After several years competing on the ASP tours and earning multiple French National titles, Amandine Sanchez (FRA) chose to focus on the best up-and-comers in France. Sanchez left competitive surfing to pursue a career as a coach hoping to make a difference for the youth of France. While coaching at the few Australian events on the ASP World Tour, Sanchez discussed her professional career and plans for the future.
ASP Europe: Tell us a little bit about your competitive years.
Amandine Sanchez: I’ve been competing on the ASP tours since 2005. I might even have done an event in 2004 I’m not sure, but full time since ’05. I’ve been surfing forever. I’m from Biarritz, and when I was 17, I moved to Reunion Island to become a hairdresser. I learned with my brother, but I never thought I’d become a professional surfer. O’Neill pushed me in 2005, and it started well in Europe so they pushed me onto the international scene as well! I’ve had some good years. In 2009 I almost qualified. That was the best season, but then it started to become difficult. I got injured multiple times. I started the tour very late, and at some point my body just quit on me.
ASPE: No more events then?
Sanchez: I’ve decided to stop competing on the Star events and start coaching full time. I’ve been coaching the French Junior team for about a year and a half now, officially since Panama, but it’s been longer than that. Everybody calls me “Mom-andine” and I always took care of the youngest ones, so they’ve all been waiting for me to transition to the other side. For now, I’m going to specialize in training the girls. It’s Patrick Flores who’s been asking me to do so for a few years now. As long as I was competing, I didn’t want to commit because I knew the moment I’d start coaching, my career as an athlete was over. So I took a little while to decide. Last year I spent the whole season competing and taking care of the Juniors, but it really was too much work. I had to make a decision and the girls were asking more and more, they are really needing some support. I’m starting with Johanne (Defay) mainly, because she just lost her main sponsor and I really want to help her through a tough year. There’s so much more pressure when your parents are financing your season.
ASP Europe: So you’re now a full-time coach. Have you had any kind of education of the sort?
Sanchez: Yes, in 2009 we took a course along with Caroline Sarran, Jean-Seb Estienne, Romain Laulhe and some other surfers to take the BE exams (French teaching degree). I passed it then, and it all fell into plan. 2009 was my best year competition wise, and also the year I got injured and coaching propositions started floating around.
ASP Europe: So since then you’ve been building experience?
Sanchez: Exactly. Since 2009, every year I’ve participated in the federation’s training camp in Lennox Head, Australia. The BASC, my Biarritz surf club, has also given me the responsibility of coaching the kids.
ASP Europe: And you’re having fun?
Sanchez: Yes, I love it! I’m not coming from a surf dynasty, my brother surfs, but just for fun. It wasn’t easy growing up outside the surfing world and knocking on every door to get help, so I’ve been wanting to try and change that for the youth now, make their path easier towards getting better and competing professionally. I feel like there are so many good kids that deserve the attention but have no sponsor and are left out. Growing up, I’ve heard countless times, “You can’t do it, cause you’ve started too late,” and such, so I want to show the contrary. Personally, I’m still supported by my sponsor and that’s the kind of message I want to send to the kids, that even starting from scratch with a little hard work, everything’s possible!
ASP Europe: Speaking of sponsors, will coaching be enough for you to live comfortably?
Sanchez: I could definitely live strictly from coaching, because I also teach tourists in the Summer, and there’s a lot of money involved in courses, etc. Right now, it’s complicated because I’m still contracted to O’Neill and I’m going to focus on freesurfing for them, making photo shoots and video clips here and there. So I have to divide my time between the two, coaching and working with my sponsor. It’s been almost ten years now of continuous support from O’Neill so I definitely don’t want to let them down now. Working with them also allows me to work with their Junior team so everything works out great at the moment! I had to battle my way into keeping a great sponsor all these years, and they’re happy with the work I’ve done for them but you know it doesn’t just happen. I think the values I represent are good and that’s part of what they like about me!
ASP Europe: So you’ve created your own company or how do you work?
Sanchez: Yes, I am an independent worker and I freelance for the French federation when they need me, and directly with the surfers as well. With Johanne, it’s different. I really just want to help her out; we do have a contract, but it’s informal, and we’ll see where we go if our work pays off. I try to be where she stays most of the time, whether it’s for events or at home in Reunion Island. I’ve prepared her a strong training program and when she surfs in an event, I’m trying to be there for moral support. Sometimes it coincides with an O’Neill trip, sometimes with a federation camp… Anyhow, I try to be where the girls need me.
ASP Europe: So what about the other girls?
Sanchez: Well, right now there’s Justine (Dupont) around for example, and even though I don’t officially train her, I try to include her in Johanne’s routines and heat simulations. It’s cool for her to be training with friends, and I’m also often with Pauline (Ado) and Lee-Ann (Curren) so we’re a cool little group.
ASP Europe: Describe to us how you work.
Sanchez: There’s clearly two phases. During the event, it’s not really what I prefer. I’m only there to give her confidence, film her heats and try to come up with a heat strategy, but it’s the athlete who does all the work really. When you’re a coach and your surfer is out there in the water, you can really feel useless! My favorite part is definitely before the season, those few months before the first event. With Johanne we’ve started after the French championships in last October, and we worked hard! Her training is basically in three parts: a sane lifestyle, I’m trying to help her with nutrition and such; mental preparation: analyze, get rid of dark thoughts and replace them with positive energy; and finally the technical part: I train her, film her, then I spend countless hours watching her every move and trying to define her surfing, identify flaws and come up with solutions to help her improve.
ASP Europe: Cool, so what do you think about Johanne’s surfing?
Sanchez: She’s a really strong surfer, super technical. Her power and tonicity are second to none. In fact, when I train someone, I always try to find a reference, a model, whether it’s related to physical or technical aspects of the person. For Johanne, I’ve based my work on Carissa Moore, so I’ve also analyzed Carissa’s surfing a lot, and I try to orientate Johanne this way. I think technically and physically she has everything to succeed! Her biggest handicap right now is a lack of self-confidence. She doesn’t have faith and it’s too bad cause she’s a really intelligent surfer, she thinks a lot and analyzes well her surfing, but she needs help. She was just dropped by her main sponsor because they couldn’t find a way to market her, and it’s super hard for an athlete to be judged on something else than just your performance level! You know, surf business is a tough world and unfortunately surfing well is not enough anymore, so I’m trying to educate kids about this, too.
ASP Europe: What’s 2013 looking like so far then?
Sanchez: Burleigh is over, Newcastle is ON right now, and then there’s the federation’s training camp from mid-February to mid-March. We’re going to concentrate on the youngest surfers, the future selections for international events, those we hope to see become tomorrow’s elite! Then I’ll have about three weeks for myself, to shoot photos and videos for O’Neill. Time flies by, the only free time I have, I try to freesurf and get busy with other projects. Right now I’m also working on a website where I’ll post everything I like about art and stuff. I’m also making lamps from x-rays and O’Neill allowed me to display some last year along with other artists for their 60-Year anniversary… I’ll be spending some time here in Australia and Indonesia to give a couple lessons there in the upcoming weeks. Everything articulates well at the moment and allows me to work on all those projects, so I’m loving it!
ASP Europe: Life without surfing is definitely not in order then?
Sanchez: No, definitely not. I think I got the surfing virus, but to be honest, when I’m coaching I don’t get a lot of time for myself!
For more information on Amandine Sanchez, swing by her profile on www.aspeurope.com.