Big in Zarautz – and everywhere else


The Hyper-Local

We were warned not to meet too many professionals on our journey – which was not our plan anyway. “They’re not jumping from one sponsored athlete’s house to another.” as Jake Howard interpreted our concept in an article on ESPN about “The Old, the Young & the Sea”.  And then we heard things about this very professional, very businessy guy in Zarautz: Adur Letamendia.

To be dramatic, let’s call him “The Prince of Surfing”

So who’s that pal and why did we meet him? He is the son of a dynasty of surfers – and when he started surfing as a kid, it was not an everyday sight to see surfers in Spain. In school he was more like this guy with the weird hobby: surfing. Additionally came in the very unspanish blond hair, the many times he wasn’t at school because his parents took him to Hawaii or some other exotic place with some pro-surfers, he preferred hanging out at the beach with people way older than him – all this was kind of curious about him. From early childhood on, everything in his life was centered on surfing – apart from some teenage self identification process: “I had a time between… let’s say 13 and 16 in which I tried new things: playing in a rock band, skating, going out and just caring about girls and music…. Surfing came in later again into my life – and then it felt right, then it really completed me the most.”

Just imagine: Being a talented youngster, as a son of the founders of Pukas, now one of the bigger brands in Spain, all the equipment produced by his parents was ready to use for him… In a time when surfing in Zarautz was still somewhat uncommon, empty lineups… To many of us this may sound like paradise, no?

Now years later, surfing is a common thing in Zarautz – also because of his family and their friends, the brand they formed around their habit: Pukas. “Pukas is our family business and looking at it, you can differentiate between Pukas local and Pukas global.” he explains: “Seen globally we sponsor all this pro-riders and develop the best possible boards for the needs of these professionals. It’s a hard business since everything about a surfboard is still produced by hand.” And then he looks at the promenade of Zarautz and pauses… “Pukas local on the other hand is this here: it’s our surf school, the work we do with youngsters, our little shop here and the friends we go surfing with. We feel like one can’t exist without the other…”

More than hundred people work in their company – and sometimes Adur can’t even believe that he is one of the guys who provides them with work, especially in these hard times during the crisis. When he guided us through their company buildings, he just couldn’t stop showing us one more room, explaining us one more details about the complex work of creating surfboards. Excited as a kid standing in front of a Christmas tree in one moment, he suddenly became more thoughtful: “You know, to be honest: Looking around in this factory I see so many talented, dedicated people and I get all excited… On the other hand: I mean at the end of the month we have to pay all of them their salary – isn’t that crazy? A hundred people! We owe them big time to make things right!”

Adur on Zarautz and Friends

Apart from business, he can also get very much excited about his hometown: “Zarautz… it is the perfect place to live as a surfer!” he says about his home town, “You can surf every day, pretty much. I mean Mundaka is just a short ride of an hour to the west, Hossegor is within reach in the east – and the area around offers waves for all conditions and desires.”

Being a local meant for Adur to grow up as a surfer with friends like Aritz Aranburu, now one of the best surfers in Europe, or Ibon Amatriain, probably the best big wave surfer in Europe and Axi Muniain, formerly a classic competition surfer who turned into a chaser of huge swells. “They made me the surfer I am today. If you go into the water with someone that dedicated, that good – it makes you a better surfer. I owe them!” he says. “I like that Aritz become such a role model – just because he is not a jerk. He is a cool guy, a nice guy – and I guess that’s a positive role model for the youngsters too.”

The buddies Adur and Aritz whilst not being jerks…

Yep, Adur is a professional. Look at the company Pukas and you see one of the bigger brands in Spain. Take a look at the photo of Adur droping down the face of some gigantic wave at Playa Gris and you see a pro.

“After this wave I felt indestructible… and I am not sure if I will ever surf a wave like this again. But probably I will.”, and laughs. Photo: Lance/Surfer Rule

But looking at that guy who walks with us on the paseo in Zarautz, continuously greeting the people who walk by while doing an interview… Well, then this skinny guy in a XL-shirt just seems like a very sympathetic and excited kid, very much a regular local in some small town on Spain’s north shore.

Adur being interviewed by us. It didn’t feel like doing professional work with some professional guy – it was more like hanging out in some nice city with some nice dude.