The Swatch Eye

Destination Antarctica

Xavier De Le Rue Occupation: Explo — Rider

11/15/13
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PO What was your first riding destination?

 

XDLR Half Moon Bay, on the north of the peninsula. Lucas, I and the other members of the expedition took turns going up on deck with the binoculars to look for very technical, steep slopes with some unique features, aesthetically speaking.During the whole trip, we covered 400 kilometres of coast, which isn’t a huge amount given the vast size of Antarctica, but when we finally set foot on land, it was a real treat. The snow in Antarctica is maritime snow, so it’s dense but not difficult to ride. It feels amazing and is never too hard ; it carries you beautifully. It’s a snowboarder’s dream. We soon forgot about the five days of storms !

 

PO Did you feel more like a pioneer than a snowboarder during 2013’s Mission Antarctic?

 

XDLR Yes. Setting off each day for new challenges and settings, carving up virgin slopes that no one had ever ridden before us… It was somewhere between exploration and snowboarding. And we achieved some real firsts. Like the massive slope we christened “The Captain” : a 500-metre run at 70 %. It was awesome ! The Antarctic is a white desert where nobody lives, apart from the guys on the scientific bases, the penguins, the whales and the seals. Never before had I felt so at one with nature. I learnt a great deal from Jerome Poncet, our captain, who’s a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to fauna and flora. At the end of our expedition, when the snow wasn’t so good, we tracked some whales. One of them even accompanied us for a while… 

 

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PO Why was a paraglider chosen for the aerial views ?

 

XDLR It was in keeping with the philosophy of  the trip. Taking our time, capturing some wonderful  images that capture the beauty, serenity  and majesty of the site. A helicopter would have  been completely out of place. It was a different  approach to Alaska, where you go to ride long  steep slopes in beautiful powder snow. And then  there’s the magic of each run that ends in the  sea. In the film, there’s an exceptional shot of  us riding a 700-metre-wide iceberg. Shooting  from a paraglider is a first in snowboard filming.  

 

PO Can you describe a typical day on board the Golden Fleece ?

 

XDLR Each morning, we’d get up at around nine o’clock and spend much of the morning discussing our destination for the day, before heading to the chosen place. After lunch, at about one in the afternoon, we’d set off in a dinghy. In the dinghy, you feel even smaller, with ice towering all around you. Those fifty- to a hundred-metrehigh walls of ice make the spots very difficult to access. They’re so steep and the snow is so compacted that the only way to climb them is roped up, with crampons and ice axes. And it was the same coming down, when we’d have to abseil back into the dinghy.

 

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As the temperature is mild (no colder than –10°) and there’s twenty- two hours of daylight, with just two hours of dusk, Lucas, the team and I did some really long days — sometimes up to twenty-three hours. The light is most beautiful and the snow is at its best between eight and eleven in the evening. In Antarctica, nothing is ever monotonous ; everything changes as the light shifts throughout the day.

 

PO How would you sum up your polar regime?

 

XDLR It would go something like this : a thousand metres of altitude difference a day, five hours of climbing on icy terrain, avoiding the crevices, another five hours of riding extreme slopes at 55, 60 or even 70 % ! Really exhausting days, but the downtime was brilliant. We organised some great little barbecues on the boat, where we cooked grey-fleshed fish caught by our own fair hands!

 

PO How did you go about organising this trip ?

 

XDLR It took me a year to set it up with my various sponsors. Swatch, which has been my loyal partner for thirteen years, supported me in two key ways : not only did they finance 20 % of the trip, but they also generated a lot of exposure for the project, thanks to their influence on the social networks. On board the Golden Fleece, we had a satellite modem which enabled us to post photos and texts on Facebook and our blogs every day. Swatch boosted the exposure of all that perfectly.

 

PO Swatch has been sponsoring you since 2000, which makes you the longest-standing member of the team. What sort of relationship do you have with the team ?

 

XDLR It’s more than just a sportsman/brand relationship. We’re close. There’s a synergy between everyone in the Swatch Proteam, a shared momentum, and when we discuss projects, we don’t feel a clash between our aspirations and Swatch’s wishes. Also, last year, there was no pro model for snowboarding. Swatch responded very quickly, we worked on it together and I got my watch : the High Wonder ! Coming back to the Antarctica trip, there was no way Swatch could not be part of this adventure. For me, it was the perfect trip, no two ways about it ; the kind of experience every pro rider dreams of having at least once in their lifetime. But it did take at least ten of us to discover that magical place… •

 

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