Coming March 1, 2021 is ‘Landlocked’, the new web series that sees Valentin Milius and Esteban Caballer touring Switzerland searching for the perfect wave. Surfing isn’t a sport that usually comes to mind when thinking of Switzerland, but ‘Landlocked’ aims to change that perception… with voice over talent from our good friend Dave Mailman.
Every time it was the same surprised, intrigued, sceptical, even incredulous reaction.
Every time we brought up the idea of doing a documentary about surfing in Switzerland to ourfriends and colleagues, we’d get the same reactions. Precisely the kind of responses we’d been hoping to get. Even pro surfers like Europe’s best Jérémy Florès and Tahitian powerhouse Michel Bourez were at a loss for words. Swiss surfing? They didn’t even know it existed.
How did this crazy idea come to life? Well, it all started with a figure announced by a few Swiss surfing associations repeated again and again by news outlets that piqued our curiosity. There’s supposedly one of the highest per-capita rates of surfers in the world in this little country surrounded by mountains. Give or take 45,000 of them. WHAT? How could that many surfers live in a country without a coastline? In a landlocked state where there are as many skiers and snowboarders as there are milk cows?
The Swiss-French Surfing Association even shouted from the mountaintops that there are more surfers per square metre in Switzerland than in California! After whipping out our calculators to check the numbers, we determined that was, in fact, a slight exaggeration, but discovered an even more staggering statistic. From a population density standpoint, Switzerland has more surfers per square kilometre than Australia, the world’s surfing nation par excellence. We had our subject matter! And since we still had our calculators out, we looked for a more realistic comparison (because comparing a minuscule nation to a country-continent seemed to be a bit of a stretch from a strictly statistical point of view). We found one that was uncontestable: as a proportion of the population, there are practically as many surfers in Switzerland as in France, a major surfing nation with 5853 kilometres of coast.
Impossible? Unthinkable? Well, it’s not.
That’s when we started working our way back to our story’s origin, where it all began. So began our quest to find the fathers of Swiss surfing, the pioneers of the sport. Along the way, we also discovered that Switzerland has its very own version of Hawaii’s North Shore lying in the canton of Aargau, population 7946, altitude 381 meters, and the location of the country’s first-ever river-surfing competition. At that moment, we knew we’d arrived at the very core of an ancient story, full of mystery. Everything took off from there. One discovery led to the next: from mythic sessions by Swiss locals in overhead storm surf to an incredible testimonial from internationally renowned Hawaiian waterman Kai Lenny about foil-surfing on Lake Geneva.
On our journey, we encountered engineers who’ve reinventing river surfing. We found stationary waves that bring joy to the country’s landlocked boardriders. We met up-and-coming champions aiming for glory at the Summer Olympic games and the next generation following in their footsteps, the future stars from the country of watches, cheese, and chocolate. Even the Verbier Xtreme, a mainstay of the Swiss winter sports season is a product of the passion for surfing of Freeride World Tour boss Nicolas Hale-Woods. We connected with the one-and-only Swiss surf film festival, national surf associations, and entire communities of shapers. We were fascinated to discover such an enormous surfing family in a country without access to the ocean or a sea. There are tens of thousands of surfing enthusiasts, finding ways to increase wave heights by making calculations of water speed as related to river flow rates worthy of university professors.
And, most importantly, we met two young surfers from the Valais region that answer to the implausible names of Valentin Millius and Esteban Caballero. With their boards loaded into the bed of their shiny red pick-up, the intrepid duo treated us to the ultimate surf trip in search of the Swiss version of Jaws.
Featuring the commentary of The Voice of European surfing, ex-pat Californian and legendary event announcer, Dave Mailman.
So, there you have it. We’ve got what it takes to show to the unbelievers and naysayers that Switzerland is a great surfing nation indeed.
No one will ever ask us again: “Surfing WHERE?”
Patricia Oudit is a journalist specializing in outdoor, extreme, and adventure sports. Dominique Daher is a photographer in the same fields of expertise supported by most notably Red Bull Photography for more than a decade. Why present them together? Because they are the co-founders of the website https://www.neufdixieme.com/, which is a photo-journalism platform that also hosts podcasts and audio readings. Their words and photos have graced the pages and covers of respected publications such as Géo, L’Équipe, and the Red Bulletin. Over the last 25 years, they’ve become staples of the outdoor and action sport scenes.
Christophe Margot is a director, producer, and photographer. His production company https://cinemargot.com/ and Scott co-produced the web-series Hunt for Glory (2 million views on YouTube) about Nino Schurter, who won Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio Summer games. The Swiss cyclist was also the subject of a 26 minute documentary directed by Christophe for Red Bull Media House broadcasted from March 2018 until June 2019. His latest short film entitled “Fissure” tells the tale of Didier Berthod’s transformation from professional climber to priest and has been selected for eight international film festivals. When not working on documentaries, he puts his skills to work producing commercials for global brands like Omega watches, Hugo Boss, Scott Sports, and Rossignol. He has also collaborated with Dominique Daher on numerous outdoor sports projects for more than 20 years.
His fans affectionately know Dave Mailman as The Voice. Originally from California, he has been living on the southwest coast of France since 1994. During his career, Dave has been Editor at Onboard European Snowboard Magazine, Marketing Director at Quiksilver Europe, co-founder and board member of the TTR World Snowboard Tour, President of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) Europe, as well as the writer, director, presenter and producer of the EpicTV Surf Report. He is most well known for his performances on the microphone as the speaker for the Verbier Xtreme and Freeride World Tour, and other international action sports events, most notably on the ASP World Championship Tour and the TTR World Snowboard Tour.
Partners & Support
We’d like to thank Switzerland Tourism for their support!