And so... we tried the East too! On the 23-24 October 2016, given the favorable wind predictions, we went to try Hyeres with wind from the East. Two days of wind at 20-30 knots, which allowed us to understand how the spot works under these conditions.
Windsurf session: Hyeres (France)
You go to Hyeres mainly to catch the mistral (West-North/West) in the Almanarre bay, but the peculiarity of the spot, is that the bay on the other side of the isthmus, leading to the Giens Peninsula, is well situated to get the wind coming from the opposite direction (East).
Five of us reached the spot: Michele, Marco (from Garda), Norby, e Marco (from near Milan), and me. Me, Michele and Marco from Garda decided to stay overnight at the residence "Au Grand Sud", right on the spot, to be comfortable to start our sessions from the Bergerie beach. The residence also offers some rooms for equipment storage (some do not even dismantle the sails), and the ability to rinse the equipment with fresh water at the end of the session. It must be said, however, that the place also has some drawbacks, almost chronic (though, over time, at least, they have re-painted outdoor walls, and have substituted the windows shutters of the apartments): first of all, the smell of damp that reigns in the rooms. However, at the residence, Carlos, an italian guy moved here a few years ago, works as assistant, and he is always very helpful, and kind (as well as being an avid windsurfer).
But let us speak about the surfing chronicle. We got to the spot at around 13,30 (left Milan at 8.20); the first afternoon, we found the conditions shared over and over by other friends with the East in Hyeres: leaden sky, and, occasionally, light rain, breaking waves ashore, for almost 100 meters, brown sea, and very on-shore wind. So, much less attractive conditions than those offered by the Mistral (blue skies, sunshine, and emerald water), because of which, until now, I had always hesitated to make the trip with the East. But the desire to test the wind, led me to try anyway.
Before entering into the water, I make a wind measurement: the anemometer confirms the forecasts, with medium wind at 20-22 knots and gusts over 30 knots. Believing that the spot works in a similar way to La Madrague with mistral, when 30 knots of gusts at the beach mean 25-30 knots as average at sea, I decide to rig the Ezzy Tiger 4.2 2014, in conjunction with the Tabou 3s 86 2009, set with a freewave Select fin of 18 cm. Then, I will find out that the East is more unstable than the Mistral, with significant lows (even under twenty knots), and relevant direction changes in the bay, with moments, and areas where the wind is oriented from NE, and others from SE.
The first afternoon, frankly, for me it is not pleasant, and indeed anger prevails. I enter into the water at 14:45. The wind is slightly rotated from the NE, and so it gives slightly advantage beachstarting on port tack. With the wind so on-shore, and a series of 5-6 breakers to be overcome (at Almanarre bay they are 2 or 3), you must have power in your sail, and a board that goes easily upwind when gliding, to exit out. On the contrary, I find myself underpowered, with no speed, often at crucial moments, when it comes to overcoming a steeper breaker. I try to adopt the technique that works at Almanarre, and in other similar spot with onshore conditions, to overcome the shorebreak: I go for a few tens of meters abeam, to let the board glide well, and, then, I direct the bow of the board to the waves only when I am at full speed, and, possibly, when there are stronger gusts.
But here it does not work. When I try to point the waves, I, often, lose speed, because I get a low, or because, especially heading towards the Badine, further south, the wind comes from SE, i.e. in my face. I should direct the board downwind to keep it planing, but doing so I run the risk of reaching the shallow area next to the shore. The spot, moreover, is crowded (it's sunday afternoon), and in this area close to the shore, there is a lot of castaways surfers, that practically fails even starting. In addition, there are the ubiquitous kiter, whizzing everywhere. In short, a disastrous mess (not to use turns of phrase). Finally, the Tabou 3s (which has already proved to have excellent upwind capability), today with the 18 cm fin, has some problems to go upwind, and I end up sometimes in spin out. Much better the 24 cm standard fin, in these conditions. I return to shore to change the fin, while I do not decide to replace the 4.2 sail with 4.7, not to lose too much time (but I'll be wrong ....).
I manage to start and to get away from the shore, just a couple of times. I find that, in front of Badine, up to 200 meters from the shore, there are good "glassy" waves of about 2 meters, parallel to the beach, which, in other circumstances, would be a show. In this case, surfing them would result into being pushed to the shore, and would be detrimental (apart from the enjoyment of the moment), because you would end up in the mouths of kiters, which all start right from the Badine beach, and because, then, coming back from Badine, northward to the Bergerie beach, with the wind slightly oriented from the NE, would be very complicated. In short, not a happy impact with the Bergerie with East. Despite the overcast sky, however, the water is fine (4/3 mm wetsuit, hands, feet, and head uncovered).
Other friends do not behave better, mainly because all of them are a bit underpowered. Marco (95 kg) has rigged a 4.7, Michele a 4,2. Only Norby, who weighs about the same as me (65-70 kg), rigged a 4.7 and manages to ride a bit better. Marco from near Milan, a little more inexperienced, begins to make friendship with the Hyeres shorebreak, and take healthy wipes out ashore.
Fortunately, we console ourselves in the evening with a dinner together at a local port of Hyeres.
The next day (the leaving one in our short trip), the idea is to get early into water, max for 10.00, not to leave for home too late. We wake up with a beautiful sunny day, unusual, but not impossible, with East, and in any case predicted. It is almost pleasantly warm (the thermometer will reach up to 26 degrees in places sheltered from the wind). The bay offers, in the first light of the morning, an enchanting view. Some riders (2 or 3) are already in the water.
I measure the wind. At 9.00, is less than yesterday, average 17-18 knots, and 25 on the gusts. Sure of what I am doing, I rig the 4.7 (not sheeting the downhaul and the outhaul too much), also because I have not taken larger sails ..... As board, I use again the 3S, with standard fin. Other friends linger ... I start my session at 10,00, also because I want to take advantage of the spot still completely free in the water. The wind is oriented from NE.
Right soon, I tell you that the first half an hour in the water is a crazy cool ride, that reconciles me with the spot.
I can overcome the shorebreak zone at the first trial, both for the greater sail, which helps me to plane well, also going upwind, and because, in front the Badine, where I head starting, the wind picks up, and I am full powered with 4.7. The pleasure is due to the fact that the waves are really enjoyable, not tall, but beautiful long waves, sometimes also quite steep, ideal for taking confidences with some serious ones.
In the outgoing ride on port tack, I often jump with great pleasure (see video with GoPro), rather even "high" (more than a meter of water). Once arrived at Badine, I close a power jibe with 86 at the first trial, also with a quite good output from the maneuver, reflecting the progresses I made this year with the jibe (although I still have lots of details to improve). On the way back on starboard tack, I pleasantly surf the wave, both simply for fun, and because proceeding towards the Bergerie, sometimes there is some wind lulls, and surfing the wave is useful to be pushed and maintain speed and glide, even with less wind.
This session will be very instructive, in this regard, as I soon learn how disastrous can be to ride parallel to the wave that has just broken, amid the foam: it moves your board sideways, usually, until you fall. Compulsory to take the foam with the stern, until it looses power and then you can direct the bow towards it again, or, anticipate it and go with the bow to a point where the wave has not yet broken.
After half an hour, I return to shore, either to communicate to others my state of grace, and because I believe that there are conditions (enough safe) to do a movie with Go Pro. I return to the water, equipped with a camera, and I do another 30 minutes of great fun. Also the other friends enter into the water, all with larger sails (except Norby, which maintains the 4.7). Marco from Milan, continues the knowledge of the shorebreak ashore ....., with us, in turn, that we try to give him some advice.
Then, at about 11:30 am, the wind picks up a bit and rotates, being on average from the East, but with direction changes like the day before. Unfortunately, I end up into Badine beach, and I can hardly get out. I lose half an hour there. Then, I take good wind with the right direction, that makes me ride nearly parallel to the beach; I overcome La Bergerie, and go north toward La Capte (at the center of the bay). From there, I can again go offshore, and I have some more fun in the waves.
At about 12.30 to 13.00, I begin to feel tired, and the wind quality begins to be worse (too much onshore, and not constant), so I decide to stop because I do not enjoy myself anymore.
Before going out, I accept Norby's invitation who offers me to try his Goya quad 74 - 2016, with a Gaastra IQ 4.7. Another world .... As I put my feet on the board, in beach or waterstart, it turns immediately upwind (the volume is much behind the mast), and to make it bear away, beyond bringing the rig forward, I have to push hardly with the front foot, placing it even before the mast. In addition, to make the board plane I have to direct it really downwind, and then I can try to luff. It reminds me of the feelings I had with my RRD firewave, that I owned at the beginning of this year. But it is too difficult for me to start (I can do it only once). At least, in these onshore conditions, it's not for me (perhaps, I'll try it again with less onshore wind, at Almanarre bay).
At 13.30, we're all out of the water, and we begin preparations for the return. Once the operations are over, and the car loaded, we leave, not before having our usual obligatory stop at pastry shop Paroncinì at La Capte, who bakes stratospheric cakes .....
In conclusion, the sessions with East wind in Hyeres, in overall, gave us a bit of frustration, but also moments of great fun. On balance, I found them positive, but I prefer Mistral .
Click here to enjoy the whole slidegallery of the session.
Are you a passionate windsurfer? Do you want to collaborate with us? Read here, then!
The video of the sessions filmed with my camera
The video filmed with the GoPro