The writing will be on the wall at this week’s Wheels and Waves as the Californian cool of street artist Robert Vargas kicks off the seventh festival.
The mural artist will turn part of the Basque country into Eastside LA as he opens the event on 14 June in the presence of skater buddies Tony Alva and Steve Caballero. More than 20,000 riders will descend on the sleepy French town of Biarritz and its nearby countryside for a celebration of all that’s good in the worlds of surf, moto, music, food and art. It’s a four-day get-together but if you’re stuck for time, here’s a few of the things you can’t afford to miss.
1 Deus Swank Rally Enduro – 15 June (11am to 4pm)
New for 2018, one of the world’s custom icons is bottling the spirit of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride for a new elite event. Vintage dress will be highly recommended as 100 riders of pre-2000 framers or vintage enduro bikes race off-road against the stopwatch in the name of fun and style. The muddy track at Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle, midway between Biarritz and Saint-Sébastien, will host beautiful but inappropriate old bikes and the refinement of the knobbed specials.
2 The Wasp man returns
Artride V 2018 will feature a dozen artists, led by trailblazing iconic Japanese customiser Shinya Kimura. As owner of Chabott Engineering, he has pioneered exploration into the use of metal and rubber in motorcycles and functional art. Best known for his rolling design work on a 1972 Triumph Bonneville Silver Wasp, he’ll be discussing his unique ‘back to basics’ approach to sculpting custom bikes.
3 Punk rocks – 14 June (1pm to 4pm)
Outrageous cafe racers, cavalier over-the-top cruisers and stripped-back bobbers join 50cc lightweights and anything in-between for one of the highlights of the three days. It’s an irreverent and quick sprint through beautiful scenery just north and inland of San Sebastián; a track designed for the rebel who cares little for tradition but revels in their individuality. Hordes of crowds line the hill climb into Jaizkibel Mountain for a glimpse of the strangest riders and rides, from the fun-seekers in superhero costumes to the true punks with only victory – and glory in defeat – in their sights.
4 Flat Track El Rollo – 16 June (11am to 5pm)
The ancient and mythical Hippodrome racecourse of Lasarte near San Sebastián is the venue for El Rollo; an eagerly awaited annual event of thrills and spills in the dust. Customised bikes disappear behind a veil of dirt and mud as their charges master the art of controlled skidding around the track’s crowd-filled corners. Noise, adrenaline and a good ratio of retro Triumphs are the secret cocktail here, as the desert visits Wheels and Waves.
5 Race with the Devil
History, culture and French motorcycle chic combine with Yan Morvan’s collection of evocative photographs from 70s Paris. Fly-on-the-wall shots taken over three years from his Blousons Noirs and Race with the Devil collections show the capital’s edgy riders and rockers scene. He’ll be alongside Garcia Alix who will exhibit original vintage prints from the Spanish biker scene of the 80s that perhaps went some way to spawning the Southsiders movement still so vibrant in the form of Wheels and Waves today.
6 For one day only
If time is your foe and you’re just passing through, it would be a crime not to stop at the Cité de l’Océan in Biarritz, the beating heart of the festival. Custom builders rubbing shoulders and exchanging tales with Triumph visitors, craftsmen and makers sharing their wares against a backdrop of daily surfing competitions on Milady Beach, fine street food and the inevitable sundowner. What’s not to like?