X Decem PLC Review.
By Nathan Lockwood.
The “10,000 Hours Rule” was first popularized by author Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success. Essentially, for an individual to master or become an expert in any chosen discipline one must practice it for roughly 10,000 hours. However, and this is a major caveat, Gladwell emphasizes that true mastery requires a “big healthy dose of natural talent”.
This natural talent is what separates the good from the great, be that in music, art, science or indeed bodyboarding. If anyone had a shred of doubt to which category Pierre Louis Costes pertains, his new half hour biopic X . Decem, chronicling a decade riding for French bodyboard giants Pride, cements his status at the very pinnacle of our sport. Directed, principally filmed and edited by Sébastien Boulard, this film chronicles the rise of PLC from the plucky world tour prodigy signing with Pride, to a full-blown bodyboarding machine in both the competitive and free surfing realms.
Throughout X . Decem each section is interspersed with intricately crafted cartoons by Scottish bodyboarder and incredibly talented illustrator and designer Graeme Stewart aka Stormstatic. These add a rich and detailed edge to the story, whilst neatly punctuating each sperate chapter along with the opening and closing sections. Colour grading was provided by Simon Levalois.
One perennial mark of a consummate wave-rider is their ability to make ordinary waves look extraordinary. X . Decem opens with two waves at a fairly sluggish and fat Costa Rican beachie. However, PLC’s flawless rail-work, timing and flow cast against a backdrop of rocky palm trees and smooth Latin jazz makes the wave look seriously fun and inviting. This skill of eking the most out of less than perfect waves have been honed by Pierre’s years of experience in the competition jersey and growing up surfing the beach breaks of Morocco and France. Having long been credited as having the best backflip in the business, the opening Costa Rican section showcases Pierre’s aerial mastery in small to medium sized surf. Essentially, he makes it look almost lazily easy, as natural and ingrained as a seabird diving for fish.
Fittingly, the decade spanning film is split into ten separate chapters. The story begins in 2011 when Pride signed the Frenchman who would become their talisman, marquee rider and the blueprint for their brand going forward. Pierre himself dubs this as the ‘best decision he ever made’. That same year he claimed the then IBA World Title at big and sketchy Fronton, seeing off Australian juggernauts Mitch Rawlins and Ben Player in the process.
Chapter III delves into the very soul of bodyboarding. Travel, camaraderie, barrels and a healthy dose of fear mixed in. Along with Tom Rigby and Jared Houston, Pierre ventured to deepest Indonesia hoping to score the swell of the season at the aptly named “Apocalypse”, essentially an occasionally open closeout detonating on razor sharp reef. Never one to back down, Pierre proceeded to expertly thread monster tubes in what he considers to be the most dangerous wave he has ever surfed.
IV gets down to the intensity and tenacity of competition. Pierre’s list of victories around the world commands respect. Pipeline, Arica, Fronton, Sintra, Nazare. For Pierre however the two events that stand out the most were in Gran Canaria and Chile. The pinnacle and best heat of his life came in the final of the 2012 NMD/VS Fronton Pro where after being combo’d in under five minutes, he defeated Jared Houston to take the win. At the Arica Chilean Challenge 2017 the buzz and emotion of becoming a father for the first time to son Benjamin, propelled him to a victory that had eluded him in the years before.
V chronicles Pride team trips to Tahiti, Mexico, remote Atlantic Islands, Indonesia, Portugal and Spain. These again showcases Pierre’s repertoire in a variety of conditions. Big, small, windy, clean, onshore whatever the elements provide PLC possess an almost serene level of adaptability in his riding. Highlights included enormous barrels and a looping air reverse at Puerto Escondido and high-octane speed lines and boosts at an El Confital-esque Tahitian righthander, along with Isabella Sousa’s cameo at an incredibly fun looking Spanish wedge.
VI gives a nod to Pierre’s relationship with Portugal, having married his Portuguese wife Rute Penedo in 2015 and subsequently adopted it as his home nation. This brief chapter showcases one wave from his clip Obrigado, at a psycho left slab.
VII returns to the insane highs and crushing lows of competition. Since claiming his first world title in 2011, Pierre had come tantalisingly close in the following five years close but ultimately fell at the final hurdle. Being a driven competitor, these were bitter pills to swallow. Finally, in 2016, after years of hard work, Pierre reclaimed his throne and held aloft the APB World Title atop the cliff at El Fronton. This journey was immortalised in the APB mini documentary Chasing Thrones.
VIII explores one of the most ambitious and versatile projects in modern bodyboarding. 2019’s Tender is not only PLC’s life story but provides a glimpse into a global, inter-generational fraternity of bodyboarders driven on by the sport we all love. Global premieres and screenings only strengthened this sense of community. Pierre identifies his favourite section of the film as being him riding a long righthand Moroccan pointbreak as it demonstrates how truly versatile a craft the bodyboard is. I could write thousands of words on the significance of Tender in terms of its contribution to bodyboarding but ultimately, I feel they would fall short. If you have not yet seen it, I implore you to. The end section at Mullaghmore in Ireland will leave you picking your jaw off the floor.
IX. COVID-19. Lockdown. For a man who has made his living travelling the world in search of waves, being restricted to one place was something of a new challenge both mentally and physically. However, being based on Portugal’s wave drenched Atlantic coast, pumping swell was never going to be far off. This chapter demonstrates Pierre at absolutely full throttle, utilising his entire wave-riding arsenal. Backflips, air reverses, spins in the barrel, air drops, Jack-Stance (front and backside), all technically flawless in their execution but with his own unmistakable individual style.
X. We finish where we began, Costa Rica. However, the playful beaches and smooth jazz of the opening section are gone. In its place is what appears to be The Right’s angry little brother. Deep tubes through the backdoor are the dish of the day as Pierre and local young gun (and new Pride team rider) Hugo Menendez gorge themselves. Personally, this is one of my favourite sections of the film, just a good ol’ fashioned, wide open, right hand pit. As always Pierre’s level of riding is straight out of the top drawer and is a fantastic advertisement to the wider world of the sport of bodyboarding.
And there you have it. The last ten years of Pierre Louis Costes and his seemingly immovable partnership with Pride Bodyboards brough to life in X . Decem. It is hard to imagine where Pierre can go from here but with his new bespoke Costes Camps already up and running in Portugal, and without doubt other projects in the pipeline I am positive that we as bodyboarders will not be disappointed. Here’s to the next decade.