VIV PALLOT interviewed NIGEL WRAY owner of the our favourite quick beachy-eat – Line Up Café, St Ouen’s Bay.
You lead a busy life but if you had a chance to think about it, what would be your Dream Destination?
I don’t have to think about it all really – the place is Hossegor in south-west France.
Why is that?
The surf is absolutely brilliant. And it’s really uncrowded. Prices are reasonable for what it is. Just at the start of the summer season it’s one of the best surfing destinations in the world, without any question. It’s got probably the best summer beach-break waves anywhere on the planet!
Have you been down there often?
Hundreds of times!
When are you next planning to go?
I’ve not been there for a few years as I’ve got a four- year- old son, but I’m hoping to go there in the next couple of weeks – if I can get away. I get all my surfboards shaped down there.
Is your son going to be a surfer too?
Yeah, he already is! He’s going to grow up surfing
Did you start surfing when you were young?
Actually, I don’t ever remember learning to surf! I’ve no idea how many times I’ve been Channel Island surfing champion, I never really bothered with surfing competitions as such.… but I was in the top five in Europe for over 15 years. I was offered £20K a year plus winnings back in 1981 to become one of Europe’s first professional surfers – that was a lot of money then – but I turned it down because I had three shops in Jersey at the time.
So you’re a jack-of- all- trades then?
Well, I wouldn’t really say that. I just don’t put all my eggs in one basket.
Talking of eggs, do you get any ideas from Hossegor to serve at your Line Up café?
Not really, all there is in Hossegor are chips and pizza!
Has the café changed over the years?
Well, we started in 2003 after 16 years of battling to get planning permission for land that’s been in my family for years. It was the site of first surfboard club of Europe and we’ve hosted the European Surfing Championships and the European leg of the Oxbow longboard championships here. And it was the site of first Grassroots Festival.
When I set up the Line Up café, Planning said I had to take the van away every day as a mobile! But it quickly became obvious I couldn’t meet demand and receive deliveries like that, so eventually they let me keep it as a static unit. The restrictions were so extensive I had to concentrate my life on the beach and let my other business go slack.
Yes, I’m an antiques restorer, French polisher and cabinet maker. I travelled around the world for 15 years making furniture and restoring antiques but I’ve got no time to do any of that now.
Do you miss it?
Yeah I do, I miss it terribly. You get treated in a different way when you’ve got a skill like that. Treated with a lot more respect rather than being just a “burger boy” down on the beach.
Even if the burger van was voted the best place to eat down St Ouen’s beach in 2009?!
(Laughing.) It was a poll run by the JEP! But I never knew about it because I never paid for any advertising, so the result never got any publicity!
Anyway, with the Line Up, it’s more of a lifestyle we’re trying to achieve, rather than making lots of money. Generally speaking, everyone loves it and we try to be polite and friendly to all the customers and give them what they like. But the lifestyle is what we really love: We can go surfing when we want; fishing when we want …
And hopefully to go to Hossegor whenever he wants too …