Meet Eric Perrier
2018 Open Men’s Adaptive World Waveski Champion
Following on from our first interview with Oceane Lucas let’s turn our attention to the 2018 Open Men’s Adaptive World Waveski champion, Eric Perrier.
Challenges, stress, anxiety, elation, dedication and commitment are but a small illustration of what it takes someone who suffered a life changing injury in the prime of their life to do what they have done.
Rather than trying to do justice to who Eric is and what makes him tick in my words, we’ve decided to conduct this interview with questions and answers. So let’s get the tape rolling…
Okay Eric, tell us a bit about yourself?
I am 51 years old. I grew up as a kid in North Africa, travelling with my parents whose work took us through the deserts. It was during this time I developed a passion for wild, free spaces.
We moved back to France when I was in my late teens and lived in the Alps where I discovered the mountains with two more passions: kayak and snowboard.
I was one of the first French snowboarders, forging moves to start competing. I spent many hours designing and developing snowboards and related equipment in my parents’ garage.
Unfortunately my excitement with snow boarding came to a standstill for a few years when I started to work as a drilling engineer in far away places such as Yemen, Angola and the North Sea.
What caused your injury?
During the 2002 Christmas holidays, I re-started snowboarding whereupon I suffered a catastrophic accident. This resulted in a ‘crunched’ vertebra, leading to a temporary total paralysis of my legs. Over the course of the following 3 years I had further surgeries to stabilize my spine and fundamentally had to learn to walk again and undertake all those activities of daily living that I had always taken for granted.
I have been left with partial paralysis in my legs which impacts on my ability to walk. There were many times where I felt quite lost but through determination and the incredible support of my wife and family I have been able to enjoy the richness of life. Not a day goes by that I don’t reflect on the goodness and strength of the people who believe in me.
How did your waveski journey begin?
Mathieu Babarit, Eric Perrier and another friend
I had a chance encounter with Vincent Thepaut from KS Waveskis. Vincent designed a waveski that could accommodate my weak legs but still propel me through the waves.
I was then introduced to Matt Babarit from Solamanzi who designed a waveski that was even better suited to my level of ability. It is a slight hybrid from what Jeff Munson rides. I guess I’m a bit of a test pilot for the development of craft that achieve performance and adaptation for my level of ablement.
What was preparation like for the 2018 World Waveski Titles?
For approximately 12 months out from the event, I started to take my training seriously and ramped it up a few notches.
I would fly from my home in Johannesberg (Joburg) to Durban once a month to train in the surf and physically prepare for the event. This was combined with paddling and sprints on the lake for an hour twice a week with other kayakers.
Once a week I trained with a coach for my back and shoulder muscles and once a week gym work for cardio and general condition. All topped off with living at Joburg’s high altitude environment plus the all important sense of belief and ‘I can do this’ attitude!
Phew, this is no mean feat and certainly shows your dedication and commitment. With regards to the competition itself in Pantin, what went through your mind on the morning of the final for your event?
Bruce Viaene and Eric
The morning of the finals was really good. I was renting a house with some amazing guys – Bruce Viaene, Tony Dubber and Dalton Burton, all of whom were inspiring, and laughing and keeping the atmosphere up on a high. They assisted me with my equipment in order to conserve my energy. This can never be underestimated and anyone else with a disability will truly understand the effort of getting ready for any day, let alone a world championship.
When did you know that you had won the World Waveski title?
It was quite surreal actually as I knew I had caught a really good first wave and I thought if I caught another like it, I would probably be in with a chance. The scores were being called out over the loud speaker but I could hardly hear it over the sound of the waves. I just had to trust my instincts that my first wave was ok.
So I waited and waited for that second wave and fortunately in the dying minutes of the heat the biggest wave was looming and in my sights. I didn’t want to fall off the wave so I just relaxed and surprisingly scored the highest points of the heat.
As I got out of the surf the French team and my house mates came rushing into the water and chaired me off the beach. That feeling of elation, satisfaction and ultimate commitment has stayed with me and it’s something that I will never forget.
Where to now for you?
As you know I also competed in the regular divisions – Grand Masters and Open and it was very exciting for me to have finished 7th in the Grand Masters. It tells me that, despite having this disability, I’m able to compete at a level that I never thought was possible.
I am hoping to grow and develop the sport in such a way that people of all abilities can live and enjoy the sport of waveski surfing that has given me a zest for living and opportunities that I could only have dreamed about.
I’m looking forward to competing in Peru 2020 and I hope that my story might encourage others to try and take up the sport of waveski surfing.
Thank you Eric, an absolute pleasure and humbling experience to be taken into your world. All the very best with your endeavours and we look forward to seeing your further development over the coming years.
Some more photos
Eric @ Pantin by Bruce Viaene
Portugal Waveski Worlds 2016
Kayaking is always fun!