BRANDS WE LOVE: Loreak Mendian

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DISCLAIMER:  Our "Brands We Love" entries are not paid advertisements in any way.  We have no financial involvement with the brands we discuss here, and in almost all cases, have never even spoken to a representative of the company.  We don't receive free products or any other form of compensation.  Quite the opposite, actually.  We are buying this stuff with our own money because we love it.  And we put our gear through the wringer here at Autology Motors, so when we find stuff we really love, we feel the urge to share it.  That's all. 

 

BASQUE-ING IN THE SEA:

The Loreak Mendian store in San Sebastián, tucked away in a stylish side street just a block or so from the La Concha beach. 

I love the Basque Country.  My wife is Basque, which means we have reason to go there on occasion, and every time I do I feel in a strange way like I am home.  The region, nestled between Spain and France, is the fiercely protected land of a people who bear clear genetic differences from their neighboring populations, and who speak a language that bears virtually no resemblance to any other spoken anywhere on earth, two facts which have confounded anthropologists and linguists the world over.  The region is stunningly physically beautiful, with mountains, rivers, forest and sea, and cities, such as Bilbao, Vitoria, and San Sebastián, which are stylish, thriving, and packed with bars and eateries offering my all-time favorite gastronomic delight - pintxos.

As usual, however, it is the people who make an area great, and Basques are among my favorite people on earth.  Serious and sober when it comes to work, humorous and passionate when it comes to play, everything in the Basque Country has a style to it, and everything just... works there.  Trains run on time, restaurant service is excellent, retail merchants take care of customers.  It's a hard place and a hard people not to fall in love with.

Basque history is deeply intertwined with the sea.  With the Cantabrian washing up onto the entirety of the region, the Basques have been seamen and fishermen and explorers for as long as their history can be remembered.  It is becoming increasingly clear, for example, that Basque fishermen were routinely visiting the Grand Banks and Newfoundland at least a century before anyone else from Europe had been to North America, an astonishing fact when you take into account the risks of such a trip and the boats they were using to do so.  For centuries, Basques were whaling in the North Sea with massive success, in rowboats barely large enough to hold eight men.  Think about that for a second.  Rowing yourself from Bermeo to Iceland to catch WHALES?!  Whoa.  No thank you.

But what Basques also adore, and have since the beginning of the sport, is surfing.  The Bay of Biscay offers some of the best (and also most treacherous) breaks on the planet, and the entire coast is peppered with surf-crazy towns big and small.  And it is surfing that led us to Loreak Mendian.

My original Loreak Mendian board shorts.  Faded to hell, but bearing no other ill-effects from hundreds of hours in the sea, and still fitting the same as they did on the day I bought them.

We're surfers here at Autology Motors, and although the breaks on the Costa Blanca are small and wildly inconsistent by Basque standards, we're every bit as passionate about it, and put the same demands on our gear.  Nearly five years ago now, I picked up a pair of board shorts from a little shop in Javea called Leclercq Surfing, and ever since then I've been hooked.  With a vintage inspired cut and classic board short features, including a lace-up front placket, they looked and felt very much like a pair of shorts from the 1950's or early 1960's, like trunks you might see in an old Bruce Brown film or something.  But the detailing was modern, and the construction amazingly fine, and within days I had taken to wearing almost nothing else whenever I hit the beach.

I still have those original Loreak Mendian board shorts I bought.  They've spent hundreds of hours in the Mediterranean at this point, swimming, diving, snorkling, surfing, paddleboarding, and building sandcastles with my kids.  The colors have faded, but they haven't stretched or pulled or torn or broken a seam, and they still look as good as the day I got them.  Better, maybe.  I've added a couple more pairs by now, as well as some shirts and hats and other gear, and everything I've bought from Loreak Mendian has the same passion for style, detailing, and quality construction.

From relatively humble beginnings, Loreak Mendian has grown into an international fashion brand, with something like 16 stores in Spain and France, and when I recently visited their San Sebastián location, I found everything from motorcycle helmets to fragrances to an in-house hair salon.  But despite the growth, they haven't abandoned the core qualities that made me fall in love with their surfing gear in the beginning, and haven't abandoned their passion for the sea.

It's not always easy to buy Loreak Mendian products online.  Their web store is small by comparison to the offerings in their stores, and to make matters more difficult, the fit of their clothing is not always consistent.  Usually a (European) Extra Large myself, I have an XXL t-shirt that fits me beautifully and an XL t-shirt in a different design that fits exactly the same.  I have an XXL board short that fits perfectly, and a second pair in the same size that's a bit too roomy.  So buying online is not as sure-fire as with other brands, but a good rule of thumb is typically to buy a size larger than you typically wear.  Or, better yet, get yourself to one of their stores and wander around for yourself.

If you love the sea, the Basques know as much about it as anyone, and Loreak Mendian has become a staple of our beachgoing gear, and that's why it's officially a "Brand We Love."

For more information on Loreak Mendian gear, to find a store or shop online, visit their website at www.loreakmendian.com