Maritxu Darrigrand is a legend when is comes to female surfing paving the way for the elite athlete’s surfing the WSL of today. She was France’s women’s national champion in 1979, became the original boss of ROXY, and in her latest role is leading up the European branch of Keep A Breast Foundation as the European President.
In her new role, Darrigrand serves as the organization’s primary representative in Europe, leading all operational activities, overseeing educational efforts and fundraising events including art shows, concerts and golf tournaments. She will supervise the development of new programs including a self-check campaign during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and in-school workshops informing young people on the dangers of chemicals in their environment via Keep A Breast’s Non Toxic Revolution.
We had the pleasure to interview Maritxu to find out more about her vision with KAB and gain some insight into the important work she will be doing to spread breast cancer awareness.
As the new president of the board of directors for The Keep A Breast Foundation’s European arm, what are you most excited to accomplish in this new role?
I am most excited to “officially” get back in the groove with an amazing organization that I have been involved with for so many years. Right now is a good time in my life to do so, I have some more free time and I was actively looking to do more for charity — this is the perfect opportunity for me to do that!
I’m most excited about KAB’s program the Non Toxic Revolution (NTR). NTR has created a workshop for children ages 5-10 called TOTEM. TOTEM uses street art techniques to educate youngsters about harmful toxins in the environment that are linked to cancer. So far we have executed 12 TOTEM workshops for 250 kids in France. I plan to quickly expand on that number to reach more and more children across Europe.
How important is the work you will be doing with the foundation in spreading breast cancer awareness?
In Europe 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and the age of diagnosis is getting younger and younger. There are not many organizations that reach younger women. That is what I love so much about KAB — we talk directly to young women about breast cancer prevention and early detection. This year KAB launched a new version of its app called “check yourself”. It’s a free tool with an automatic reminder feature to do your self-check monthly.
Currently it is available in France, UK, Chile, Mexico, Canada and US. As part of my new role I plan to prioritize getting this app in as many languages as possible in Europe.
You’ve held some really powerful positions in the surf world, from France’s women’s national champion in 1979, to Roxy’s brand Director of Marketing in Europe, what do you feel has been the most challenging position you have held?
When I won the championship, there was not much competition in women’s surfing in Europe.
That Championship was more about bravery; the waves were very big that day.
When I started Roxy it was a totally new concept and it was inspired by everything we were doing in the beginning of women in boardsports – it was based on my lifestyle and with it, I was following my passions.
One of my most challenging moments was when I was the Quiksilver Europe brand director of marketing because, like Roxy, there was no example to follow, no other brands out there like us that we could look to as a model. And many people doubted us, they didn’t believe it would be successful. It was hard to get the world of business and banks to invest in the vision of a few surfers that knew how huge it could be. Everything we were doing was an experiment in some way! And that challenge is what also what made it so great.
Can you tell us about the first wave you caught?
Since a kid I was always in the waves. I was body surfing and body boarding.
In my 30’s I was on vacation on Mauritius Island, Indian Ocean. There was a bunch of surfers their filming a movie so I became friends with them and hung out with them every day on my body board. During one of those days Joey Cabel from the U.S. told me I should stand up! He gave me a board and I went out and got up on the first wave, it was a perfect left.
Forgotten Island of Satosha was the name of the movie they filmed, and I stayed friends with the surfers. I even helped them show the movie in Europe.
Do you have any inspirational surf advice you can give our readers?
I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time where I could exercise my curious nature.
My best advice is to be conscious and in the present moment in your daily life. When you are in this state you can recognize opportunities and feel inspired to create your own path.
Thanks so much for the speaking with us Maritxu. Please support KAB foundation and find out ways you can help spread breast cancer awareness at their website.