4-day trip to Southern France, with sessions in Le Brusc, Gruissan, Rouet (La Palme) and Almanarre. Wind and windsurfing are a serious matter, here. Unfortunately, this time, the trip was also characterized by a mishap.
Windsurfing, session report: Southern France, 4-7 February 2022
Le Brusc, Six Four Les Plages (France), 4 february 2022
It is always a pleasure to ride at Le Brusc, a Six Four Les Plages spot, in France. Headed to Gruissan, I managed to stop here, to break up driving, and stretch out with a good windsurfing session.
First of the 4 days of this French trip, strongly sought to interrupt the stress of a series of problems related to the funny events of my daily life ....
It must have been a day with uncertain wind. And instead, once arrived at Six Four, I immediately realize that the wind is already quite strong, all over the bay. Better Le Brusc than La Coudouliere, partly covered, near the shore.
Sure choice of the board: Tabou Pocket 94 with MFC freewave 23 fin. Some doubts about sail, but in the end I opt for the Ezzy Wave 4.7 instead of an Elite 5.3.
And it is the right choice.
Nice session from 15 to 16.30, with wind of good quality, and a fun water plan. "Waves" of half a meter height, in some parts of the bay. Flat water level towards the port, south of the spot. Short chop in some area.
Very didactic spot where you can focus on the details of the maneuvers.
Windsurfing in the minority. Windfoil and above all Wingfoil undisputed masters of the spot. The latter, as I have been saying for some time, are the future. I felt like an endangered species ...
Even if I prefer the wonderful sensations that windsurfing gives me.
Fresh air (we are in February!). About 15 degrees. Anyway, I go out with bare hands ....
Tomorrow, I go to Gruissan, home of Defi Wind!
Gruissan, 5 february 2022
Unfortunately, the day starts badly. I stayed at the "Premiere Classe" Hotel in La Seyne sur Mer for the night, which, despite its pretentious name, is a budget hotel. In the morning, when I go to the car in the enclosed parking lot of the hotel, I find that a glass has been broken. And someone has stolen my photographic equipment, and a bag with a few mast feet and some accessories ...
I heard about thefts in Southern France, but it had gone well with me so far ... Baptized. I spend the morning reporting to the police.
I also think about returning home, but then, once the anger is disposed of, I decide to continue with the program, given the money already spent to get here.
In the afternoon, I reach Gruissan Plage, the headquarters of Defi Wind, where I have already been in 2015 and 2017 (read report).
The north wind should be of medium intensity, and instead ...
When I arrive it is pretty tense. I rig the Ezzy Elite 4.2 2019 and the Tabou Pocket 94 2016 with MFC freewave 23 fin.
I swim through the channel that separates the parking lot from the beach, and enter the water at 4.00 pm.
I didn't think the wind was that strong! 4.2 too big.
The water plane, as usual, is beautifully flat.
I start doing short rides, and practising many maneuvers in row. The speed jibes on port tack come to me in a fantastic way: switch output in full glide at supersonic speed. I try to work on the starboard tack one, which has always been my weak point. Too bad that in that direction the wind is often too strong to control the 4.2. I also perform some duck jibes, while in some of them, the wind pull my sail away from my hands, and I close the maneuver with spectacular dives in front of the board!
I also work on the fast tacks.
If I lived here, or stayed there at least a week, I would become a much better rider quickly! Fantastic spot, really very didactic.
Some riders with slalom equipment train for speed on the Defi Wind course, up to Port La Nouvelle.
I have sailed for two physically intense hours. I get out of the water just before sunset. Start getting fresh. Back through the canal and unrig. In the evening, overnight at the B&B Hotel in Narbonne. They have video surveillance at the parking!
Tomorrow, La Franqui and its surroundings.
La Franqui, Plage du Rouet (La Palme), Port La Nouvelle, 6 February 2022
After the beautiful session in Gruissan, the forecasts for this Sunday also predicts a beautiful Tramontana. The day will prove more useful to get to know the area better.
I drive from Narbonne to La Franqui, by secondary roads, in the middle of the beautiful countryside and vineyards of the area. Here, too, the views are typical of winter period, but the area proves to be fascinating. Obviously, in spring and summer the colors are much more vibrant.
I arrive at La Franqui, a beautiful seaside resort, with perfect logistics for windsurfing and water sports. Parking near the beach, sheltered from the wind, wooden platforms for rigging. I take a walk on the deep beach to assess the wind, which however does not convince me. It's too unstable here. Probably, it comes too much from NW. I think the spot works better with N, because of the hill behind the village.
I decide to go and see Port La Nouvelle, but driving along the road, I see a sign indicating Plage du Rouet, a mythical speed spot (also known as La Palme), which I had not yet been able to find. The spot is surreal and fascinating. You drive along a dirt road alongside the railway, then you turn towards the sea, and you arrive at an immense and deep beach, of hard sand, where there is only a wooden shed for fishing. The few cars and vans are parked here and there on the beach, with the sea in the background.
When I arrive, the wind is strong but not extreme. Some windsurfers with slalom and freestyle equipment make very fast rides almost attached to the seashore.
In the background the promontory of Leucate and the shining sea. Beautiful scene.
I decide to rig the Elite 4.2 like yesterday, always with the 94, set as single fin.
I just take the time to wear the wetsuit and get into the water and the wind strengthens a lot, and nebulizes or make the water "boiling". 4.2 unmanageable, and even with 3.7 it would be useless. I sail a few rides and get out of the water. It is also a question of safety. At the beach, I measure gusts over 50 knots!
Moreover, the windchill effect is deadly. 12 degrees, but those perceived are few above zero. And even the sea water, which is shallow, here, is chilly.
The day teaches me that at least 5-10 knots can be added to the forecasts from the various models for this area; and that the Tramontana in winter time is really cold! Better to enjoy it in the spring or summer, as I have done in past years.
I unrig with difficulty due to the wind, I get into the car with my wetsuit on, and I go and look for a sheltered place, where I can undress calmly, in the sun.
After having also eaten a sandwich, I go to Port La Nouvelle. Finally, I understand where the spot is, following the Google Maps directions for Mortefon Watersports.
I arrive after driving a long road that runs along canals, salt pans and the very deep beach.
They are all here. In the water, there are many people of all ages and with all kinds of equipment. The wind here too is very strong and cold. The average wind is constantly above 30 knots, the gusts reach 40. Someone in the water is bareheaded, with bare feet and hands. For me, with a down jacket, scarf and hat, both feet on the ground...., it is incomprehensible.
Frankly, the cold and the intensity of the wind don't make me want to go back into the water. Maybe, I could try to do something with 3.7, but I decide to let it go.
I put my hopes on the beautiful wave session on Monday in Bandol, before the storm, set in the afternoon, breaks loose. Let's hope.
L'Almanarre, Hyeres, 7 february 2022
Last day of the French trip. Forecasts give strong and rapidly increasing winds from the morning, with a storm at 50 knots and more, in the middle of the day. I leave the B&B Hotel in Aubagne (fenced and video surveillance car park), heading to Bandol to check the situation. On the way, I stop in Saint Cyr sur Mer, which turns out to be a beautiful location, with a nice beach, but which does not offer valid conditions for riding: little wind near the shore, and very strong only offshore. And the sea is almost without waves.
I continue to Bandol. I explore the two possible points to exit (read review). The bay is very beautiful, but the conditions do not convince me. On the windward side, near the city center, there is little wind near the shore, and almost no waves. The waves become more and more beautiful, orderly and well spaced as you move towards the eastern part of the wide bay. In the vicinity of the possible leeward exit point (see review again), in addition to the inconvenience of the parking lot, I notice that the wind is side-on, with a cliff immediately downwind. With this direction (NW), it doesn't work well.
I decide to continue for the Six Fours spots. At La Coudouliere, there is already someone in the water (Loick Lesauvage), and Traversa getting ready. Then, Bosson will also arrive. The sea is rough, and the wind very strong. I don't like the waves I see here today. They are big, but they already break offshore, and in the area near the shore, under Cap Negre, where you usually surf them, mostly only foams arrive (see photos and videos). During my patrol, here, I measure gusts at 50 knots. Above all, I would struggle to keep the 3.7 (the smallest sail I have). Perhaps, years ago, with even more scarce skills, I would have made an attempt to prove myself. But after trying wave spots in really nice conditions, around the world (including La Coudou, in much more fun conditions), today, I don't want to go into the water. I want to have fun. The session must be a pleasure, not a pain. However, I admire Traversa coming out from the center of the beach, passing close to the port breakwater, overcoming waves and foams in front of it, with a perfect planing stance. In an instant, he rides upwind of the spot, to take the waves offshore. Oh well, he does another job ....
I also go to see Le Brusc, and I'm about to enter there. But, even here, I measure an average wind above 35 knots, and gusts above 40. I take advantage of a tip from a local guy, and I go to Almanarre, in Hyeres, with the fear that it might be the classic day where, in the end, for too strong wind, nothing is accomplished. And instead ....
Hyeres welcomes me with its fantastic panorama. I park behind Le Robinson bar / restaurant. There are 18 °C, and if you stay sheltered from the wind, in the parking lot, you feel pleasantly warm (and I forget the cold I got in Languedoc the day before). But, above all, the conditions offered by the spot seem fantastic: strong wind, but not extreme, with direction side to the beach (NW), and some waves sets that can be nice to surf! Near the shore, the wind is less stable and weaker. Offshore, I understand that the wind is nice and strong. Every now and then, in the middle of the bay, I see huge water bombs .... I decide to rig the Ezzy Elite 3.7 2019, and the Tabou Da Curve 80 2016, set with the central fin of 18 and the two lateral ones of 17; in G10, to have more thrust near the shore. Just after beach-start, the 3.7 may be a bit small, but better manageable offshore.
At 12.00 I enter the water. In short, Almanarre gives me the most beautiful session ever, since I've been riding in Hyeres. Taking advantage of a gust, I easily leave the shore without many problems, in front of the ladder next to the Robinson. Once in the middle of the sea, the sensations are wonderful. I'm perfectly trimmed, and the board is ok.
The conditions are demanding, but I am sure that, whatever happens, I will end up on a sandy beach and that the only danger is breaking the equipment in the shorebreak, which, at Almanarre, can be bad. But, by now, I have quite a bit of experience from this point of view.
I am also quite fresh as energy, and well charged. I don't do too long rides. I quickly reverse the direction, and go in search of some nice waves to surf in front of the exit point. It takes a little bit of luck to get there, in conjunction with the best sets. I don't know the spot very well (I haven't been out here many times); I'm not sure where the group of outcropping rocks is, upwind of Le Robinson, which are the only other real danger of the spot. From the shore they can be seen well, from the sea they can't, because they are covered by the waves that come from the open sea.
As mentioned, the waves are beautiful. I take a few and enter the bottom turn. I'm improving my skills. I push with the external bow leg, I go slightly clew forward, and I try to stay as fast as possible to get back on the wave, for the cut back. I still have the beautiful image in front of my eyes, in which I am going downwind and looking at the lip of the wave through the window of the sail, to make the cut back. As for this, I still miss the right timing, and I'm either too early or too late. Anyway, how nice it is to surf and play in the waves.
Offshore, it's a good fight. There are huge waves (even 3 meters), and sometimes I have to hold back .... I love jumping. Here, you jump on starboard tack, my favorite side ..... But every now and then, I can't resist and fly .... By now, I don't even detach myself from the harness line anymore, to jump even higher. The Da Curve 80, in the air, is wonderfully controlled. Except that when I land, I often lose glide and speed, and then I have to start gliding again. That's why I can't always jump!
After a good hour, I return to shore to drink and eat. The wind strengthens all over the spot, but the water level loses quality. Many believe that the best waveriding sessions are in strong winds. Big mistake, the strong wind ruins and makes the wave choppy, and annoys when surfing.
I return into the water around 13.30. I surf less, and maneuver more. I almost reach the limit, as for my energies. So, I tell myself: another ride and go back to the shore. The unpredictable happens. I tack, for the last ride, but the wind has turned completely from the North, and suddenly collapsed. I am two hundred meters from the shore, in the water .... I don't want to swim .... In short, I take advantage of one last gust to start again, and glide, also helped by the waves, and I get to the beach, 100 meters downwind to Le Robinson. Here, the shorebreak is bad; so, I lay my board on the beach, and pull the equipment out of the water on the fly, before another wave arrives from behind.
With patience, I do the 100 meters into the wind (light, but annoying), and go back to the parking lot. Les jeux sont faits, rien ne va plus!
Now, the peace after the storm. And I must say that, after a day like this, it's also pleasant. I enjoy the 18 degrees of Hyeres, I change and unrig calmly, and I also take a shower (I have a water tank in the car linked to a 12 V pump), before leaving. People are enjoying the sun setting over the sea. Someone is short-sleeved. Some guys arrive with the surf foil, and go into the sea to catch some last waves. Here, they enjoy the sea in all ways. I would like to stay here, lie on the beach, or take a walk.
And instead I have to drive 5 hours to go home .... Moreover, after 4 consecutive days of windsurfing in strong winds, my hands are so sensitive that I can hardly hold the wheel! Nice sensations ....
This last day partially reconciles me with France. There is little to say: the bad experience will make me return here, without the same lightheartedness of the previous trips. France, like Italy, has many social and economic issues. And southern France is also densely populated, which exacerbates these problems. But its spots give great days, and I will definitely be back.
But, now, I'm planning a few trips to Sardinia. I've been missing it for too long, and it will be the obligatory destination of February or March. Before returning, hopefully, to travel, and return to catch some ocean swell ....
Click here, for the slidegallery of the trip (due to the theft, the photos were taken with the mobile phone).
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Are you a passionate windsurfer? Do you want to collaborate with us? Read here, then!
Some clips taken during the trip