboarding but these guys have a really healthy routine of riding waves as much as they can, stretching, good food and sleep. Constancy and balance are the key!!
How much training do you do daily?
Recently I calmed down a bit on the training. I used to train everyday no matter what and loving it, but today, with the life I have, I prefer to spend time in the water more than anything.
I’m at the weight I want, I feel strong, but I actually need more stretching than CrossFit or Jiu-jitsu which put so much tension on my body. I’m doing two serious training sessions a week, bodyboarding and stretching every day, biking with Oliver and spearfishing when its flat which is my second passion and the perfect sport to test your deep fitness. I’m moving my body every day in one way or the other!!
Do you think all bodyboarders need to be disciplined to be the best?
No not all of them. I always thought that there were two types of bodyboarders. Some geniuses that get it naturally such as PLC, Tanner, Diego Cabrera, Jake Stone and others like Ben Player, Iain Campbell and myself who had to work hard to get to it. Tanner is pretty much at his best level at 20 years old, Pierre has been at his best since he was 22 years old, compared to Ben Player who was at his best around 33 and still is today. I remember Ben in Hawaii had made marks on the rails of his board with a hot knife to find the best position for his hand. I call it work!
If you watch my style of riding when I was 18 compared to today, you won’t recognise me. Watching Pierre increasing his level every time we were going in the water and today being the most technical rider on this planet. I call it genius!
It’s all about being aware of your skill and putting clear goals to it.
What does the future have in stall for Moz?
I love to think about future but I’m trying to focus on everyday being happy with what I have. I have two kids now, a 5 years old boy, Oliver, and his 18-month-old sister, Nahara. I’m trying to manage everything together.
This year I will focus on Amaury Academy, having the school in Galdar and doing my courses overseas. I already have a pretty busy schedule with a few projects coming in Africa, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Panama, Portugal, Spain, France…I love doing it so much, sharing my vision and knowledge with new riders around the world, discovering new places, waves and getting people excited about bodyboarding.
I bought a house two years ago on the coast close to Fronton and I’m working on it constantly. Such a good sensation to build something that is yours and for the future!
Having more free surfing this year I feel that I can still improve my technical level and be at my personal top. Bodyboarding is so subjective and endless which make it so special:
It’s all about having the life you want by being present in the life you live. I’m working on that daily and that has changed my life.