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A life lived in the water

A life lived in the water

Patrice Dumesgnil has devoted his life to surfing, hang-gliding and spearfishing. Above all, he has always followed his heart.
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Patrice Dumesgnil at home at his beach house

His first ride was at Roches Noires off the island of Reunion, when he was seven or eight years old. "I had stolen my mother's air bed and went to catch waves with it.” Later - he was twelve, thirteen years old - the first longboards arrived on the island. Mauritius was on the hippie circuit. After spending the season in Australia, they would travel to discover the world’s waves. "My mother suggested that my sisters and I go there. I refused. But I told my sister, ‘bring me back a surfboard’.”

Fully addicted

Patrice belongs to the second group of surfers from Reunion Island. At the time, there were about thirty of them on the island.... "With my crew, we opened up the spots of Les Aigrettes, Saint-Pierre, Trois-Bassins," he explains simply.

And then there is the spearfishing. At the age of eighteen, a friend introduced him to the sport, and that was it for a life in the water. On one occasion, they were surrounded by a group of sharks, who tried to see them off. "They took a run-up and came straight at us. After a while, they left and my friend told me, ‘we're still going fishing.” This is one of the few times he has encountered sharks during these hunts along the reef that could last up to five hours.

His professional life has also been spent at the water's edge, as a qualified lifeguard. "I worked three months in a bank. Then a friend told me, ‘I'm going to do a lifeguard course, it's great.’ That was in ‘77, during the ‘1000 swimming pool’ plan. There’d been an outcry at the Olympic Games and we had to play catch up. I leapt out of the bank to do the course," he says with a laugh.

The first trips out of Reunion Island

The first paycheques arrived, and the first holidays. Patrice took off for Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, which he discovered in photos from a Surfer Magazine that was doing the rounds. This would be followed by Sri Lanka, South Africa again, Mauritius, and Madagascar. Twenty years of surfing, or hunting when there was no surf.

In the 80s, Patrice stopped surfing. He devoted himself instead to hang-gliding. "Likewise, that's all I did. And it reminded me of surfing. When you do a dynamic stall, the dive is like a top turn, which I find an extraordinary acrobatic move.”

Today, Patrice continues to roam the planet. One of his projects is to return to the mythical spots he has surfed, "you know, just to see".

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