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It was a weekend decidedly dominated by East winds in the Northern Mediterranean sea. Given the forecast, our winsurfing session group headed towards South of France, which offers many spots that also work with these winds. Forecasts confirmed, with intense wind, and still very good temperatures, and sunshine.


Windsurf session: Hyeres (France)

Winds from the East, you know, bring moisture and dullness to the Po Valley, where we live. And in fact, when I passed with my car to take my friend Andrea, on Sunday morning, at 8 am, the sky promised a dark and gloomy day. And so, let's go to the sunny and windy South France!

The other journey companions, Michele and Norberto, in the meanwhile, departed from the North West hinterland of Milan, with the agreement to meet each other directly at the spot.



We would like to try Cannes - Palm beach, on Sinday afternoon, which is also nearest than Hyeres, for us (about 4 hours from Milan). Cannes - Palm Beach offers side wind conditions, with East, and wave that rises between the beach from where you go out, and the opposite island. The spot can be challenging, in case of strong wind, but on Sunday the forecast predicts a wind between 20 and 25 knots, ideal, for us to prove it. A friend of mine, however, tells me that when the forecasts are so "right", it can be a lottery, and, ultimately, you can have no wind, at all (cause wind remains offshore). And, in fact, then he will opt for Carrò, near Marseille (6 hours from Milan). We control anemometers (Winds-up, above all), during the trip, but it seems that the wind does not want to enter at Cannes.

Another friend of us, Remy, who is already in Cannes, confirms, just before crossing the Italy-France border, that there are only 5 knots. We decide to drive straight to Hyeres. Remy, then, will let us know that in the afternoon the wind blew also in Cannes (15-20 knots), and he went out with the 5.9 (he weighs eighty kilograms). He also was well impressed by the beauty of the spot (conditions on the ground, you are close to the Croisette promenade). Already, in these conditions, little but enjoyable waves form. He made us willing to go there.




We arrive in Hyeres at about 13,00 (Mik and Norby are already there). We decide to park and exit at La Capte (at the residence Les Sables d'Or), to avoid the crowding at La Bergerie (it's Sunday). While I'm rigging my sail, I start chatting with a French guy (he has white hair, but who cares: we are all young in our souls). He tells me that he married an Italian woman, from Oristano! A bit in Italian, a bit in English (my french is still poor, unfortunately) he tells me how beautiful Sardinia is, and especially Capo Mannu .... I measured about 20 knots of wind at the beach; it's quite constant, and I'm rigging the 4.7 (I am 70 kgs). He weighs 20 kg more than me, and he tells me he wants to try a Gaastra Poison 5.8 that has just been given. I will not meet again any more after the session, but I can imagine that he must have resulted a little overpowered .... At the beach, the wind does not seem so strong (even if I take for granted that in the sea it is stronger). I do not sheet the outhaul and the downhaul to much in order to have a powerful sail. I prepare the Fanatic freewave 105 TE 2012, and leave aside the beloved Tabou 86 3s. Andrea has forgotten 4.7 at home...., and is forced to rig a 5.3.



At 14,00 I enter into the water. At the beginning, the sail, all in all, is the right choice. Even the board behaves well. I get out immediately by white waters and foams, and go offshore. After half an hour, the wind picks up, and both sail and board starts to be too much big. The resistance offered by the board in the water does not allow me to dispel some power give by the sail, and I go to fast. I cross with Michele a few times in the water. The session, however, is enjoyable. You feel comfortably in the water. I opted for the heavy wetsuit (5 mm), but I have bare hands, head and feet: what a pleasure!

The Fanatic freewave confirms to be a board slightly wave oriented, and it turns really well. Only in the jumps, and while planing, in these conditions, it is not fully in control. So overpowered (now there will be no less than 25 knots, and in the gusts almost 30), I try to do the jibe, fliting the sail immediately. If I hold it for too much time at the inner of the curve makes me go upwind again! The solution is the right one, but then I find myself in switch stance at the exit, and I have yet to master this stance. After some time, I decided to return to shore to take the 86. But when I came out, I made a mistake ... I did not take note of a reference for the exit point. I ride the waves in back side, to lose water, and I find myself on the beach, but not at Les Sables d'Or. I have to go out again to sea. But the wind, now, is slightly lowered, and, above all, quality worsened: now it's no more stable both in direction and in intensity. When East wind becames like this in Hyeres, it can be really annoying.

It takes me a while to start again, or better I manage to start, but heading towards Badine, I get some lulls,  and also some changes in wind direction, unfortunately comining against my bow. I have to bear away to maintain speed, without straying from the shore. So, I end up to become easy prey of the breakers, and, unfortunately, of the the seaweeds near the shore, torn off by the storm. In short, I spend the rest of the afternoon to ride among the breakers, passing several times even from the exit point (which, in the meantime, I again identified). I give up changing my board, because I would waste too much time (next time, I'll leave both boards ready at the beach). At about 16:30, I go out of the water. I undress quickly (it is no more as last time, in October, and now on the beach, at the end of the day, it is somewhat chilly), while waiting for Andrea to reappear (in Hyeres, there is not much to worry: you are pushed to the beach anyway). I chat with Norby and Michele, who, in the meantime, have reached us. At 17, Andrea appears again. He took lots of blows and wipes out, but he has never given up.

Dinner together, and then to bed, with hilarious end of the day. We stay at B&B Hotel in Hyeres. Before going to dinner, we allowed ourselves to lay the wetsuits on the balcony railing, after washing them, to make them drip a bit. On our way back from dinner, all our wetsuits have disappeared .....

I have a spare suit. Andrea is already considering the possibility of having to buy a new one for the next day, to ride again.


Resigned, we are going to get into the room to go to sleep, when an employee of the hotel appears, and informs us politely but firmly, that they took our wetsuits and took them in a room (where, however, they may dry better). For the decensy of the hotel, we can not do these things! Anyway, we're glad we saved our wetsuits!


The next day, I meet a friend from Milan, in the hotel. Discussing where to go, he suggests Le Lavandou, about 20 minutes from Hyeres, where the wind might be more side, and with good wave. I'm a bit puzzled, because today (Monday), they predicts a little rotation from the North-East, and I am afraid that the spot, close to the shore, remains a little covered. But I'm always curious to discover new possible spots. So, around at 10.00, we are there, but unfortunately my hypotheses are confirmed. Beautiful waves to the shore (there are some guys that make surfing), but the wind is offshore, beyond the harbor. Probably, the spot works well with full East, or East-Southeast. We return to La Bergerie (today there are less people), at about 11,00. Today, there is full sun and 17 degrees!



Also this morning, at the beach, the wind does not seem much strong, and I measure 20 knots as average, apparently stable. Again, I choose for 4.7 trimmed to be powerful, and I prepare both of my boards. At about 12,00, I go out with 86, and 4.7. Before going out, I cross Norby in the water, who tells me that out, in front of Badine, wind is quite photonic .... Gosh, but do you ever manage to guess the right trim, with the East in Hyeres? Anyway, I am already with my feet in the water, and I go out.

Today, in the water, there are not any seaweeds as yesterday (they are stranded), but, near the shore, there are submerged branches/trunks, so it is good to be careful


Norby's word are confirmed. 4.7 sail, for me (70 kg), is very big, although with the 86 board, I better manage the overpowering. I resist a bit, and I cross Mik again offshore, with a freestyle board (!), Starboard flare, and with sail Severn Freek 4.4. But soon, I try to return to the shore, to trim my sail for strong wind (I do not want to switch to 4.2, because to get out of foams near the shore, here, power is needed). I get blisters in my hand, to sheet in the outhaul and the downhaul. Trimmed in this way (for those who know Ezzy sail, to the third sign in the upper part of the sail), I go back into water, but it is a disaster ....

Offshore, I would be right, this way, but I haven't enough power to overcome the foams, and I manage to ride only near the shore. I go back again to the beach, to ease, at least, the outhaul, and to give the sail some power in the lower part. Unfortunately, the wind today is gusty; when it is not full-East, at Hyeres, I fear that this is always like this (If you know the spot, add your opinion in the comments at the end of article, if you want).

Anyway, it's a bit better, like this. I, finally, can catch a bit of good and stable gust (especially  more favorable as direction, i.e. from North East, riding towards the Badine). When I there I change direction and I get to ride on starboard tack, and I again gain offshore sea. There, conditions are truly remarkable. Big and steep waves, sometimes breaking, about 2-3 meters high; beautiful and strong wind, at least about 30 knots. Thank to god the sail has a very loosen leech, and that allows me to survive. I can surf the waves in back-side. So, I unhook from harness line, and I hold the boom strictly with arms, a little hint a bit of wave riding, and sometimes I overpass the lip of a wave jumping. Fortunately, I'm a bit trained, because this work is quite challenging.

I begin to understand what a sail with less battens could be needed (my Ezzy Panther 2, 2010, has still got 5 ones). In the hollow of the waves, the wind is a bit subdued, but when you reach the crest, you will be struck by absurd gusts, and a 4-3 battens sail, which, at that moment, quickly lose power, would be a an excellent solution. When I'll have to change my small wave sails, will certainly go for a 4 battens, as maximum.



Ah, I forgot, until now, to tell you, that during both days, I had a fight with my harness line. After breaking my previous ones during my last session, I bought a couple of Dakine, and a pair of ION, both of them not fix. The Dakine proved to be a disaster. The plastic sheath doesn't completely cover (obviously) the inside rope, but there's not a sort of outer sheath near the joint to ensure rigidity. So they swing all the time (even wind is enogh to move them!), and hooking is not as immediate as, however, conditions would require. The Ion, instead, have a metal buckle, which doesn't lock the ribbon.....

After half an hour outside, in really tough conditions, I decide to surf the waves in back side one last time, to lose water, and get back a bit to shore to end my session. I start to dismount my equipment. My friend Andrea will remain in the water for another half an hour, with a 5.7 (!), having destroyed the 5.3, an old one to be true.



What to say of these two days in Hyeres? I had more fun in my last trip here in late October (particularly on Monday). On this occasion, it bothered me the difficulty to guess the right set of sails and boards, because of too unstable wind conditions. However, I must say that waves that you can ride at La Bergerie (including offshore ones) with East, are, on average, more beautiful than those that you get at La Madrague / Almanarre with Mistral (except, near the shallow waters area at the center of the bay, and in the area in front Almanarre rocks). However, I find the Mistral more powerful (higher average intensity, and less gusty, until it does not rotate from N / NW).

While I put away my equipment, I meet Carlos, an Italian guy who moved here a few years ago, who works as factotum at the Residence Au Grand Sud. We talk about our sessions, and he arouses our envy, saying that now he will enjoy the end of the day with calm, while we must drive for 5 hours, to go back home. Uhm, now I try to find a job as gardener here, too .....

And what is worse is that, once left the sun and 17 °C of Hyeres, on the way back, near Milan we meet a thick fog, as not seen in years .... Great! Then, the next day, luckily the sun will return ....

I go to bed tired, and I sleep deeply like a baby, to recover energy, for my next trip.

Aloha, Fabio.

Click here to enjoy the whole slidegallery of the session.


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The video of the sessions filmed with my camera






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