A Life On the Road With Aritz Aranburu

Matt Rode

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Updated 239d ago

You’d be hard pressed to find a happier or friendlier guy than Aritz Aranburu. No matter where you travel around the world, Aritz has probably been there—and you are unlikely to meet anyone who doesn’t like him.

But don’t let his affable nature fool—Aritz is as hard-charging committed as he is soft-spoken. Between grinding out results on the QS and CT, charging huge Basque bombies, filling multiple passports with stamps and dominating just about every barreling sand spit on the planet, Aritz has led a varied and successful pro career, all while staying grounded and winning fans wherever he goes.

With the southern hemisphere starting to churn out storms on the regular, we caught up with the Basque Country’s favorite swell chaser to find out where we might bump into him this summer.

It’s good to catch up with you again, Aritz. It sounds like you’ve been as busy as ever. How do you stay motivated with all of the travel, events, and swells you chase?
It’s just a matter of maintaining energy and excitement. Back in the day we used to have busier schedules on tour. We only had time for one freesurf trip a year. Nowadays we have more free time between events. I like it this way since I’ve become addicted to traveling around the world looking for new waves.

The Basque country has a pretty interesting surf culture—I've had the chance to spend time with you and a bunch of your friends from that area, and you are obviously a close-knit crew. How did growing up in the Basque influence your surfing and life in general?
I was only three or four years old when I started riding waves, standing on my pink bodyboard in Zarautz. Every summer was so intense. I would only leave the water to eat something really quick and then paddle back out with my mouth full of food. Riding waves was all I wanted.

Zarautz has always been a safe place to grow up freely as a kid. During my childhood, the Zarautz Pro was run by the Pukas family. Every September, all my heroes that I knew from magazines and videos used to hang for a week in my hometown. It was the highlight of the year for me. I got hooked on the idea of becoming one of them so I could travel the world and compete every week in a different destination I got hooked on the idea of becoming one of them so I could travel the world and compete every week in a different destination. During that time, pro surfing in the Basque Country and Spain wasn’t quite a reality yet. Guys like the Acero brothers, followed by Jonathan Gonzalez and Pablo Gutiérrez were reaching new frontiers internationally when I jumped on tour when I was 18.

Spain has sort of jumped into the spotlight over the past 5-10 years, from tour guys like you to globetrotters like Kepa Acero, to big wave guys like Natxo Gonzalez and Axi Munian. Why do you think Spain is seeing such a big surge at the moment?
It was just a matter of time. We have great waves and really talented surfers, but surfing is a younger sport here, compared to other places like Australia, Hawaii, the USA and Brazil. Sharing our knowledge with the next generations will be key for more success.

What I love about the surfers that are in the spotlight right now is that each of our careers involve different ways of having fun while surfing. I’m a big fan of all of them.

There are a lot of people out there who say you are the best regularfoot at Skeleton Bay (in Namibia), and you are obviously comfortable in left reef barrels like Teahupoo as well. Where do you think your comfort and ability in heavy left barrels came from?
Obviously Mundaka is the main reason why I love surfing backside barrels. Even before I surfed for the first time, that wave was a fantasy to me. After everything I heard from the elders about the wave, I couldn´t wait to have the chance to surf it. 

I like playing with lefthand barrels—sometimes grabbing the rail, sometimes without. I find it more playful. But I don’t mind going right if its hollow. When I saw Skeleton breaking for the first time, it felt fake. My brain wasn’t ready to surf something like it. It’s like Mundaka on steroids and 10 times longer. But I guess I got used to it. I still find it to be one of the most difficult waves to surf. Every time I go there I get so pounded.

Aritz is part of the Basque Country contingent, forever humble, welcoming, with smiles etched permanently across sun-kissed faces.

I keep bumping into you on freesurf trips, but it seems like you do select QS events as well. Is requalification for the world tour something you are interested in, or are you just doing QS events at venues that you enjoy surfing?
I’m definitely interested in getting back on tour—that is the reason I do the QS. I like proving myself thru contests, as I love competing. But I wish we had better waves on the QS, or at least the common interest to work on that direction. I definitely get more motivated going to events with proper waves.

You have a pretty good gig going, basically getting to chase barrels around the world. Do you plan to keep chasing full time?
I love the adrenaline of chasing swells on last-minute calls. For me, that is the best way to travel. You can’t plan everything before you leave. So you need to find your way to reach waves while meeting people from different cultures. If I score, I am the happiest guy on earth. And if don’t, I’m still making great memories and learning a lot. It makes me more open-minded about the world.

I’m so fortunate to have Almudena, my sponsors, my family, my friends, and my supporters who have helped me to live this life and have this career. I’m thankful to everyone who pushes me to keep doing what I love the most.