Less known and represented in France than it can be elsewhere on the planet, the sports rescue is indeed practiced along the French coasts. Julen Marticorena is part of the elite of this sport, which he has practiced since the age of six on the beaches of Pays Basque. His practice in competition has allowed him to travel to measure himself against athletes who also practice this sport at a high level. Currently between New Zealand and theAustralia, Julen granted us an interview, during which he talks about his beginnings in this sport, the values he conveys, his prize list, his objectives in competition and his attachment to the beaches of Biarritzwhere he learned everything. Champion of FranceofEurope and worldTHE French has distinguished himself many times in his sport. He also practices surfing, bodysurfing, longboarding, kneeboarding.
Arthur Picardhis best friend, followed Julen during his 2020-2021 season, during his training and competitions in which he participated. Which gave “itzala” THE first French documentary brilliantly highlight the sports rescue seen from the inside, as close as possible to what it is, while emphasizing the human and environmental values that irrigate this discipline which, ultimately, is much more than that. Beyond its sporting aspect, rescue is a way of life, of thinking and approaching the world, in perpetual connection with the ocean.
Surf Report – When and how did you start rescue?
Julen Marticorena – “I started lifesaving sport at the age of six for different reasons. I first discovered surfing thanks to my sister who was doing a summer internship and I wanted to follow her. However, the ocean remains a dangerous element, even when we know it well. My parents absolutely wanted me to familiarize myself with the aquatic world, to learn to identify the different dangers and to stay safe. So, through my lifeguard cousins on the beaches of Biarritz, they heard about this sports rescue group and they registered me and my sister.
Surf Report – Why do you like this sport?
Julen Marticorena – I like this sport for its diversity, we evolve in all conditions and with different supports. As for the values conveyed by sports rescue, there are human values, team spirit, respect for everyone, mutual aid and sharing. But there are also those relating to the ocean and its benefits, the fact of respecting all those who practice it and the protection of the environment.
Surf Report – Sport rescue has many disciplines, what are your specialties?
Julen Marticorena – My specialties in sports rescue are paddleboarding and oceanman, which are the two main events of this sport.
Surf Report – When did you start competing and what is your relationship with it?
Julen Marticorena – I started the competition very young, at seven years old it seems to me. I’ve always had a competitive spirit, already at home with my sister. And when I arrived in the lifesaving world, I immediately fell in love with this sport and with the competition, which allows me to evolve, to learn, to challenge myself with the greatest. I think competition has always been part of me, I want to be the best.
© Arthur Picard
Surf Report – Can you tell us about your record?
Julen Marticorena – In a few words, my record comes down to an individual world champion title in 2019 on the 5km, two long-distance world champion titles in the relay in 2019 and in 2022, two long-distance world vice-champion titles on the 18km and the 5 km in 2022. As far as sports rescue is concerned, I have won multiple titles and medals in the French championships in paddleboard and relay, several European champion titles in paddleboard and relay as well and a third place at the 2016 Junior Interclub World Championships, in paddleboard.
Surf Report – It’s a very complete sport, which requires a lot of training in different disciplines, how do you organize your daily life?
Julen Marticorena – Indeed, it is a very complete sport, which requires knowing how to swim, run, row on a board, on a kayak, regardless of the conditions and on an unstable and tiring surface that is sand. It actually takes a lot of time and therefore a very busy schedule. Generally, the days start early, around 6 a.m. and can end late, around 10 p.m. And that six days a week, which leaves little time for other activities. Some see it as a sacrifice of my best years, but personally I don’t see it that way. I do what I love and I’m motivated to do it. That’s what drives me and I’m lucky to have friends who are like me.
Surf Report – How was the Itzala project born? Is it important for you to make this sport more visible?
Julen Marticorena – The Itzala project was born in Portugal, during a surf trip with Arthur Picard, my best friend and faithful sidekick, whom I have known since my surfing debut. Arthur had the idea of making a video in the style of surf clips but with the subject of lifesaving to promote our sport and also to answer a question that many were asking: what are these young people doing, dressed in a speedo jersey and an undersized lycra on the beach at 7 a.m., when it’s raining and the ocean is raging? But after hundreds of hours of video footage, the project has grown and our ideas and our ambitions with it.
Surf Report – How did the filming go?
Julen Marticorena – For my part it was very pleasant, in addition to having the simplest role which is that of being filmed, Arthur knows me very well and he knew how to be present in difficult moments and very discreet in the phases where it was necessary let me be focused. The video shooting allowed me to have image feedback which also allowed me to analyze myself and progress.
Arthur Picard behind the camera
© Robin Aussenac
Surf Report – Lifesaving, beyond its sporting aspect, is driven by human values, which are the most important to you?
Julen Marticorena – I would say sharing or transmission, rescue is a passion that we have been passed on and that we are trying to pass on in turn. Team spirit and mutual aid are at the center of it all.
Surf Report – Can you tell us about your news? Where are you right now and what are your short and long term goals?
Julen Marticorena – I have just completed a six month stay in New Zealand, which took me to two seasons in a row. I recently went through a little bad patch, so I decided to go and recharge my batteries in Tahiti, to see part of my family, while waiting for my visa for Australia, in order to prepare for the next season there. In the short term, my first goal is to arrive in Australia and settle there. I encountered a few problems with my visa, but once there I intend to resume training thoroughly to prepare for the start of the season which begins in September, with the Coolangatta Gold. This race, renowned in Australia and internationally, is a long-distance oceanman of approximately 40 km: 20 km of kayaking, 10 km of paddleboarding, 3 km of swimming, 8 km of running on sand. And in the long term, I would like to get closer to the highest level of lifesaving sport in Australia. As for the long distance, I would like to recover my title and discover new races like the Carolina Classic or the Molokai.
© Arthur Picard
Surf Report – Can you tell us about your link with Biarritz, the Port Vieux beach and the rescue community that evolves there? How is the environment suitable for rescue?
Julen Marticorena – Le Port Vieux is an emblematic beach of Biarritz, located in the city center in the heart of a magnificent landscape and where a very diverse local community evolves, especially in summer when everyone mixes. Tourists, lifeguards, locals, polar bear club and lifesaving school. It’s a beach that lives, summer and winter, with locals who go there all year round. Le Port Vieux is surely the most accessible and quietest beach on the coast, but it can also be one of the most dangerous, which brings us back to this image of man’s helplessness in the face of the ocean. But it’s still a beach that allows you to learn to tame the ocean, analyze it and play with it. It’s the perfect place for a lifesaving school.”
© Arthur Picard