Lilou, GONG Ambassador, unpacked her suitcases in Mayotte 6 months ago and settled there with her companion. She tells us about her new life, the rhythm of work, her friends, and the surfing and cruising sessions that the Indian Ocean offers her.
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Lilou Douzal, I’m 29 years old. I love the sea, I’ve been Longboarding since I was a kid. After an accident in 2011 in Guadeloupe, I was very scared to go back to the water and it’s the practice of Stand Up Paddle that gave me back my confidence.
How long have you been in Mayotte, and where exactly do you live?
I’ve been living in Mayotte for 6 months, on a small island called Petite-Terre a few kilometers from Mayotte (the mainland.)
Did you experience a culture shock when you arrived there?
Yes, already during the descent of the plane I was surprised by the drought (dry period at that time) which made the landscapes very “African” for the idea that I have of Africa of course. I was foolish enough to expect Caribbean landscapes. And that has absolutely nothing to do with it. Then I was shocked by the poverty, of course, and the waste. I didn’t have a real shock on the Mahoran culture itself, which I’m getting to know a little better every day.
What do you like most and least about your new life?
I think it’s clearly being in swimsuit or light wear 24-hours a day. I can’t stand the cold (my feet were always freezing in winter and I walk around with a duvet). Here I am rather in osmosis with the sunny weather or even rainy as long as the heat is present. Surfing without a wetsuit is so cool! Then there is my salary which is rather attractive here and I would never have the same one in metropolitan France so to make a good living in the sun I think there could be worse 🙂
Finally, the beauty of the lagoon, I swim with the turtles almost every day. The lagoon of Mahorais is simply marvellous it is a real haven of peace; the richness of its biodiversity, the lagoon of Mayotte is the first overseas to be declared a Marine Natural Park since 2010! In addition to its reef barrier, the Mahorais lagoon also has an internal coral reef. So falling is sketchy ay yai! The negative points are without hesitation the precariousness which make me really angry and often powerless, and also the ecology! There is rubbish almost everywhere on the island and it’s a real disaster for the lagoon precisely. Some associations are starting to work on preventing biodiversity and the impact of waste on their islands among the inhabitants. But Mayotte often seems to be behind schedule, which can be annoying when, like me, we like things to move quickly. It often makes you think about the complaints we used to have before in mainland France (which are derisory compared to the problems encountered here). The last point is the insecurity that is quite present on the island. There is a violence that is quite frightening at times. So you have to be careful, especially when you’re a woman, and not do anything. Listen carefully to the inhabitants on the instructions to be respected to avoid problems. Violence is the scourge of precariousness. Everything is linked here.
How were you welcomed?
The Mahoran population is, in my opinion, rather difficult to understand at first sight. They seem cold and distant and then suddenly so warm. Mahorese children systematically say hello in the street. The language, which is Shimaoré, can sometimes put up a barrier. But in my work I have been able to learn a few sentences or words and it seems to me that it is something that touches them when I try to speak Shimaoré! Well, they often make fun of me and they’re right because my accent sucks. People are generous, for example if you don’t have food or drink at work, people offer to share with you. So I was able to taste some traditional Mahorayan food.
Can you describe the life you lead there?
I have a pretty healthy life. The food is imported, there is little agriculture because of the many thefts in particular. But we manage by always finding fruits or vegetables to eat a balanced diet. Currently we are also confined because of the Coronavirus. But otherwise the week is work, I sometimes work the weekends for photo shoots. Then we go to bed early, wake up early, surf as soon as possible, beach, boat trips in the lagoon, aperitif or meal with friends.
What gear did you bring?
The GONG Team had prepared me a 100% Carbon PRO Paddle cut to my size for surfing, and a second PRO Paddle at + 15 cm for cruising.
Then I have an 8’0 NFA FSP (I swear by the NFA :-)) + Bag. I have a 10’6″ inflatable Couine Marie. (a package) for our cruises in the lagoon.
My boyfriend a 9’0 Moodrive WCKF.Longboard.
Do you often have the opportunity to go to the water?
Yes, this is the bedrock here, whether it is to surf or to go for a ride in the 28° turquoise water. We live on a mini island so we go in the water as soon as we can.
There are good spots for surfing, or is it a SUP ride?
There is a spot next to my house (I chose to live there for this spot), a long straight, not very big (1m) glassy wave. On flat ground. The setting is wonderful in a cove with lots of turtles and coconut trees. As we have tides, it’s not exploitable all day long, so you have to look at the schedule but I was used to it with Brittany. Then there are waves off shore accessible by boat, small hollow bombs on the reef (friends say). I haven’t had the chance to go there yet but it makes me want to go just for the photos. There are other spots on the island, especially in the south, which depend on the wind direction.
You’ve been a GONG Ambassador for a long time, can you tell us what makes you recognize yourself in our brand?
The first thing is honesty and simplicity. I have a lot of affection for the whole team who are always available, listening. I know I can find an ear and that’s very rare in companies of this size. It’s often the race to get the numbers. At GONG, there is a kind spirit, without losing track of the true path, but it’s a bit like a second family. That’s how I feel. We share the same values. I’m nobody, just a chick who loves the sea, passionate about surfing, photography and travel, I don’t compete or do exploits, I’m not the best rider and I think it’s great that chicks like me have a place in the surfing world. I think that my sensibility towards nature and especially the sea (which I try to transmit through my photos) have found a place at GONG.
You’re passionate about photography. What equipment do you have and what do you prefer to shoot?
I have a Canon 5D Mark III and a GoPro HERO 8. I have several themes that interest me, first of all there are underwater and on water photos, surf photos, the beauty of the wave, the lagoon, the surfer in action, the sunset, the beautiful chick. Then there is the photo that I call “testimony”. To look at the preservation of nature and biodiversity or a portrait or a street scene, the idea being to provoke emotion (shock, laughter, sadness or fear). The aim is to make the viewer want to react, no matter how.
Are you thinking of staying in Mayotte for a long time or do you already miss your Brittany?
I love Brittany very much, especially for its expanses, the tranquility of life, the waves, the people too (the Bretons are so cool!). But the weather in winter is a real problem for me (I grew up in the south) so Brittany will be more like a long holiday for the moment. We will stay another year and then why not abroad, there are plenty of places I want to explore.
We will soon leave for Reunion Island and then Madagascar this summer. It’s the opportunity to make beautiful trips in the Indian Ocean when we live here.
A last word to finish?
If some of you are interested in more information about the qualities of the waves in Mayotte or the way of life, you can contact me and I will be happy to answer you. In the meantime it is not for lack of repeating it: stay well at home, for the waves and the sessions there will always be.
Copyright : Lilou Douzal