The German photographer, creative and surfer who found the meaning of everything in the waves of Biarritz

“Whenever I am on the board, I always think about how incredible surfing is, how crucial it has been for my life, for my evolution. Since I started surfing everything has changed. Surfing has allowed me to build connections with other human beings, with other creatives, allowed me to explore the world, to shape my relationship with photography…. And all of this found ultimate meaning in Biarritz, my current home, my California, where these pieces fit together.”

Marie Pfisterer has found in surfing more than an inspirational muse. The board, along her artistic and human journey, has become a tool of introspective exploration and collective communion, of individual serenity and mutual contamination. Born in southern Germany, miles and miles away from ocean spots and tunnels, this young wave artist first encountered surfing in Peru, during a trip conceived at the end of her school experience. That epiphany then led her to live in Morocco and Portugal, to travel in search of the perfect spots, and to settle in the well-known Biarritz, the watery paradise of the French Basque Country, there where creativity, community, and board dancing play the same rhythm.

“I couldn’t live without surfing, after a few days of inactivity I get nervous. Out there, in the waves, I feel so free…. Surfing and photography have a beneficial effect: in the water there are no distractions, no one can call you, you can disconnect from problems and work pressures. Every time I finish a session I have the feeling of being a new person. Biarritz and the Basque Country have also given me the opportunity to discover another wonderful element, the mountains. I love both of these natural settings because each one challenges me, allows me to prove something to myself. Sometimes in the ocean the currents and conditions can be very harsh, the same happens in the mountains, when for example I have to climb. The feelings I have are different. In the water I think less, I get distracted, and I feel like I’m taking a long, intense, restorative shower. When I run or hike at high altitude, on the other hand, I feel inspired, come up with new ideas, and dialogue deeply with myself. I find it particularly interesting how these two elements have two such different effects on me…. In general, I think contact with nature allows people to feel good. We are losing that connection, we often forget about it, and I feel blessed to be able to live next to the ocean, to be constantly surrounded by these natural contexts…”

Natural contexts, but also people. Because the surf experienced and photographed by Marie is also the catalyst center of a large group of creatives who, shot after shot, video after video, are able to constantly shape new and vibrant visual imagery. ‘Surfers Collective’ is the name of this inspired collective and network based in Biarritz. Its aesthetic ramifications, however, are not limited to the southwestern French coast and celebrate the art of the board.

“Photography can express your thoughts, your emotions, what you feel inside but cannot describe with words. For me it has always been crucial to meet people and friends, to understand their points of view, to expand my own. I founded this platform because there are so many artists and creative people out there who are not known enough-I’m talking about photographers, but also filmmakers, writers, and many others. They all express themselves differently, just like surfers, and it is beautiful to be inspired by these differences. Without those connections I would never have evolved. And then that positive competition takes over, always pushing you to try new things…. ‘Surfers Collective’ is a celebration of all that, and it’s very close to my heart. On a personal level now I’m focusing more on filmmaking. If you want to portray surfing I think you have to know the waves intimately. A surfer knows that a routine is never repeated in the water, he or she knows where to stand to best capture a specific moment, and knows how to find an unknown, unspoiled spot-a quest I face every day, especially since surfing has become very popular.”

Marie Pfisterer’s research this winter will translate one Mediterranean away, on the African continent, where she will embark on an all-female journey. Empowerment, anthropological discovery and the dissemination of surfing among Africa’s new generations, especially among girls and young women, will be the goals of this long, inspired documentary experienced among desert roads and uncharted waters: yet another chapter in a personal journey destined to expand continuously.

“Ever since I was a child, I have been lucky enough to travel. I have always been attracted to unknown places, I remember for example a special film production trip with the filmmaker Aljaz Babnik to an African island where we were basically the only white people. Now I am focused on this new project that will materialize in the coming months: a women’s expedition to Africa in the form of a documentary trip. In the world there are not many girls traveling alone. We want to break this taboo and dispel fears or uncertainties inherent in contemporary society. We want to show how good it is to be on the road together and portray the stories of the people, the places we encounter. Growing up with two brothers, I was always used to a male world. On many trips I was the only woman included in a group of men. Then in Biarritz I met a fantastic women’s community and it inspired us to plan this project together. We told each other we could do it on our own, driven by our connection, and I think this is a very powerful message. The project is called ‘GUTS – a female expedition through Africa’ and it will be a 45min documentary along with a poetry book and photo journal. The project will be executed by me and my friend Patrizia Waz, a travel moderator and journalist from Italy. We will go three months through Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritannia, Senegal and Gambia to explore Mama Africa as female offroad explorers – on the search for waves, disconnection and female empowerment.”

IG: Marie Pfisterer
IG:  surferscollective
Text by Gianmarco Pacione