Earlier this year I was asked if I’d be interested in writing an introduction to a photographic history of Wheels and Waves Biarritz. I responded, ‘who else?’  Which might need a little back story if you haven’t been following The Vintagent since 2009.  That’s the year the Southsiders MC, whom I’d met at the Legend of the Motorcycle Concours, invited me to come riding with them in the Pyrenees over a long weekend.  They knew I’d had a rough year, and that the 2009 edition of the Legend concours had been canceled…so why not fly to sunny Biarritz and borrow a Norton Commando to blast around the area with a dozen like-minded vintage motorcycle friends?  

Two page spread of the Punks Peak race on the summit of Jaizkabiel mountain. [10 Wheels and Waves]
From my Introduction for the new book ’10 Wheels and Waves’:

“If you’d told me that a pays Basque border raid with 13 vintage bikes would come to shift the motorcycle industry, I would not have believed you in 2009.  But the ground was already shifting under our feet, and we felt it. I’d met two of the founding Southsiders MC members [Vincent Prat and Frank Charriaut] at the Legend of the Motorcycle Concours in Half Moon Bay. The Concours changed my career, as I started The Vintagent in 2006 to post photos and tell stories about the event; mine was the first old-bike blog.  In 2008 The Southsiders escorted the badass custom ‘Norton Ala’Verde’ to Half Moon Bay, as the Legend was the first Concours in the world to include a Custom Motorcycle category for judging.  It’s where I met the new generation of customizers creating an alternative motorcycle scene right under our noses.  A new energy was building, and we wondered how motorcycles would change.”

The ArtRide exhibit showcased exceptional motorcycles and relevant artwork/photography to the scene. [10 Wheels and Waves]
14 years later, it’s pretty clear what’s changed and is still changing in the motorcycle industry.  If you read my writing in either of ‘The Ride’ books, or my columns in Cycle World when I was Custom & Style editor, or my recent piece in BikeExif on how customs have influenced OEM design, my thoughts on how the alt.custom motorcycle scene changed the motorcycle industry for the better, dragging the big OEMs out of their slumber, and tricking them into building bikes that resembled what younger riders actually want.   That seems like a tall order for a book about a moto/skate/surf event in southern France, but that little seed of a riding event in June 2009 turned into a behemoth, and its success spawned multitudes of imitation events, but only of its parts (the Punks Peak Sprint was widely copied, for example), and not the whole thing, as that is simply impossible.

Skate and surf culture are a big part of the succesful mix making up Wheels and Waves. [10 Wheels and Waves]
An impressive list of photographers and filmmakers made it to at least one of the past 10 Wheels and Waves events; they’re well documented by very talented people.  That didn’t make a 200-page book covering ten years of week-long events any easier to assemble, but it did assure that the photography is first rate, guaranteed. ’10 Wheels and Waves’ is the only official book documenting the event, and is intended as a tribute to all the creativity and hard work it took to make this event a world-beater.  It’s a photo history, set against the stunning backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, the town of Biarritz, the Basque country in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and the wild mountain roads that connect them all.   Plus, of course, the ArtRide exhibits, the Punks Peak racing, the El Rollo flat track, the surfing and skate contests, and the film premieres (we brought the Motorcycle Film Festival to Biarritz twice, and premiered our film ‘The Ended Summer’ there too).

Some of the significant characters in attendance: the late Austin ‘Sugar’ Johnson, skater Steve Caballero, photographer Bill Phelps, and clothing manufacturer Keith Hioco. [10 Wheels and Waves]
’10 Wheels and Waves’ is at the printer now: you can order a copy here.  The book was assembled by the team at Super Special Magazine, a cafe racer mag from Italy, and the galleys look amazing.  I can’t wait to see what all those photographers captured for eternity.   If you’d like to see some of The Vintagent’s coverage of Wheels and Waves in the past, including coverage of our co-production of Wheels and Waves California, click here. 

Paul d’Orléans is the founder of TheVintagent.com. He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.


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