Elisa Routa : meeting with an inveterate dreamer
Time for a afternoon, we talked with Elisa Routa. It’s in Anglet, in the south west of France, that lives this journalist keen about writing. At 18, she discovers surfing for the first time in Hendaye, and her attraction for this sport led her to write for several surfing magazines like Désillusion, Surf Session or Huck Magazine. She has a delightful writing, which we like to discover through her poems and stories. Passionate about argentic photography, she captures moments of her life in order to illustrate her texts and give them meaning. According to her, photography is primarily “a way to illustrate the words coming out of her head” more than the pleasure of taking pictures. Inveterate dreamer, she tells us about her travels, her mindset and her future projects. Little bonus, Elisa shows us some pictures of her road trip to the United States last december…
Hi Elisa! Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?
I’m 30 and I can’t accept it although people say I look like a twenty year old so that suits me. I have been a freelance journalist since 2008 and I live in Anglet. I also do argentic photo. I work for several surfing magazines. For about two years now, I have been trying to open myself up to other things such as travel and music. Before all that, I studied in Toulouse, I did an English degree. Then I went to England, I studied at Reading University. I did an Arts and Humanity degree, so I guess I was all peace and love with flowers in my hair. Then I went to London to study at the school of journalism. Then I returned and I needed sun because my skin was Lily white, so I went to Andalusia, in Spain to soak up some sun. I was an au paire. I then returned to France where I began working for Radio France. I worked in radio for about a year and a half at Mont de Marsan in the Landes, a well known French department up until the day I had to make a choice: become a national reporter for Radio France or dedicate my time to writing. I decided to become independent. I moved to Biarritz to be closer to the sea and the things that I write about.
How did you first discover surfing?
I discovered surfing at Hendaye. At the time, I was a seasonal worker for Tribord, I used to live on my mum’s sailing boat that was docked at Port de Plaisance next to my Grandfather’s boat. My Grandfather was the best sailor the world has ever known. I come from a family of sailors where the sea plays an important part. At that time, we had three boats on the same pontoon, like a kind of mafia family with buoys disguised as guns. I was a sales person for diving and surfing equipment. It was great. I discovered surfing through the sea. I was 18. Quite late for someone who comes from the Landes. Before I used to play football. I played it for almost 10 years! I’m still a footballer at heat. (laughs)
You did several exhibitions in France, Germany, Spain … The latest was at Surfcity Festival in Barcelona in March. Could you talk a little bit about this exhibition?
In fact, before launching the festival, they made three editions of Surfcity Exhibition. The first was held in Barcelona, the second in Bilbao and the third in Palma de Mallorca. And for the festival, they set up everything in an old Gothic cathedral, it was quite impressive. They invited me to work as a photographer for the event. There was a great atmosphere and great humility. It was pretty unique. In Barcelona, surfing is not really the national sport … There is more Leo Messi jerseys than neoprene swimwear. But there is still a surf culture and guys who surf like Marc Conca, the event’s organizer. Kai Neville and Brendon Gibbens were the two starlets of the festival. There was the screening of their latest film “Cluster”, which is a real gem. I’m pretty critical of surf films, but it was really good. It was a lot of work. For the anecdote, one Sunday morning I got up and made myself a cup of coffee in the flat where we were staying and I saw a man leave the bathroom with a towel around his waist, bare tanned chest and his hair brushed back. He came over to me and said to me “Hey, I’m Kai by the way”. And it was Kai Neville.
I heard that you do a lot of argentic photography. Why?
I’ve never really asked myself the question, that’s all I’ve ever done. The first memory I have is when I was in London, I had my little disposable camera and started taking pictures to take them back to my mother and my brother. To tell them what I was up to. I have the memory of a goldfish, I don’t remember anything. It was easier for me to take pictures of things than to write down on a note pad every time I did something cool. The silver photos started from there. Today it is a way for me to illustrate the words coming out of my head, that’s the pleasure of taking pictures.
Recently you took a road trip to the United States. Could you tell us about what you experienced?
Four years ago I did a solo trip with my backpack and shoes screwed to my ankles. I coachsurfed around Eastern Canada (Quebec and Ontario). I went there two years ago. It was my first real “road trip” with my pals in the US. I left Chicago and went to Los Angeles with two friends of mine. Basically, we only had rollerblades and the idea was to follow Route 66 another way than with bikes which is the best known way to do this route. We rented a car but we did more than 4000 miles with it, not knowing where to sleep at night. The history of Route 66 is crazy. Over time, we realize that it is really one big family. The guy set up in his native Missouri will know the other guy who lives in Arizona two miles from him just because their houses border Route 66. It was a very unique feeling. And last year, it went to the West Coast. We went from Seattle to Los Angeles via Portland and San Francisco along Highway 1. It was a long trip, 5,000 miles, both scary and surprising and wonderful.
Why did you choose this destination?
We discovered a passion for Oregon thanks to Instagram. We were constantly using hashtags #pacificnorthwest #traveloregon. It really is a region where you can live a life without getting bored of the landscape. There’s everything: the desert, lakes, the ocean, arid areas and green forests. It’s pretty amazing. We found ourselves in fairly remote places like Desert Alvord. A desert where there is absolutely nothing around for at least three hours. We found ourselves trapped in the car late in the day without a service station or telephone network. We had nothing in case of an emergency and we were in the middle of an antelope reserve. All the fears I had so far were nothing compared to that moment. However, that’s what we were looking for in this trip, the unknown which can be sometimes risky.
For the opening of your shop Kulte in Bordeaux, you sang with your brother. Do you often do concerts with a family member or was that just a one off?
With my brother, we are very close. We have a lot in common especially music. We sort of share the same brain and the same emotions. We started singing by chance and our friends loved our voices. The fact that we were singing together .. they thought our voices went well together. I usually scribble words and he attempts to do something on the guitar and that’s how it happened. It’s pretty funny because people sometimes ask us if we play in public, but we are literally paralyzed by fear and shyness so we intend to keep between us I think! In Bordeaux, it was the second time we sang in public. It was nice but also scary!
That makes a lot of projects that you’ve done together. From T-shirts to the Planchettes exhibition. What made you want to work with OLOW?
It is a brand that I immediately liked, with two guys passionate about what they do. You do things with no frills, just for passion. A few years ago Olow already had that artistic side, but not the brand image it has today. OLOW had something special. I thought it was a brand that stood out compared to the others. They had a true identity and a genuine and sincere interest in art and the work of artists.
Some time ago you took part in the Planchettes exhibition, is there a board that you remember in particular?
There was “Tout est bon dans l’cochon” which made me laugh! The one Marynn made was pretty good too, I like what she does.
Do you have plans for the upcoming months?
Yes, a lot is going on right now! I’m at a crossroads in my life, so it’s pretty exciting. I was contacted some time ago to work as a community reporter for a big company. It’ll be a total change of life, but I cannot wait to start. I also recently joined the team of Panthalassan for which I work as an editor. This is a tour production company based around the ocean so I’m pleased! I do some research on all aspects of the ocean something that has been a big part of my life, I could not ask for more. It’s a nod to my grandfather who passed away a month ago.
If ever we were to spend a few days in the Basque country which locations would you advise us to visit?
Go surfing! You could knick a board of a friend, and then go surfing in Hendaye, away from the crowds. When you come out of the water head to Biarritz, to the small fishing port and you will eat fresh fish at La Crampotte. After that, move onto Guéthary and go drink Sangria at the Hétéroclito, probably one of the coolest places on the coast. To finish off your crazy night, I advise you to go and drink at Xapatan where you’ll end up bilingual before 4 in the morning.
If you were to go for a trip somewhere with OLOW, where would it be?
Maybe a Northern country. I’ve got Island in my head.
Thank you to Elisa.
Photo credit : Elisa Routa
– L.K –