Les Palmes & Le Couteau


Interview with Yann and Joël Badina

Joël Badina, 29, Lifeguard living in Anglet, France

Yann Badina, 24, Anglet France

What is your bodysurfing history?

Joël: Started bodysurfing since I was a kid on Anglet beaches during Summer, going straight in the foamies and having a lot of fun. Things started to get serious at the end of high school when I bought my first pair of fins. Since this day I got more and more addicted to this wonderful feeling and never stop then.
I learned on my own, slowly but surely. As the connection with the ocean got stronger, I would chase bigger and better waves to keep the stoke alive. I also decided to enter bodysurfing contests to meet other people that share this passion. My homebreak is Anglet, Basque Country, France. Very nice sandbars, one of the best place for bodysurfing in my country.

Yann: I began with a bodyboard at age 10 or 11 I think, but I was not really good. Some years later, I was about 14, my brother Joel showed me the way, I was more able to take waves and have fun without a board, that’s why I never stop it. Then he offered me my first real pair of fins, it was started ! I principally surf in Anglet where we live, and also in Bidart, a little village few kilometers away, where it a bit less crowded in the water.

Who had the idea for the film? What were the main locations for shooting the film? Is there anything that was particularly special about the locations?

Joël: The idea of the movie came from Rémi Blanc and myself.
Rémi lifeguards with me in Anglet and is also a graphic designer. Winter was coming and we knew we would have a lot of free time. We really wanted to do something about our own vision of bodysurfing: simplicity, commitment and flow in any kind of conditions. So we decided to record every sessions with waves of consequences during the 3 monthes of winter. Antoine Justes, surf photographer and filmmaker, joined Rémi to help on the project. On my side I talked to my brother Yann to get him into it, and also Lucas Espil and Jean Lemonnier, the two young guns of the movie. We are all part of a lifesaving and bodysurfing association named “Les Guides Bains Angloys” which became the main sponsor of the thing.
The title “Les Palmes et le Couteau” is a little joke that makes reference to a famous french slang expression “la bite et le couteau which litteraly means” the dick and the knife”. People use those words when you try to do something hard without any help or weapon in your arms like if you want to climb Mount Everest in boardshort and slippahs…and well we thought it was pretty representative of what we do bodysurfing through European winter: cold water, big surf and only neoprene and fins to deal with it!

Where are your favorite bodysurfing waves?

Joël: Anyway good waves are everywhere, even in France if you didn’t know already.. The bodysurf here began quite long ago as I can hear old people telling stories of swimming in the waves and going straight with the foam.
Contests are on since early 90’s and each year the winner of the championship gets a ticket to Hawaii… That’s why North Shore has seen many of the best French riders like Laurent Masurel, David Dubes, Christophe Clemente, Matias Hegoas, Fred David and more. It’s been a few years now that the community is growing faster thanks to social medias. The spreading of news, pictures and videos makes lots of youth and less youngs get more involved into the sport, coming from different backgrounds as surfing, lifesaving or pool swimming. More than that, it is now crossing the borders. I just came back from a contest in Morrocco where the locals are crazy about bodysurfing, all along with the Portuguese community; those guys are overmotivated!! And this year Spain runs its very first national bodysurfing championship.

Yann: There is a lot of waves really nice for bodysurfing. Recently we go to California and caught some waves and the Wedge. This wave is brutal, but really fun to ride, especially when you start with the side wave, then you arrive in a big and wide barrel. And the Wedge crew is full of nice guys, thanks to them for welcome us as they do ! Pipeline can be perfect to bodysurf, but it’s overcrowded and it’s hard to have your wave over there. To finish I will say Nazaré in Portugal, with its big triangles, north Morocco where there is a big potential, right, left, beach break and point break, and of course in France!

What is a new wave you want to bodysurf?

Yann: A new wave I want to try is Point Panic, that looks perfect for bodysurfing, the videos I watch from there just make me mad! I hope to have a chance to paddle out there one day.

What bodysurfers do you or did you look up to?

Yann:  There is not really one guy I follow. A lot inspire and impress me. There are the classics like Stewart and Cunningham of course. More recently there is Kanealii Wilcox, doing crazy things never seen before! I try to watch videos from everywhere in the world to learn more and more every day. By traveling, you meet a lot of guys who are ripping, with different styles, different point of view about bodysurfing, but all passionate by the same thing, that’s what I like the most.

Joël: Several surf trips led me to meet bodysurfers from all around the world. This emulation helped me to grow my knowledge and improve my skills. Hanging on with guys like Mark Cunningham or Kanealii Wilcox don’t let you cold. Wedge Crew, so friendly last summer offering my brother and me plenty waves on a good day. My friend Sean Enoka, greatest ambassador of the sport, spreading the Aloha spirit with KahaNalu Hawaii. I’m so proud to be a part of the crew!! I couldn’t forget these epic times. Yes, sharing is good for you.

Final Thoughts:

Joël: I expect torpedo people to get bigger and I think we did our part of the job showing “Les Palmes et Le Couteau”. I hope Europe is now a point on the bodysurfing map next to Hawaii, California or Brasil.

Special thanks to Antoine Justes for the photographs from the film and to the Badina brothers for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Tripping Fins: O’ahu

Stepped out of manufactured oxygen on a 767 into Hawaiian air, heavy with water. It sends the signals up my brainstem, slow down and breathe. We navigated the usual trappings of airport travel until we finally are on the 99 to Haleiwa. Coming down the hill, I could see white caps and my pulse quickened. Rachel tapped my arm to pull my mind out of the Ocean and back to the road. The familiar arborous tunnel, the clucks, the deep and sticky sand of Eukai. 


The last time I visited, I maintained a hyperfocus on Banzai Pipeline. This time, with locals as my guide I was blown away by the sheer diversity of bodysurfing waves. One of my first stops was Makapu’u beach park. A place I only knew from a beautiful section in Keith Malloy’s film Come Hell or High Water. I met Kanealii in the lot overlooking a picturesque setup. My camera became a victim to Makapu’u’s punishing shore pound and so I can only say… if you love hollow waves go there. 

I spent the next few days skipping from north shore peak to peak with smaller swell prevailing. I sipped morning coffee and listened to living legend Larry Russo tell me about each wave. He didn’t know me from a Californian mountain goat, but his mischievous smile and unrelenting dedication to this hallowed ground made each morning’s story a pleasure. Mark Cunningham made a few appearances demo’n his patented outrigger riding style in less than perfect waves. 

And as a seriously Northernly swell moved in, I tapped local wave expert and founder of Kaha Nalu Hawaii, Sean Enoka, to make the call. And call he did. After a short, beautiful ride I found myself in a coastal playground with crystalline water and a stoked crowd. The guys in the lineup hooted each other into gaping barrels while navigating the razor thin line between heavenly tubes and wrecked on the rocks. The session was amplified by seeing bodysurf charger and transplant from Southern California, Nick Menas, working the wave like a master.

With only a couple days left in paradise the locals decided to swim Waimea Bay. Looking out from the sand the crew started the long swim to Pinballs. They showed me how to use what Waimea gives and save my energy for riding. I can honestly admit a bit of intimidation. Looking for trees as lineup guides and keeping a careful eye on boils I watched the boys launch themselves into wave after wave. It felt oddly familiar, reminiscent of Killers.  Finally feeling the fins beneath me I trusted my guides and training enough to pick a few waves off myself. I’m glad I did. The call was right again. Another session punctuated by a novel wave experience and inspiring visions of Sean, BK, Nick, Mel, Kane and others truly comfortable in an environment 99% of people would find utterly terrifying. The wave riding tribe abides. 

Two weeks is but a scratch on the surface, a peek through the window of an island blessed. I still found time to take the solo swim and look into the Pacific’s grace. I take with me the aloha that felt like home just 3,000 miles away. 



We Thought We Were Alone…Portugal

Main Image: Rider- António Stott Howorth Photo- Rita Durães

It turns out there were more of us out there after all.

 I started bodysurfing with my older brother and cousins. Some of them went on to join the first generation of bodyboarders in Portugal, others never felt attracted to the sponge invasion… fins, initially brought over by family and friends in Brazil, were all we needed. Wetsuits were a luxury and handplanes were unheard of.

Rider- Fred Quintela Photo- Carlos Duarte
Rider- Fred Quintela Photo- Carlos Duarte

 Occasionally there would be rumours, a guy had been spotted in a line-up somewhere jostling for position with the crowds of board riders, but quite honestly, in about 18 years of bodysurfing exclusively I never once met another bodysurfer I either didn’t know or who was not related to me.

 Then things began to change. A couple of us connected on Facebook; there seemed to be a group who regularly bodysurfed up North; a wave addicted architect began shaping handplanes; “Come Hell or Highwater” appeared out of nowhere and left us staring at our television screens, speechless.

 An experimental competition was organized just outsider of Lisbon and there they were… a few dozen other bodysurfers…with homemade handplanes and fins of different shapes and sizes. But above all the same passion for wave riding with nothing but your body.

 We looked on bemused as the judges, also taking their first steps, explained what maneuvers  were worth more or less points. Then we basically forgot what they had said and went out and did what we loved doing: catching waves and having fun.

Rider- António Stott Howorth Photo- Rita Durães

 One guy stood out. The second tallest of the crew – after me – he sported a silver helmet and we giggled amongst ourselves as he consistently rode the miniature waves all the way to the sand. We weren’t giggling so much when he won. Many of us learned more about bodysurfing in those few weeks than we had in years.

 António Pedro, a veteran surfing championship organizer was the man who took us from an amateur competition and turned it into a proper competition with four stages in different beaches, recognized by the Portuguese Surfing Federation. António Stott Howorth, our silver helmeted friend, became the first Portuguese champion in 2015 and that same year a group drove out to participate in the Euro-Atlantic championship. We had learned that we were not alone, it was time to tell the French.

Rider- Gonaalo Faria Photo- Pedro Vieira
Rider- Gonçalo Faria Photo- Pedro Vieira

 In 2016 the competition grew to five stages, attracting increasing numbers, including some of the pioneers of bodyboarding who, having grown tired of the competitive scene in their sport were drawn to the camaraderie and general goofy spirit and passion of bodysurfing.

 But the year began with tough news for one of the best of us. Migas, who had placed highly in 2015 felt his world crash down around him when he was diagnosed with MS and considered dropping out, since there was no saying how his body would react in the water after he started the medication.

 Fortunately for all of us he persisted and celebrated the 2016 title in front of his bodysurfing peers and a busload of friends and family in the legendary beach of Supertubos, in Peniche.

 As a group of Portuguese bodysurfers makes its way back home after participating in a Euro-Atlantic competition in Morocco – taking two places on the podium in the masters category – we can’t be sure of how far or how fast bodysurfing will progress over the next few years. But we know one thing for sure. We know we’re not alone.  

By Filipe Avillez

Rider- Miguel Rocha Photo- The Blue Trip
Rider- Miguel Rocha Photo- The Blue Trip