Yannick (Filmmaker & Pro-Surfer) Surfing Man-Made Breaks
Yannick de Jager is a Dutch pro-surfer and filmmaker.
How it all began
Surfing has always been a part of my life. For as long as I can remember. My dad was a surfer and he was out catching waves every chance he got. He still is. We lived in The Hague, close to the water. And holidays were spent along the European coasts, parking our Toyota Hilux with camper top, wherever the surf was good. That was still allowed back then.
My dad never forced surfing on me. So I was just playing on the beach all day since I was a baby. He wanted me to discover it on my own. One day, I was six or seven years old, a French guy who was part of our coastal traveling tribe, pushed me into the sea. Literally. We were at Supertubos Peniche and there was a perfect clean wave. I used my dad’s shortboard and my French friend pushed me onto the wave so I could ride it. That's when the obsession started.
Becoming a pro-surfer and a filmmaker
Around the age of 14 or 15, I was competing with the seniors. But after winning Dutch champion a few times consecutively, I wanted to find out if I was ready for bigger competitions. After high school, I traveled through Australia for a year and surfed a lot. After that period I moved on to participate in theASP Pro world tour and WQS in Europe.That was a completely different ball game, with coaches and teams and big budgets. I had to get used to all that, but ended up getting good results in the World Qualifying Series around the globe. I also started to document my surf trips with better quality photo and film camera's.
What surfing is all about
Those were all great experiences, but in the long run, competing wasn’t what I loved about surfing. Another passion of mine was shooting stills and video's, since a young age. I started shooting more and more film content on my surf trips and around the surfing lifestyle / culture, and that made me realize even more what this sport is all about: it’s about going on an adventure with your friends, sitting in beautiful empty line ups together and trying to become the best surfer you can be. Documenting that and visually telling stories. It also evolved into marketing campaigns and video projects for my sponsors. All the while, I did my best surfing.. and it was outside of competitions. The more I realized this, the more I started losing interest in competitions at all. It started feeling very unnatural.
When you’re competing in the WQS and you’re in the water with four guys, it was total warfare, mentally and even physically sometimes. There were no priority rules back then. People pulled on leashes, spat at each other - whatever you could do to catch that good one. I didn’t want any of that anymore. I wanted to go on trips with good friends, good surfers, looking for the best or most unique waves. With people that pushed my surfing further and challenged my comfort zone. And I still truly love that.
Hiking Scottish Islands
That’s why I love cold destinations. A lot of times there will be no one else in the water and you have to put in the work before you get a great wave. It's so rewarding. I remember a trip to an Island in northern Europe which was pretty hardcore. The boat only got there once every three days and we had limited food and water.
There’s a law in Scotland called free to roam. It means that you can pass or camp on any land if you treat it respectfully and keep it clean. So we could pretty much hike to look for a good spot and set up camp wherever.
We found an awesome spot that wasn’t on any forecasting platform after a twenty minute hike through rough terrain. The conditions are really fickle there. The North Sea, the Atlantic and the South Atlantic meet each other, and the third swell has to be perfect. But if it all adds up, it’s more than worth it.
Surfing a man-made point break
I also really like going on adventures here in Holland. I love surfing at home. Catching a really great wave is not easy here. It becomes kind of a magical thing when it finally happens. Many factors have to line up for waves to get really good up here, it feels very special when you finally score great quality waves.
I especially remember surfing the ‘Maasvlakte’. That’s the beach on the other side of the port of Rotterdam, the biggest port in the world. They started a massive project to extend the port another 8 km into the sea. We heard rumors they had just started to pump sand and that it had created a right point break. Rumor said it was incredible. We knew the beaches around the Rotterdam port were always slightly more powerful, because of the deep shipping route.
That particular day there was a classic north sea swell, like she only produces a couple of times a year. Lines poured in across the whole beach and right peelers broke next to crazy big pipes and heavy machinery. It was the first man-made point break we ever surfed. And we wanted more.
Surfing a man-made walhalla
We got a lot more. A mere 240 million cubic meters of sand was extracted from deep water pits and distributed along the coast of Rotterdam since the beginning of construction in 2008. At one point during the construction we decided to make a hike to the most northern tip.
We parked the car as close as possible and walked up the stairs to see a super fun right hander breaking straight out front. To the left there were some interesting setups, but it looked small. To the right there was a stretch of beach as far as you could see, some interesting sand points sticking out and promising white water wrapping around them. We got excited and decided to start walking north.
We had to cross some fences that said ''keep out, life threatening'', and some fishermen that warned us for the 220 euro fine. But we couldn’t resist. After more than 40 minutes we came up to this epic looking setup: a small, but perfectly shaped right hander that was almost sucking on dry sand. We got in the water as fast as we could. On my first wave I had these 2 round little barrels that were just so fun to surf. The excitement!
When the tide was full the waves sort of stopped and the wind turned and got stronger. We were tired and wanted to head back. It had already been a successful exploration mission. But…. one of my buddies pointed to another bend in the coast. We debated it for a second and ended up running around the bend just to make sure we weren’t missing out. Well, we almost were. We discovered a bay with an incredibly fun looking, wedgy a-frame peak.
Another sand point was behind it and it looked like there was another left point after that. The peak in the middle of the bay was closest, so we ran in and scored a few incredibly fun peaks. The area sticks so far up the North Sea that it seemed like it picked up way more than any other beach and the water color was a clear green, instead of the typical North Sea brown.
After another 2 hours the sun was setting and we still had to walk about 7 km back to the car. A solid 1,5 hour walk. We quickly checked out the potential of the sand point that went into the harbor inlet (looked amazing) and start walking back over the sand pumping pipes. Starved, sunburned, dizzy from all the stoke and drained energy, dazzled by all the artificially created sand banks that put on a show.. thanks to the North Sea supplying it with energy, with waves. What a day it was. More than 7 hours in my wetsuit, walking, surfing, screaming. The good stuff.