Coming past the one year anniversary of Tender, a movie about bodyboarding icon Pierre Louis Costes, the film's star has begun to wonder about the movie's legacy.
The 30-year-old Frenchman has twice raised the world championship trophy above his head. His innovative technique, ferocious attack and superb style have made the initials 'PLC' a household name in the bodyboarding world.
Initially, Moroccan legend Adnane Benslimane, Pipeline God Mike Stewart and Australian icon Ryan Hardy influenced Pierre. When he moved to Hossegor and La Graviere became his local Pierre was also influenced by the technical stand up surfing and the booming surf industry exploding all around him. A top French bodyboarder brought Pierre to Rip Curl – a surf company – who gave Pierre his first professional contact. This gave the young rider the opportunity to dedicate himself to achieving as much as his pro surfing counterparts, if not more.
A huge ARS in his first ever Pipeline contest at age sixteen sealed the deal. A star of the boog was born. Pierre entered the world of high performance bodyboarding. Over time, he rose to the top of the sport that had so influenced him as a young man and began to dominate and then redefine that sport.
Amaury Laverhne became the first Frenchman to win a professional surfing world title closely followed by PLC himself. With this pair of achievements, PLC and Moz entered the pantheon of bone fide French surf legends. Euro surf legends always had to work a bit harder than their opposites numbers in America or Australia.
Did Tender influence Pierre's non-boog peers? We asked some of our favourite surf brethren to find out. Fellow Frenchman and two time Pipeline Master Jeremy Flores empathic answer was yes.
“I have a lot of respect for PLC. Tender is probably the best bodyboarding movie ever. Crazy barrels and crazy airs. Lots of training - you can tell how fit [you need to be] when surfing these crazy slabs. Really good to watch!”
Tender is a natural follow up to Amaury's masterwork: Life is Bodyboarding. Pierre had achieved the top contest results, he had won all the peer polls. The next challenge was to tell his life story and inspire and influence all kinds of people: people in the surf world, people in the action sport field and the general public.
Tender is the greatest movie about bodyboarding to come out since Fire. It continues a long line of bodyboarding features that have sated global boog froth levels: Fire, The Viking, Holding On, Drag RIP, Passing Through, Hiding from Comfort, The Joker, No Friends, The Inside and the Tension series.
All types of wave riding and waveriders have influenced Pierre's life and career. As his riding evolved Pierre wanted to influence all kinds of surfers not just bodyboarders. Australian freerider, aerial specialist and boog aficionado, Craig Anderson thought Tender was a mental film.
Unbelievable wave riding skills and inspiring to see the size of sections him and the rest of the guys are hitting
“I love the tunes, titles and locations. I usually watched boog videos for the waves and cinematic aspects of the films to try translate and incorporate into my surfing. I feel like they have always been ahead of the curve. I met Pierre in Portugal a few years back. We hung out and had a few surfs. He is such a humble and great person and really amazing to see what he can do on a bodyboard in this film. Unbelievable wave riding skills and inspiring to see the size of sections him and the rest of the guys are hitting. I really back booging and the crew that are involved and chase the waves. Stoked to see the film in all it glory.”
PLC achieved a level of professionalism from an early age. The Frenchman grew up in the golden era of the sport but it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. Pierre entered the pro contest scene while all the big dawgs were still in the game and the next generation was knocking on the door. Yet, Pierre won and won for all to see. When he was first crowned world champion, Pierre became a vital boog ambassador. PLC was a new breed of the wealthy, successful professional who was also a family man. Not exactly No Friends but who cares.
Pierre is the model millennial bodyboarder. Another of PLC's fans, Bethany Hamilton, agrees:
“My brother is a bodyboarder and filmmaker, so I’ve always followed the sport and enjoy getting on a boogie from time to time. Naturally, I knew who Pierre was (and have surfed with him), but this movie was really cool to see him progress from a grom to a world champion and family man. Many of his contemporaries in the style icon brigade chose to market themselves as playboys with bottomless luck and talent, party boys down for whatever. Pierre himself choose to project the all round family man image which has worked well and has influenced a generation. The cinematography and the waves and locations got me excited to surf. His airs and hard landings were insane! I kept thinking there would be a hospitalisation documented. Pierre and friends put on a great show with some next-level wave riding!”
Curiously, Pierre has avoid being completely boxed in or labeled. He is well known as a competitive freak to rival Tamega but he is just as well known for being the ultimate freesurfer like Chris James. Pierre's biggest goal in bodyboarding has been to be the best he can be at everything.
Pierre did not feel that the production of Tender was just his job but his responsibility.
Pierre meditated on the fact that bodyboarding has connected so many people around the world, male and female. I myself was lucky to attend one of the legendary Tender movie premiers in a cinema in Galdar, Gran Canaria. The premier was a huge success and Amaury gave a speech about his best friend. The bodyboard community across several islands came together for a special night of bodyboarding celebration. Predictably, all the excitement escalated into to a big night out for the bright lights of Canarian bodyboarding.
Pierre felt web page hits and online views were irrelevant and put the emphasis on the real world premieres rather than internet statistics... just like the old days. It was the first time that a bodyboard movie had achieved a global launch. More than 4000 people turned up to Tender movie premieres world wide including many legends like Paul Roach in California and Eppo and Wingnut in Australia. Tender was premiered in Oz, France, Canaries, Portugal, Tahiti, California, Morocco, Chile, Cape Verde, Italy, England and South Africa.
Pierre feels bodyboarding is going throughout a bit of an identity crisis right now. Bodyboarding can't stay underground because it has achieved so many international break throughs. And it can't break into the mainstream because bodyboarding to the corporate world is an uncool prospect.
Pierre followed the world tour, he twice held the trophy above his head, he even got the trophy wife. But at the end he felt, 'there has to be something more than this'. Ben Player exited the world tour stage left, totally changing direction, as Pierre watched in the wings. Ben decided to escape the crowds and produced the groundbreaking Far North. Soon after he resurrected Movement Magazine. Pierre believes bodyboarding owes a lot to guys like Ben and Mickey (our cold water Tom Boyle). Pierre was happy with his world titles but he too wanted to put something else into the sport. It was a project he had wanted to realise his whole life. A signature movie that would open people's eyes to the sport of bodyboarding like the HardLyfe had opened his.
In the end, Pierre felt it was his story that separated him from the others. How successful was Tender? The best classic performance documentary from an anti-mainstream sport in the last 20 years? Seems like a fair conclusion.
When he and his wife moved to Portugal, Pierre hung around with Nic Von Rupp and Tom Lowe, two surfers who grew up and were influenced by slab-obsessed bodyboarders. These bodyboarding influences helped them to find their calling in waves of consequence. Nic and Tom went on to blaze a burning trail in professional big wave surfing in Europe. Boog lover Nic Von Rupp has watched Pierre and his friends push the limits in the last few years.
“In slab surfing, [bodyboarding] has always been a big inspiration for me. I grew up with a lot of bodyboarders and started chasing slabs with them.
Pierre is the next level of that. He is bodyboarding at its finest. He’s obviously a nut-case, he charges as hard as anyone. He charges as much as it is physically possible to charge for a human and he is extremely skilled.
The things I have seen him do over the years, sharing sessions with him here in Portugal, have just been mind-blowing. Obviously lying down, getting the sickest drops and pulling into the sickest barrels, but also the way he drop-knees. I saw him getting some backside barrels at this ten foot slab. His style was so on point, how he was ass dragging through the wall of a barrel. He looked like Andy Irons or something. He’s just like one of the best you know – one of the best chargers. Really good dude as well – really humble. I like people like that, you know.
People that are just really good at what they do but are able to keep a humble face on it and Pierre is definitely an example of that.
Gustavo (Portuguese film director Gustavo Carvalho) is a fucking legend as well. He is a really humble guy and amazingly talented. He has vision and makes some of the best surf movies around. He was the director of my Railroad Series and we have travelled all over the world together. He is a bodyboarder himself so to see him come back to his roots and make a bodyboard movie – one of the best that have ever been done - is a pleasure to see because deep down he wants to give back to his sport. A sport that has given him so much and that is his payback I guess – so I’m really happy this synergy between Pierre and Gustavo coming together to make this amazing bodyboard movie called Tender.”
Now bodyboard companies are sponsoring surfers and trying to keep a straight face. Guys like Harry Bryant and Creed McTaggart from Margaret River who had this to say about Tender:
“It is so good that bodyboarding movies are coming back! I always used to watch them before I went surfing... they hit way bigger sections and bigger slabs than dudes riding surfboards. It is exciting and gets you jacked up! I haven’t surfed with Pierre before but it’s amazing watching that film and seeing some of the crazy stuff he has done in the water. The guy is an animal!”
Today evolution is happening in every bodyboarding stratum. Beginners boards for example. Now we have campaigns to ban poor, unsafe and environmentally unsound mass produced cheappo boogs that only end up littering beaches worldwide. It is often overlooked that bodyboarders and boogieboarders worldwide out number people riding surfboards two to one. There are a new generation of groms. Die hard boogers are softening in their old age and learning to ride stand up softboards and surfboards, many surfers and getting into crossovers and riding softboards, stand up boogie or trying some prone bodyboarding for some new kicks. European surfing too has entered a renaissance – a golden age – where Portugal and Ireland have taken centre stage in world big wave surfing. Pierre was there at the beginning of the Irish surfing revolution.
“It was very special for me to come back to Riley's ten years after, very very special to be honest.” says Pierre, “I felt a bit of emotion walking there again, sharing waves with the locals. Rileys and Ireland in general has a big place in my heart.
Rileys is the best six foot slab in the world, I am sure of that. But it is a dangerous wave. You and Dan have had serious injuries out there. I was scared out there, it was really shallow and heavy too. I have a lot of respect for the wave.”
For the end of his film, PLC had his sights set on new horizons: Mullaghmore. Having seen images of me, Ben Player, Shane Meehan and Tom Gillespie tackling the beast, Pierre knew he had to get amongst it. The challenge was could he get over, get pitted and get it on film so he could have the perfect ending for his tender fairytale.
Pierre calls Mullaghmore a terrifying wave. One of the world's most dangerous waves in one of the coldest surf climates. He arrived to Ireland in Autumn 2018 to ride a giant Mullaghmore swell. He had no ski nor a fancy inflatable vest for his first surf but he caught the best wave of his life that session.
Mully is rolling the dice, you don't know if you are going to get Chopes, Shipsterns or Waimea shorey.
At first Pierre felt uncomfortable out there as he was the only rider in the water without floatation or an impact vest. He caught a wave and lost a fin and had to come in. He took off his thick wetsuit and put on a 4/3 despite the freezing conditions. He bravely opted to take off his gloves and socks to feel more connected to the board and the wave.
“After a few good waves and gaining more confidence, I paddled into what I consider the best wave of my life for many reasons...” explains Pierre, “I think it is the best wave I've ever ridden because of the size of the wave and the line I made. It was so difficult having so much water moving around. It is like a big lump of ocean landing on you. It is one of the best feelings in the world completing a ride on a big heavy wave and it makes it even sweeter when you paddle using only the force of your body.”
I asked Irish pro Gearoid McDaid to give readers an insight to the reality behind trying to catch a wave at Mullaghmore on either a surfboard or a bodyboard.
“I met PLC for the first time when he came here for the swell you see him at Mully in the movie Tender. I was out that day at Mully with him and had watched some of his clips beforehand. His style and speed on a boog are next level. His commitment to sections is mental scary shit, watching him go for it, haha.
So, I had always heard of him as being friends with mostly boogers from home [in Sligo] I always watched bodyboarding. I always love watching and going surfing with boogers. They helped push me into some waves that I wouldn't usually surf.
I think Ireland probably has the best relationships between boogs and stand ups. Most of my friends are boogs and I go surf with them every day. A lot of places hate boogs but here we all have great respect for each other. We get along and love surfing together. Plus, some of the waves we have here, it is nice to watch the boogs paddle waves that we can only tow. It is pretty skitz, ha ha.
I've never tried surfing Mully on a boog but, fuck, I'd say it is hard. It is hard on a stand up to manage the speed so I couldn't imagine a boog not being able to pump along the wave and stuff. PLC was taking pretty mad the lines out there and made waves that were so skitz. He also boosted some big ol' boosts out the end section which was sick to see.”
The mission to Ireland made PLC fall in love with Ireland again.
Like Amaury Laverhne, PLC has become not just an ambassador of aloha and bodyboarding but a guardian of the sport
“It's what bodyboarding is all about and why it will exist forever. Crazy people chasing big slabs around the world. Not for the fame or for the money. Just because we love it.”
Just for a tender piece of foam.
The crossover between surfing and bodyboarding or bodyboarding and surfing happens when people surf for the right reasons: personal development. People like Nic Von Rupp, Craig Anderson, Jeremy Flores, Bethany Hamilton or Creed McTaggart. They want to have a blast and enrich their lifestyle by using as many waveriding craft as possible. The Tender project pays tribute to all the passionate people who have contributed to the richness and history of bodyboarding as its own individual surfing discipline. With his global premieres, PLC wanted to give back to the worldwide bodyboarding community and express his sincere gratitude to people who support bodyboarding.
Like Amaury Laverhne, PLC has become not just an ambassador of aloha and bodyboarding but a guardian of the sport. A keeper of the flame.
Reading the book that accompanied the film, it seems the genesis of Tender was the cult bodyboard video 50/50. A copy of this VHS also managed to find its way to my beach in northwest Ireland to do the rounds among the local bodyboard population. Life being what it is, it could have went either way for PLC – 50/50. If he had never seen Adnane Benslimane surfing things could have been different. If Pierre had not watched the VHS sensation 50/50 back in Morocco in the early days things could have been different. If he hadn't moved to France thing might have been different. If he signed to Billabong instead of Rip Curl things could have been different.
“My vision for bodyboarding changed when I watched this tape.”
“Movies have this incredible power to inspire people, to create a real impact on someone's life, to tell a story and to activate our brains to work. It is precisely these effects bodyboarding movies had on me. No Friends, Tension, Hardlyfe, The Inside... so many movies played such massive roles across different generation of the sport.
All the riders and filmers working together on capturing unique moments, transmitting messages, building profiles and creating legendary sections. Those films are the reason bodyboarding is still alive today.”
Pierre identified with these creative collaborators. They were all passionate people whose projects were not about glory or money. There were all about a mutual love for bodyboarding. It is for these reasons and more that Tender has had such a successful year. But another measure of success is this. If No Friends, Tension, Hardlyfe or The Inside have kept bodyboarding alive until now then Tender will keep the sport full steam ahead on the present heading for the next 25 years.