Mathieu Dumoulin is one of the best wave riders in the world. Have you ever heard of him? The 19-year-old Frenchman finished 4th at the Ottawa Worlds in May and is the defending Euro Cup Champion. His crisp pan ams and elegant air screws helped him stand out amongst the planet’s best freestylers. He talks with Paddling Life about the French booing EJ at the awards ceremony, paddling in France and his big finish that opened everyone’s eyes to his insane talent. – As told to Joe Carberry
PL: What were some of your goals headed into the Worlds?
MD: My objective was to be in the top five. I succeeded and it makes me happy. This is the reward of a year of training. I’m not frustrated at all not to be on the podium. I’m young and I think I can progress again for a long time. I improve my training strategy every year and I’ll be here in 2009 in Thun, Switzerland for sure…
PL: So what was your best trick?
MD: The donkey flip (air screw) I made in the quarter final, where I finished third. I remember it because my face was dry at the end and I didn’t use the paddle to stick it.
PL: What was up with the French booing EJ at the awards ceremony?
MD: I’m happy that you asked. It has to be explained. I was not one of the French who made this stupid thing during EJ’s award ceremony, and I told the people who did it that it was stupid and not fair. I think EJ is the best athlete and competitor in freestyle kayaking right now and it’s why he won. And even if I think he was not the best big wave rider, he didn’t win it by chance. They were booing during the ceremony because the Jacksons and Jackson kayak were omnipresent in the event: as a sponsor and with paddlers in every position… Maybe it’s a kind of envy, but it was probably more that they got bored of the Jackson’s excess of promotion there. Moreover, they didn’t recognize EJ as the best K1M’S in the Bus Eater, so they didn’t accept EJ’s 4th title well. Once again, I think it was stupid! I hope EJ is not vexed, and I apologize for them. There was some free wine before the ceremony and Frenchies like the wine! It’s probably a part of the explanation as well. Take it more like a non-reflective action than true hatred of a nation against EJ!
PL: Where are you from in France?
MD: I grew up in a small village called Limony, one hour south of Lyon, very close to an artificial river (playpark), so the best way to spend and enjoy my time was to paddle this river. It’s in the village of St Pierre de Boeuf. I also practiced slalom before learning to freestyle kayak at the age of 13. These artificial rivers are very good to practice in because it’s safe and it’s always the same water level. You have the same spot all year and it’s a good thing to help you progress.
PL: What is your favorite type of paddling?
MD: Big wave surfing for sure. I now live in Lyon, where we have one of the best big waves in the world. Plus it always works! I can also enjoy this type of kayaking in Besançon, 3 hours from Lyon, where la Malate and La Scie work several times in the
year. But I don’t freestyle only in big waves. I also enjoy holes. It’s not the same way of freestyle though: freestyle in big waves is more like surfing or mountain biking, where you search for strong feelings and to go big. In a hole, freestyle is more like street skateboarding or boulder climbing, your aim is to improve your technique or to realize the perfect move, which you will be proud to realize but doesn’t give you any adrenaline. I’d like to creek more. It’s again another way to enjoy kayaking.
PL: So you’re saying France is the shit when it comes to surfing?
MD: France is a crazy place to ride big waves. Lyon works every day, every year. It’s not a cold place even in the winter. Moreover, you have here a lot of different configurations. You ride seven or eight different waves in the year, depending on the water levels. And Hawaii Sur Lyon is in a town like Montreal, so you can study or work, and after go to the wave for a crazy session! That’s the way of life I enjoy. You also have at least two big waves in Besançon. It’s 3 hours from Lyon. La Malate is a very big green wave which works 4 months in the year I think. La Scie works two times in the year, it’s not very big, it’s not extreme, but it’s so easy to go big that we paddle at least six hours a day when we are there! There are some big waves in Paris as well. They are good, but they don’t work very often. To complete the map, you can go to the ocean when there is no water in the rivers. It’s crazy to have so many big waves in a small country!
PL:: What are you doing the rest of the year?
MD: I’ll try to go to the Eurocup in Galicia (Spain). I’m now working as a raft guide so I’m not sure I’ll have the time to go there. In August, I’ll be in Canada and I’ll try to participate in some competition in North America. For this winter, I’ll go somewhere hot, for creeking or freestyling. I can’t know for the moment. Time is now for training for the next Europeans. I will have to keep my title, and there is some paddlers who would like better to see it in their pocket!