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The French Exchange

After a long day of working from Emlyn’s house, struggling to concentrate through dreams of France and Emlyn tearing apart his room trying to find his passport, we finally got on the road. First we rendezvoused with Amon and Ayla, who loaded up the car with boards, tents and passenger merchandise. Next we zipped on down to Portsmouth where we met up with the very excited Brind Bro's in the Morrisons car park!

We boarded the overnight ferry to Cherbourg and it seemed criminal not to hit the bar on the first night of a holiday; so naturally we got the mojitos in. A lovely sing-song wake up on the Tannoy system was quickly ruined by the fact me and Amon had forgotten to turn our data off and instantly got billed £40, great start to the trip! Hopefully reading this article will save you from the same future peril!

Fresh off the ferry, through passport control, a quick yet essential reminder of what side of the road to drive on and we were officially in France! Tired, but excited, we blasted out the 4 hour journey with dad cam clips, music from old mountainboard movies and Terry Tibbs. As we came off the motorway the back lanes started to look more familiar and we knew we were edging closer to the mountainboard Mecca that is Loire Atlantique Mountainboard Park. It never disappoints. A beautiful setting and a perfectly crafted mountainboard park lay in front of us. A whole new boardercross track and heaps of new features since our last visit, we couldn’t wait to ride.

After setting up Fresh and Black Village in the 35 degree heat it was decided that me and Amon would be no use at the supermarket so we were left behind whilst the others went to get supplies. We sank a couple of warm beers in the sun and got our stuff together for a ride. Excited to ride we went straight in on the hip line, however the session was very short lived as we forgot to take into account the lack of food, lack of sleep, excessive heat and to be honest, I can’t say the beers helped the cause either. Instead we watched a much better prepared Jamie Chilles rip up the hip line with a few of the more local riders.

The shoppers returned, after what sounded to be the least fun shopping trip ever, and we ate before a golden hour evening session lapping the bx. Some seriously dusty trains, ‘noncanfloats’ and rays through the trees was enough to cheer up the grumpy shoppers (especially Matt!). The light made it perfect for a couple of clips so Amon whipped the camera out for some dusty team riding shots. By this time Ollie and Kody had arrived after what sounded like a wild week in the Netherlands and laid down some laps on the track with us.

Over the next 24 hours more and more riders descended on LA park from all over France, USA, Australia and the UK culminating in a pretty large session on the Saturday night with riders ripping it up all over the park. Tricks and transfers everywhere with some pretty heavy attention on the hips and rainbow rail. The park was all running so well and it was almost impossible not to find yourself a few feet out of the quarter pipe after hitting any of the larger jumps. The session continued late into the evening and the drinking late into the night, it was always hard to say “no” to one more of the cold local beers they have on tap at LA.

Despite the hangover the hype train continued the next day down to Unicorn skatepark which was an indoor park built by a local YouTuber. After food and naps at the park everyone was back in the game. The park was really sick and so good to see so many mountainboarders taking it over, although the heat was a little too much for those of us with a high beverage consumption the night before. Amon was absolutely shredding the park, flying around throwing down on every feature, although I’ve never seen a sweatier man than he was during that session. Emlyn was hitting up the rails and boxes with his natural skatepark steeze and Ayla watching on providing hydration to make sure we all didn’t die. Lots of one footed action on show too from Matt, Kody and some of the local riders.

We ate pringles and avoided wasps whilst we waited for everyone else to burn themselves out, I even schooled Sonnie Dibben at pool and collected some b-roll for the dad cam. After a failed trip to the bowling alley we returned to LA sweaty and tired.

We had decided to give ourselves a day off after all the travel and riding, however we were pretty conscious that most of the party would be unable to sit still on a beach for the whole day so we compromised on hitting a pump track on the way to the beach which actually turned out to be really fun. It was a nice shady pump track with a breeze and two loops that didn’t require excessive pumping to get round. Andy was flying around it on the short stance Haero generating some serious pace out of the corners and hitting the gaps

After a quick Maccy D’s and a few Sean Paul songs we made it to the Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef beach where it was literally too hot to walk on the sand. Some serious factor 50 was applied to our pasty white British bodies and we spent most of the afternoon playing catch of different variations in the warm waters on the Bay of Biscay. After we’d scratched our beach itch Amon reminded us we hadn’t yet stacked many clips so we agreed to return to the park and get a few clips once it had cooled down.

Once back at the park we had a session on some of the jib features and Emlyn and Amon got locked into a boardslide with 270 out battle for quite some time until Bains whipped one round to the delight of the onlookers. By this time ATBoarders Team Riders Mark Bish and Sarah had arrived from the UK and got stuck in on the session straight away, maybe a little too much as both were sporting fresh injuries by the time dinner rolled around. The session moved on onto the drop to tree ramp line, Meal getting some steezy picks on the spine and Matt having a real mental battle with the nose manuals. Emlyn and Ivan took the session to the next level by getting upside down on the tree ramp with Ivan throwing back flips and Emlyn going for backside rodeos.

The next day Meal took all the Brits and the Aussies (or as he described us on his insta post, ‘the kids’) out to Nantes to see the big elephant. Despite a good number of the French riders and Dylan coming down with Covid it didn’t dampen spirits, however the giant mechanical elephant spraying water did literally dampen us all a bit but in a very welcome way as it was roasting hot in Nantes.

Once everyone was pretty thoroughly soaked by the elephant, a splinter group headed off to check out one of the seven wonders of the world, Nantes Decathlon (The biggest decathlon in the west of France). It was pretty huge and we spent a good hour or more testing out the range products making the most of the air conditioning.

It was our last day at LA before heading off to Compiegne and naturally we’d left most of the filming we had left to do until then. With this in mind we got up nice and early before it got too hot. After days packed full of riding and activities everyone was pretty knackered and it took some fairly serious encouragement from Amon to get us all to ride. A few hours later the clips were stacked and tricks were sent so we packed up the Fresh and Black camp before the drive up to Compiegne for the French championships.

Despite the sound advice given to us, we decided to travel on the day just before Bastille Day (French public holiday) so the roads were nice and busy and the temperature was also up at around 40 degrees. The air conditioning in Amon’s car was pretty strong although me and Emlyn in the back found a far better use for it than keeping us cool. A bucket hat containing beers was strapped to the air con vents and worked surprisingly well as a makeshift beer cooler which kept us both supplied and entertained with cold beer for the journey. A few beers later and some slightly heated “we should be in that lane” debates between Amon and Ayla and we were firmly stuck in traffic in the centre of Paris. It wasn’t all bad though as we kept the Paris related tunes pumping and we even got a few glimpses of the French version of Blackpool Tower in the distance.

Once out of Paris - and after a quick trip to what Amon claimed was the biggest supermarket he’d ever been to - we were heading up the dustiest of dust tracks to Compiegne. I hadn’t been before so wasn’t sure what to expect, but had been told it was a little lacking on shade, so we were all a little apprehensive about being able to handle the heat. Luckily by this time it had cooled down, so we set up our tents on the spikiest ground we could find and went to look around the park. The place was looking great, the tracks are mostly covered year round so were looking compact and smooth ready for the competition. The locals were super friendly, so we jumped into a session with them on the track and some of the smaller freestyle jumps. It was running fast but everything was built well and we had a good session. The rest of the evening was filled with eating and playing with Matt’s new Chuckers set (which does have a French name that I can’t recall).

On our first full day we had a pretty chilled morning (due to the temperature) around the tents until the locals took us to a nearby swimming lake about 15 minutes away from the mountainboard park. It looked pretty good for a swim but did have a slightly funky smell which was enough to put off some of our group. Me, Matt and Emlyn had a good go at it making sure not to consume any of the water. Those who chose to sit it out got almost as wet as the two nice but hyper dogs who thoroughly enjoyed the swimming decided to empty the water contents of their fur onto the non-swimmers.

Amon was feeling a little out of it that day and it later transpired that he was the latest to hop aboard the ATB Covid train, so Ayla packed him off to a local hotel for the night. The following day we enjoyed a session on the rather large freestyle jumps. By this point Sonnie, Nikkie, Mark and Sarah had turned up to complete the British contingent at the comp. We also had a good session on the freshly groomed BX track. It was a great mix of straights packed with jumps and rollers with huge sweeping berms.

Boardercross day came first with Sonnie, Matt, Andy and Mark all lined up to potentially take the crown home for team GB. I had a few lagers and live streamed the event on the ATBoarders Instagram, it was mainly supposed to be for Mark Bishop’s big competition debut but by popular demand (or just Angus Macdonald) I kept it running all the way to the final. Some great racing all round with Sonnie even beating Matt in a qualifier. Overall Matt and Andy took out the top two spots, however in France there must be a French champion so understandably they were denied their moment in the spotlight. The women’s racing was dominated by a sister-sister rivalry which in the end led to Margaux taking the women's crown from her sister. The master’s racing was won by Meal from L.A cruising his way onto the top spot throwing mini-shakas out to a great reception from the international crowd. Meanwhile Dylan and Al had rocked up straight in from Bastille day in Paris to bring the vibes and a few more beers were sank whilst having another session on the jumps. Emlyn had been feeling a little worse for wear and after a big bail onto his hip, and a few recovery pints, it was confirmed that he was the latest member to join the ever-expanding Covid Club.

The next day was freestyle and my dreams of another live stream was ended by Three network and their data caps so I had to settle for taking on the responsibility of Dibzclips, whilst Sonnie was riding freestyle. The session went off with Ivan and Dylan throwing some tech tricks on the rails and quarters. Some great maneuvers went down by the junior riders too with some flips and 5’s being thrown on the medium line. Andy and Matt sent some huge tricks on the big line with Andy’s frontflips getting the crowd hyped. A backflip was even laid down by Ludo the owner of Compiegne which as you can imagine was quite the crowd pleaser. The session continued until one of the slats on the big jump kicker became dislodged and caused a timely end to the comp.

As with all mountainboarding comps, once the prize giving was done the D n B commenced. It was a great party as always with Meal keeping us supplied with drinks and good times. By about 10pm everyone at the party was sporting drawn-on glasses, which anyone who has been to a comp with the French riders will know is compulsory. We drank the bar dry and an egg-like replica of Al was passed round for all to see before earning his place on the top of the Compiegne lock-up. The party was great fun and great to see some familiar faces from previous trips.

The next day was a difficult morning taking into account my hangover, but we had a ferry to catch so we packed up and got moving. For me and Ayla the prospect of a long journey home with The Covid Crew was not a pleasant one (Somehow we both escaped it).

Despite this we said our Au Revoir's and Merci's to everyone at Compiegne and hit the old dusty dust trail back to Calais!

What a trip, what a crew and what a country to ride in. I’d do it all again tomorrow. Big thanks to everyone who came! Special shoutout to Meal for hosting, feeding and riding with us at L.A. Margaux for translating for us wherever we went and the whole crew at Compiegne for putting on a great competition. Lastly shoutout to Ayla who tolerated us all for the whole trip and kept us fuelled with some seriously good camping cuisine!

Thanks to Haero, Dope Grip and Passenger Clothing for sponsoring the trip and keeping us supplied!

Cheers for reading and look out for a full Amon Shaw video coming soon!

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