Share the 'stoke' with tandem surfing
SURFING is sometimes described as dancing on waves. To do it well requires grace, power and poise and the feeling for the surfer when everything comes together on a wave is described in the surfing world as pure stoke.
This "stoke" is a very personal joy that is impossible to share with anyone else. That is unless you are a tandem surfer.
Caloundra's Fred and Lily Branger have been sharing the stoke on the waves since the day they met and fell in love more than seven years ago, and tandem surfing has played a pivotal role in their lives ever since.
Tandem surfing is when two people surf together on a single board. It originated in Hawaii but this story begins in Paris.
In 2006 Fred and Lily were both living in their home country of France. Lily (her real name is Aurelie but Australians find that too hard to say) was working in Paris as a graphic designer and Fred was in Brittany, having recently returned home after seven years living in California where surfing was at the forefront of his existence. It was here while paying his way through college as a surf instructor that Fred first discovered and fell in love with tandem surfing.
Lily, a keen skateboarder and snowboarder with a background in gymnastics, read about Fred and his tandem surfing on a website she was using to carpool from Paris to the nearest surf in Normandy.
She thought tandem surfing would be the perfect challenge and she made contact.
Their chemistry as a couple was not limited to the waves and two weeks after they met Fred had moved in to Lily's unit in Paris. They lived here for two years. They surfed on weekends and when they couldn't surf, they would skate, sometimes tandem on a long board, through the streets of Paris.
They formed Nalu, a non-profit organisation dedicated to sharing their knowledge and love of tandem surfing and through Nalu they organised many events and exhibitions in France.
But they longed for a simpler lifestyle closer to nature with warm waves at their doorstep and in late 2008 they married and flew to Australia. They surfed from Merimbula in southern New South Wales up to the Sunshine Coast, performing workshops and exhibitions through the Manly Surf School and filming with TV shows Bondi Rescue and Totally Wild.
By March 2009, they had found their way to Noosa for the annual Festival of Surfing and the waves were pumping. They knew this was where they wanted to live. A tandem surfing friend they made through the festival told them that his dad owned a backpackers' hostel in Caloundra and he was looking for a manager. The pair put their hands up and they applied for, and were granted, a skilled-sponsored visa.
In Caloundra they found everything they were looking for. Although very attached to her French heritage and missing her family, Lily has fallen in love with her new home.
"(In Australia) life feels simpler, more relaxed and positive for the future generations," she explains.
"Caloundra is perfect for raising a family. It has natural beauty, it's not too small and not too big, the characters are interesting and eclectic without arrogance, people
drive slowly on the roads and there are fun waves to surf!"
Their son Lockie was born in October, 2010, and they recently became Australian citizens. Fred no longer works at the backpackers and is now six months away from being a registered high school business and language teacher while Lily has her own business making and selling Hawaiian shirts at the markets.
Fred, 36, and Lily, 33, have continued to share their love of tandem surfing with anyone interested and when Lockie is at day care or they can find a babysitter, they entertain spectators as they practise their shared love on the waves. When they all go to the beach, mum and dad take turns with Lockie while the other surfs. Soon Lockie will be big enough to go tandem with mum and dad, a point Fred is quick to elaborate on.
"Tandem surfing is a way for experienced surfers to share their love of surfing with their partners, children, sisters, mothers and friends in a safe and fun way."
He also jokes that it is a great way to teach young men to "pick up" girls. It worked for him.
The sport has made little inroads in Australia compared to California and Hawaii but the pair is hopeful of continuing to find new people to teach and in turn keep the art of tandem surfing alive. Over the summer they are holding free classes in Caloundra on Tuesdays and Saturdays where they teach people techniques, first on land and then in the water, according to their ability level.
As a waterman, Fred's resume is long and varied. The former professional lifeguard has competed competitively on short boards and long boards in the US and is two-time world bodysurfing champion in his age group. He has ridden huge waves in Todos Santos, Mexico, and in 2012 he won the finless division at the Noosa Festival of Surfing riding a traditional wooden alaia board.
Tandem surfing is probably the most peculiar water sport he has tried so far, though, and the sight of them surfing, with Lily high over Fred's head in an extreme arabesque or their trademark "Lilycopter", always turns heads. They draw inspiration from yoga, gymnastics, circus, ballet, ice skating, cheerleading and even break dancing and are always trying new things.
Despite their large repertoire of lifts, both agree their favourite manoeuvre is a long, carving cutback on a big wave. "This is when the pure joy of surfing is shared," Fred explains with a glowing grin.
For info on their classes, call Fred or Lily on 0424 976 038 or visit Lily's market stall in Caloundra. Their website, nalu-surf.com, is also a great starting point.