Words: Miljan Milekić
Maud Le Car is one of a kind. Not only she built her name as one of the best surfers in the world, but she also made a successful career and art and fashion. Creative, determined, she proved she knows no boundaries, coming from the small, isolated island of Saint-Martin, and taking her rightful place on the world stage. Now, she presented her latest project – Save La Mermaid, an association that raises awareness of the pollution in the oceans. She took some time off her hectic schedule to sit down with us, and tell us more about it all, so tune in below, and enjoy!
Hi Maud! First of all, how does it feel, now that the world is opening back up, to be able to travel again and surf again, after the year of isolation, travel bans, and unfortunate injuries?
Maud: I’m super excited that get to travel, and have contests again. It’s been a really weird year, as I was used to doing it and did it since I was little. It was hard, especially not doing contests, and going, kind of, without a real goal, so I’m really excited about that. I’m in The Challenger Series, which is nice, and I really want to qualify and do my best.
You had a really promising start of the last year before the pandemic hit, with your video from Mozambique gaining quite some traction. Can you tell me more about it, and how did it happen?
Maud: Yeah, I really started – I’m still super-motivated – but last year, I for sure I had more confidence than I had this year because I faced the injury. It’s been a long process, I had a big surgery and didn’t surf for two months. But I’m having my surfing back again, it’s on the good path, so it’s okay.
But yeah, for the Mozambique video, it was really nice. I normally travel for contests and only do the contest thing, but I love free surfing even more than contests. It’s my favorite thing, so for me, it was really good to have a real free surf trip. Also, to go to a country and a culture that is really different, it was perfect. Waves were perfect, no one in the water, and for me, that is surfing. It doesn’t always have to be a crowded beach with big surf culture. Sometimes, you go to places that remind you what life really is, what other people are facing, and you meet the culture over there. So, it was great to start the year with that trip and that project.
That video came not too long after the ‘Cheeky Lemon,’ which you shot in the Mentawaï Islands. How challenging was it to deliver two videos that are on such a high level in such a short time?
Maud: Actually, it was not that difficult because I surf a lot. I’m a real surf addict, and I spend lots of hours surfing. So for me, the most difficult part is to find a filmer to film me eight hours a day. (laughs) I’m just kidding, but it wasn’t a big deal. When I do videos, I don’t feel the pressure that I have in contests, chasing a particular result or something. I just surf, and I think free surfing is where I perform the best, and I can show my best surfing. So, it was really exciting to do those videos, surf like I usually surf, and have all these amazing filmers with me. All of that makes it easier to deliver projects like these.
Both videos were made in collaboration with Monster Energy, who you work with for quite some time now. Also, you work with brands like Volcom, which are as big as it gets in the surfing world. How much of the motivation and additional push is it for you to know that you have the best of the best watching your back?
Maud: For sure. It’s really great, and I feel really fortunate to have all that support. Sometimes I still can’t believe it. It’s amazing, and I couldn’t be happier with all the brands and all the support I have from them. And they are supporting me in every way – not only my surfing but also my art projects, or whenever I want to do something different. I don’t think many brands do that, so I’m really fortunate to have sponsors like Volcom and Monster supporting my projects and me personally. It gives me the confidence to do all my stuff and to keep going.
How hard was it to even be in this position? What did your beginnings in Saint-Martin look like, and how did you get into surfing?
Maud: Actually, I think I had no expectations. because I come from such a small island, where no one came up as a professional or known surfer. But from the beginning, from when I started surfing, the passion was there. I wanted to be a professional surfer really badly. It has always, especially when I was younger, been something to prove myself – that even if I don’t come from Hawaii or mainland France, even if I hadn’t been in the scene and in the known, that I can do it.
When I was little, I always feel less good than the other girls, but now I’ve found my path, I think it’s a strength. I know my roots are on my island, and I want to motivate people from my island. To show that if I could do it, they can do it too. That not being from a big place, with lots of successful people, doesn’t mean they cannot do it. So now, it’s more of motivation than something I have to prove.
You said you love free surfing, but you also said you love contests and tours. How do those things balance each other, and do you think that being better in one can help you improve the other?
Maud: Yes. Okay, some people only do free surf, some only do contests, but for me, they are linked. Contests can bring you the motivation to be better in your free surf, and when you go free surfing, and you know that you have a contest coming up, if you have goals and want to be the best, to perform the best you can, it pushes your free surfing to the highest level. And also, I feel that if I don’t free surf, I cannot become better at surfing and can’t perform better at contests. So, I think it’s really linked. Both can be done together, and I don’t think you need to separate them.
During your career, you have established a strong social media presence, creating a strong platform for you, but your sponsors as well. In today’s world, is it even possible to build a successful career in action sports, without social engagement and creating a brand of yourself?
Maud: I think it’s possible, but not if you want to reach the maximum in your career. And I want to give my maximum to my fans, and people and brands that support me. And of course, if you don’t have sponsors, you can’t be professional. You can’t travel and do all the things. So, in my opinion, it’s something you do to help your career and to reach your goals.
My main goal is to qualify for contests and be the best surfer I can be, but for this, I need sponsors. I need support. And for the support, I need to work on my community, work on other things, which will help me travel, help me make the budgets, and in the end, achieve my goals. So, I think it’s something that we all have to do, to make our goals and dreams come true. But again, everyone has their own style, their own path, and everyone does as they can.
Apart from surfing, you also paint, and what I’ve noticed is that it’s almost a rule that people in extreme sports have another additional creative outlet. How did you start doing it? Do you feel you have to be creative to even consider going into the extreme sports world, so art or music is just a logical continuation?
Maud: Actually, everyone in my family is an artist. I did art before I surfed – I started surfing at the age of 12, it was pretty late. And my mom is a painter, my grandma is a painter, so it’s been in the family. Everyone was working with their hands and making some stuff. So it came to me pretty early – I played with the paintings, played at my mom’s atelier, and just did things. And I think you’re right – when I started my professional career, I went back to arts. When I was studying, balancing school with surfing, I didn’t really have a lot of time to create. So when I started surfing full-time, I felt this urge to create and do something on the side of surfing that makes me feel calm. Sometimes, I just need to express something that’s deep in me, on a canvas or board, and it makes me feel better.
Your art, kind of, reminds me of works by artists such as Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein, combined with different schools of street art. Who would you say were your main influences, and where do you draw your inspiration from?
Maud: Yeah, I’m a big fan of Andy Warhol, he’s a big inspiration for me, and I really like his stuff. And yes, when I travel, it’s all the street art I can see, all the different cultures, and different paintings. Every time I travel somewhere and then do art again, I feel like it changed me. I feel like I can add something new to my art, even if it’s something I’ve seen on a tree, or on some tiles. If I like it, I can add it to my pop art which I love doing, and combine it with some different stuff. Also, nature inspires me a lot. Like the corals, their colors, and their shape. I try to find inspiration whenever I open up my eyes, with everything I see in the streets, in nature, when traveling…
One more thing you’re known for is your modeling work. How did that happen? How important is it to you to be able to do all these different things and explore different sides of your personality?
Maud: I try to do the most of what I can do. And the modeling part came naturally. I mean, when you’re a girl, and you’re a surfer, you have the opportunities to work with different brands and have more income. If I could choose today, I might prefer not to do it, but I don’t mind doing it. So it came naturally, it’s part of the game. And I try to do my best in everything I do.
So, can you tell me more about the Save La Mermaid project? I kinda know what it is, but I believe nobody can explain it better than you, and I really think it deserves more attention.
Maud: So, Save La Mermaid is something I had in mind for a couple of years now. And with the injury, I had time to really put it into work, do all the papers and the legal stuff. I know that there’s a lot of associations for the oceans, but I really wanted to do my part because I’m a surfer, and I’ve spent all my days in the ocean since I was little, coming from an island. I owe everything I have in my life to surfing. So, I felt like I have a duty to the ocean. I felt that if I don’t do something that could make a change and want to help the ocean, it’s a shame on me because I spend so much time in the ocean and the waves.
So, I wanted to do something cool, to make a movement. You know, I’m traveling a lot, and I do bad things for the ecology. We’re not perfect. I’m not perfect, and I’m not here to give lessons. I just want to raise awareness a little bit in everyone’s mind. The ocean is such a beautiful place, and we have to look after it. Plastic is a problem. And many people think it’s okay, that there’s only a small amount of it. But no, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The problem is really bad. And that’s also the legacy we will pass onto the next generation too. It’s important for the next generation of surfers, so they don’t surf in plastics, but even more, that the ocean doesn’t die. We can’t survive without the ocean.
I wanted to make something cool, something fun, and show the next generation that ecology is cool. We are not perfect, but we’re trying our best. It’s just a step-by-step thing. Today, we’ll try not to use a plastic bottle. Tomorrow, we’re doing some beach cleanups. And even though I know that my beach cleanups are not gonna save the world, I believe that if everyone starts doing their parts, we can really make a change. And that’s the message – to change our habits, to do a little bit every day. In French, we call it “La Part du Colibri,” or “The colibri part.” It’s a story of a little bird trying to save the burning forest. And the other animals were like – “Why are you doing this? You’re too little. You can’t do it.” But no, I think that if everyone is doing a little, we can stop the fire and stop the forest burning. So this is also the idea behind Save La Mermaid, to show that everyone is able to make a change. That the ecology is cool. That we are not perfect, but by trying our best, we can turn things around and save the ocean for the next generation. To thank the ocean for every wave and every opportunity it offers to each of us.
So, your surfing got you into many sports magazines and websites. Your popularity and involvement in the art and fashion world meant you had exposure through many fashion media outlets. How important is it to you to be involved in that kind of mainstream media, to use such a massive platform and share your messages to people from outside the surf and extreme sports world? To people who wouldn’t hear it otherwise?
Maud: I mean, this is the goal, especially for Save La Mermaid. It’s not here to raise awareness only among surfers, but everyone. The goal is to touch as many people as possible. And it’s not something that I did on purpose – had these careers in surfing, modeling, and art, it’s just part of my personality, and it all came to me naturally. And I’m grateful. I have a community growing up, and hopefully, it can help people, even outside the surfing world, to see me and be like – “Oh, okay, this girl is doing this. Why not me?” And also, as an athlete, your goal is to inspire other people and show what everyone is capable of. To use all the potential that God has given you because this is the gift you can share with others.
Follow Maud Le Car:
Save La Mermaid Website: savelamermaid.com
Save La Mermaid Instagram: instagram.com/savelamermaid