Meet Maritxu Darrigrand and Keep a Breast

Born in Africa, Maritxu Darrigrand moved to Biarritz, France at the age of 16, just as the seaside town was on brink of becoming Europe’s first major surfing destination.

A natural in the water, Darrigrand went on to become France’s women’s national surfing champion in 1979. Her love for the sport propelled her career far beyond that of a professional athlete as she helped shape European surf culture for generations to come. She singlehandedly introduced U.S. surf movies to a new continent by securing screenings in theatres and at festivals throughout France. Her keen intellect and passion for an active lifestyle then led her to work with some of the biggest names in the business, including Quiksilver, Rip Curl and Lightning Bolt, which she helped introduce in Europe. In 1990, she solidified her status as a pioneer in the women’s surf industry by overseeing the European launch of Roxy as the brand’s Director of Marketing.

Maritxu Darrigrand. Photo by Jeff Hornbaker.

Now, taking a completely new direction, Maritxu Darrigrand has been appointed president of the board of directors for the European arm of The Keep A Breast Foundation™, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering young people around the world with breast health education and support. We caught up with Maritxu to find out more about work, life and surfing.

Non-profits are known for being slow to move and innovate, yet The Keep A Breast Foundation seems really progressive. What is it about the team and culture that makes you able to stay fresh and relevant?

Keep A Breast is unique, born from the action-sports culture. Its founder, Shaney jo Darden, was a designer in the sports industry, so we have both worked in the same industry for many years. Since we both come from a place of youth culture we automatically bring that to the organization and the work we do.

Our culture is based in sports, art and music and from there we are inspired by a lot of freedom and creativity. We are more open to new ideas and new ways of doing things than a traditional NPO would be. As a small organization we’re nimble. The European and US teams work very closely and we all share the same vision, which makes it easier to proactively make decisions and react quickly when we need to.


You are an icon to so many in the surf industry. What are some tips for women wanting to innovate in business or sports?

Thank you. I think if you have a vision and a passion for something you want to do you should just go for it. . You should always strive to be your best and focus on proving to yourself what you can do. Your achievements will shine on their own.

Many women compare themselves to men, especially in the surf industry, which has historically been (and still is) male-dominated. I feel that even making a comparison is lowering yourself, because you’re making the conscious decision to compare differences, gender or otherwise. We should look at how far we’ve come as women in such a short period of time, be grateful for that, and keep striving higher and higher.

Hanging with World Surfing Champions - Tom Carroll, Kelly Slater, Lisa Andersen, and Robby Naish
Maritxu with Tom Carroll, Kelly Slater, Lisa Andersen and Robby Naish

A fun surfing question… you’ve surfed and traveled the world extensively. If you could have a session anywhere with just you and a few friends in perfect conditions, where would you be and who with?

Happy to answer that! I have amazing memories of the times when the ROXY PRO competition was in Tavura, Fiji. I would go there with my dear friends Lisa Andersen, Kassia Meador and Veronica Kay.

We would share perfect, warm water waves all day. .

Surfing in Fiji close to water photographer Sunny Miller during the Roxy Pro Contest

How can people connect with you and your teams to find out more?

The best thing to do is to follow us on Instagram Facebook and twitter (USA: @keepabreast and EUROPE: @keepabreasteu). This way you can become a part of our story.

We are always looking for contributors and volunteers and are happy to receive messages from our friends and supporters around the world via social media.

Two greats: Maritxu and Mickey Dora in Biarritz
Two greats: Maritxu and Mickey Dora in Biarritz

[divider]Breast Cancer Awareness[/divider]

What can women do to detect breast cancer early and be aware of their risks?

Early detection or, ideally, prevention altogether is the best form of action.

Definitely use the Check Yourself app. It has a visual step-by-step overview of the breast self-exam and helps to easily schedule an automatic monthly self-check routine. You can download it to any type of cell phone and it’s free. That’s a great start. And regardless of your age, check regularly. It takes no time at all and it’s well worth it.

The Non Toxic Revolution is KAB that teaches young people how to identify and remove harmful chemicals that are linked to causing cancer from their daily lives.

What are some tips for people wanting to minimize their risk and how can people educate themselves?

While post-diagnosis support is a laudable and worthy focus, of equal importance is education about possible risks and the lifestyle choices young people can make to avoid getting a cancer diagnosis. That’s what KAB does.

People are getting diagnosed with breast cancer in their 20s at an alarming rate. And only 10% of new cancer diagnoses are linked to family history. That means that our environment must be a huge factor. Diet, pollution, exercise, the grooming products we choose to put on our bodies and use to clean our homes. So, you have to keep asking yourself, what am I doing to proactively protect my body? KAB helps people navigate today’s environment by showing them alternatives to the products they are using that could be harmful, and teaching them how to read labels to avoid dangerous chemicals.

We have a program called the Non Toxic Revolution that’s all about educating young people on potentially cancer-causing toxins hidden in their everyday environments (it covers everything from deodorant to detergent).

There is also a free Check Yourself! app. It’s a really simple so you don’t need to be super tech-savvy to use it. It shows you how to do a breast self‐check and set notifications to remind you to do one every month. And yes, that’s how often we should be checking ourselves!

One of the special things about KAB is their fusion of art, action and fun into educating people about cancer awareness and prevention. The Traveling Education Booth (TEB) is a touring, interactive teaching tool stationed at the events young people attend like music festivals, expos, surf competitions and art exhibitions. And we’ve just joined forces with a load of action sports athletes, musicians and leading contemporary artists, like street artist Dave “Persue” Ross. He’s the father of Bunny Kitty (a cartoon cat whose bunny suit helps her unleash super powers) and she is helping to promote a Check Yourself campaign that’s on the road this summer with music festival, the Vans Warped Tour.