The Swatch Eye

Destination Antarctica

Xavier De Le Rue Occupation: Explo — Rider

15 November 2013
Last winter, the French snowboarding ace sailed to the Antarctic with US rider Lucas Debari. They set off in their steel-hulled sailing boat, the Golden Fleece, to conquer some of the last continent’s most remote spots. The aim of this icy adventure was to ride extreme slopes, take some stunning pictures and shoot a film called „Mission Antarctic“*. This expedition was a project of The North Face in partnership with Swatch, and was one of the high points of his career. Xavier answered The Swatch Eye‘s questions before training for his ultimate challenge as a competitor : the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
PO The Antarctic wasn’t, strictly speaking, a new experience for you, was it ? You’d already been there in 2009, with the American snowboarder Jeremy Jones…


XDLR  During that trip, we’d travelled on a big cruise ship to film on the Antarctic Peninsula in the north-west of the continent. That was four years ago now. Everything blew me away : the incredible scenery, the smooth ocean, all in shades of colours, interspersed with gigantic icebergs, huge walls of ice rising more than fifty metres out of the water. I’d never seen anything like it… I’d actually just come back from Greenland, a trip that had already left a strong impression on me, but the Antarctic took it up another notch.

Photography Tero Repo

After that, all I could think about was going back, but on a much smaller boat, about twenty metres long. And this last trip confirmed my first impressions, raising the bar even higher.


PO Who were your travel companions ?


XDLR There were ten of us on board. We were lucky to have an exceptional captain, Jerome Poncet, who was the first person to explore this continent on a small boat. He knows Antarctica like the back of his hand, has sailed there over a hundred times and has been exploring its waters for thirty years.


And his partner made us delicious reindeer meals, which the couple hunt themselves! The filming team was the same as for my first trip, with Christophe Blanc-Gras as pilot, which enabled Tero Repo, my photographer, to get some amazing aerial shots. The climber Tony Lamiche was with us as well, as our guide and to provide support with the images. And my snowboarding companion was Lucas Debari, who I’ve been to Alaska and Japan with too.


PO It sounds like it was quite an adventure just to get there ! Can you tell us a bit more about it ?



XDLR From France, we first flew to Santiago, Chile. Two days later, we took another flight to the Falklands, where we boarded the boat. I’d already been very seasick on the first trip, but this time I thought I was going to die, as did my fellow travellers… We hit a storm that lasted five days and had us flipping around like pancakes ! The boat was only travelling at two miles an hour because of the sixty mile-an-hour headwind. I literally couldn’t move. To give you an idea, I couldn’t even get my iPod, although all I had to do was stretch out my arm to take it out of the drawer ! It was a nightmare ! Thankfully, the boat is designed to withstand very rough seas, because we had ten-metre-deep troughs…

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