Once again, South France has given us so much wind, and great windsurf sessions in an exciting landscape. On our tour, we touched the spot of Le Goulet (Leucate), Gruissan Plage, Canet en Roussilion, Barcares Eole, Hyeres - La Capte.
Windsurf, sessions: South France (Gruissan, Leucate, Hyeres)
Left aside Sardinia, which in April gave us very good windsurfing days, checking the wind forecasts, we made up our mind to have a trip to Languedoc - Roussilion french department. This journey allowed us to know better the area with regard to how the windsurf spots work.
With my friend Andrea, the Doctor, we left on Wednesday, June 14th. The trip from Milan to the Gruissan area is not a short one, but after the first session there, it is inevitable to think that it was worth of doing .....
Once we set in a Mobile Home, in a camping site, near Canet, on Thursday we went to check the spots for the next days; it was nice to let Andrea know the area, who came here for the first time. The forecasts gave the tramontana to entry from Thursday in the late afternoon.
While checking the spots, at Port Leucate, we came across SurfOne, and we immediately realized the level of some stores in France, which lets us understand how many people do windsurfing in area, at least in this area: the number of 2017 new boards , displayed in and out of the shop, is impressive; even the assortment of sails and booms, including some second hand pieces, appears to be worthy of note. In short, it is a real paradise for us, and I took the opportunity, after 10 years, to change my harness, buying a comfortable ION Vertex.
While we are still in the store, we ask the guys who run the shop for the forecasts of the day, and they tell us that the wind should come strong late in the afternoon, and that the spots where it will first come are La Franqui, and Le Goulet (in the pond of Leucate).
So we move to La Franqui, which is also a nice village on the seaside, and we take the chance to have a freshing bath in the sea, cause it's really hot (above 30 °C). We have a light wind session to practice some tricks. Light wind sessions are always very useful, and should be a must for every not experienced windsurfer, every now and then.
In the late afternoon, as expected, the Tramontana comes in, and local riders appear, mostly with slalom equipment. Here, however, the wind seems to be too much gusty, and we decide to move to Le Goulet.
It's almost 19.00. In the water, there are already several riders who are enjoying about twenty knots of wind. Being the spot super safe, you can stay in the water until dusk.
I prepare 5.5 and the Tabou 3s 106 LTD (Andrea 5,7 and RRD FSW 111). Towards 19.40 we enter into the water, and it is immediately pure fun. The wind, except for a few moments, is beautifully spreaded. In the pond, in general, you have water at chest height. Water is a really warm and we ride with shorty wetsuit. At 8 pm, the sun appears from under the clouds, and the picture becomes very impressive. It's a perfect spot where to try whatever you want.
At 9 pm, we decide to go out, because we have to go back to the camping site, to take a shower and to prepare our dinner. When we leave the spot at 22.00, and darkness has almost arrived, there are still a dozen people in the water. Probably, they sleep in the autocaravan parked on the spot, and they have all the time they want to ride. What a wonder ... We get dinner at 23.00, and we go to bed after midnight: it will be just the first of one of the many full days which will end late ... on this holiday.
The next day, we decide to go to Gruissan plage, which Andrea wants to try. We first drive through the village of Gruissan, which is very nice with the buildings of the old town center, which shine in the dazzling light of the bright sunny day. Even the green countryside around, scattered with vineyards and Castels, is very beautiful. We think that Gruissan can be a great place to set base on a next trip, though it is not barycentric for all the spots in the area. We overcome the village, and we follow the road along the canal leading to Gruissan Plage. The scenery is becoming more and more spectacular: to our right, beyond the channel, the immense wild beach of the spot; to the left, some houses leave place to the windsurf schools of the spot, where the flags already wave incessantly, and bend under the blow of the tramontana.
I take a bit to decide, but this time too, like all the other times I've been here, I understand it's a 4.2 sail size day (my weight is 70 kgs). The flat surface of the water gives me the opportunity to use the 106 again, instead of Fanatic Triwave 86, which I could set as single fin. In this way, I can benefit from a bigger volume and more tolerant board, which can help me to understand more in maneuvering experiments.
Andrea, heavier than me prepares a 4.7, again with the 111 FSW.
At 13,00, the show goes on...
We go swimming ino the canal with the equipment (and this little adventure, for me, but also for Andrea, confirms the added value to the fun of the spot, although there are other possibilities to reach the spot beach), and we go the shoreline . I say to Andrea: "welcome to paradise" .....
Beyond the crazy landscape, the quality of the conditions offered by the spot is unique: 15 kms of beach (up to Port La Nouvelle - other possible entry point in the water, but less attractive, due to the nearby industrial area); an always strong and almost constant wind, all through the beach, and 100 meters of flat and transparent water, with generally shallow waters.
The beach start, with the wind almost coming from your back, must be done controlling the rig so that you are not pulled away by the sail. Few meters, and you are already planing, and soon you get unique feelings: you slip on the water at crazy speeds, without fear that a wave breaks you down, and you can try dozens of dozens of maneuvers during the session. The wind is strong (over 30 knots), but fatigue (also for great adrenaline) never comes.
We'll be in the water until 6 pm, with some short breaks for drinking and eating ... With Andrea, it's easy to ride close together during the session. It's hot, and in the first part of the session, I still go out with a shorty wetsuit (some slalom riders are with naked chest). If I did not fall, it would be enough ... but in the middle of the afternoon, I will switch to a more comfortable (for me) 3/2 mm long wetsuit (Gul Response).
Along with San Teodoro, in Sardinia, Gruissan plage (read review) confirm to be among the highest fun factor spots, where I happen to do windsurfing. It's perfect for freeride, slalom, and of course also for freestyle. Today, there are also several kids safely taken to the spot (towed with a dinghy) from the spot windsurf schools, of course with microscopic sails. Mythical!
It is certainly not a case if, whenever I come to Gruissan, I learn something. Today, trying and trying to jibe, at the end of the day, I have an idea: I understand that, to facilitate the rotation of the sail, it is crucial to bring the mast hand close to the mast on the boom, and I understand that, the exact time when to do this, is when you start bringing the mast outside the curve. In this way, the sail easily flips, and, with strong wind, practically at once. This intuition, put into practice in the session of the next day, wil increas the success rate and the quality of the exit from my jibes. Now, the hard rock remains fast tack on small boards, in the waves ....
With Andrea, we also take an infinite ride, almost to the center of the beach. Although I do not love long ride (at moments, I get a cramp to the bow leg), the experience is unique. In the water, however, there are some groups of slalom riders who sail in groups at supersonic speeds, and end up the ride with spectacular lay down jibes.
At 18.00, we get out of the water, aware that we have just completed one of those sessions that you remember for a life time .....
Even today, we go back home late, and I show my chef repertoire: 150 grams of linguine with tomato souce, olives and anchovies (and it was a shame that we did not find any capers). We also enjoy the very good fruit, that you get here, buying it directly from the farms, and in some cases picking it directly, and personally, from the trees .....
Saturday is also expected to be a good windy day, but our still incomplete knowledge of spot conditions leads us to not make the best of it. In the morning, we decide to try Canet - Pont des Basses, just a few kilometers from our campsite. On Vimeo, local Fred Bonet, from Perpignan, often publishes beautiful videos, shot at this spot, with side wind and two-meter waves, allowing you to do waveriding without too much worries and with great fun.
After asking to some kiters on the spot, we get into the water with 4.7 and freestylewave boards. The wind is unfortunately not well spreaded on the spot, and intense gusts alternate with rather annoying lulls. At first, the water surface is interesting: long waves of about one meter, nice to jump when going out, and nice for some surfing when returning. We are not satisfied with the size of the sails, and after a while we switch to 5.5 (for me) sails, and to 5.7 (for Andrea). It will be a little better, but the quality of the wind will be poor, even if, as I said, the session allows me to confirm the goodness of intuition about the jibe. After I tried it, I realized that Canet (and also the near St Cyprien) work better with stronger winds, and above all, as confirmed by local Annie Fouarge, with orientation more from the North East (or winds from the South East ). If there are no such conditions, it is better to go to other spots in the Leucate area, or to Gruissan (where according to winds-up.com, on Saturday, there will be 26 knots, as average).
In the afternoon, we return to the campsite to rest for a moment, in preparation for the afternoon session.
At 15.00, we decide to goto the spots at the East. I would rather go out into the sea, for the quality of the water. On the ponds, the water is moderately turbid, though not dirty, with muddy bottom, often covered with algae. We could go to Leucate Plage or La Franqui, where Winds-up anemometers confirm a good wind, though, as usual, completely offshore. Andrea feels safer, since we wil have our session late in the afternoon, to go out into the ponds. Not to try Le Goulet again (which, along with Bages - La Nautique, in my opinion, in the light of this and the previous 2015 holiday, is the best spot in the ponds), we go to Barcares - Eole), after having unsuccessfully searched for the exit point at Coudalere.
It is really hot here, notwhistanding the 20 knots of wind. On the spot there is a UCPA school, and in the water there are many beginners, who are practicing. The spot consists of a smaller basin, from which you can ride to a larger basin. I prepare the 5.5, and the trusted Tabou 3s (Andrea goes out with the 7 meters sail), and I go out in shorty wetsuit ......
Entering the water, I realize that the wind is good. I leave the small basin, and head to the bigger basin. The water surface is not messy, and the session is, however, pleasing, but .....
I get horrified ... when I realize that in the big basin in the downwind area, there is an invasion of giant jellyfishes! I can count to dozens around the board ..... as if the dark brown color of water was not enough in this spot of Leucate's pond. No, no ... I confirm that I prefer sea spots in this area.
I look for a less infested point, and I tack, hoping not to fall .... I succed in the operation, and I get planing to get back to the small dock as soon as possible .... During the ride, I meet Andrea, and I scream telling him of the danger, but he, fearless, does not seem to worry ..... I think I'm closing my session here, frustrated.
Then, not to throw away the afternoon, I think to ride at least in the small pond (where there are no jellyfishes) to practice fast tacks. Thanks also to a wind reinforcement towards the sunset (well above 20 knots), it will be an useful session, anyway, in which I get definitly convinced that in the fast tack, as in the base tack, if the water is flat, it is right to pass to the other side of the sail just when the bow of the board is in the wind (on the contrary, when the water surface is messy, and on small boards, it is bettet to anticipate the passage, and going out of the maneuver backwinded). Anyway, I've seen better windsurfing days....
The next day, we start returning to Italy. Forecasts say that the north winds are running out, and that in the Marseilles and Hyeres areas, twenty knots from the east / south-east will enter. I propose to go to explore the legendary wave spot of Carrò (Marigues), where, with about twenty knots from the south-east entering from about at 13.00, the conditions might be ideal to try the spot. Andrea is uncertain, and a bit scared. During the road to carrò, with Ipad, he reads the little reassuring (for the non-expert) descriptions of the spot. We arrive at Carrò shortly after 11.00. Heat is inhumane (about 36 Celsius degrees), in the asphalt parking in front of the spot.
We go to Le Marine Surf Shop, and we ask for tips about wind forecasts. According to the shop manager, today, the spot will not work; or rather, to the limit, it will allow a freeride session with big sails, but "at Carrò people come for the waves ...". Considering the rocky shore on the coast, and a not particularly impressive landscape around, we decide to point to Hyeres, where, according to the store manager, the wind will be even stronger. I do not love the East wind at Hyeres, because it is unstable and very onshore, but this is the best and safest option for the day.
At 14.30, we are in La Capte, in Hyeres, which I had never seen in summer, with East. A nice wind between 20 and 25 knots blows over the spot but, compared to winter, beach, and even the first 50 meters in the water, are filled with bathers (even here, it is hot, and it is Sunday). Unlike winter, the water is less turbid, there are no seaweed in the water, and the shorebreak is not very signficant (offshore, however, there are just over 2 m high waves). I decide to dare to go out with the 5.5 and the Fanatic Triwave 86, set as a thruster, to surf some waves. We go at 15.15. The first hour in the water is fine. I can go offshore, where the wind is stronger and less gusty, and where there are no bathers, and I ride fully planing. Then, at mid-afternoon, the wind has a drop, and being out with 86 and 5.5 becomes an ordeal. Also, a headache, probably due to the heat taken in the day, does not give me peace. I go to shore to rest, and with the idea of changing board.
I will try to go out again with the 106, without changing the sail, but now the falling wind will not allow me to enjoy the session further.
In the evening we have a dinner, at the restaurant "Spinnaker", at Hyeres Port, and we eat "Moules a la provencale avec frites", and then, once in our holiday, we go to bed before midnight ....
The next day, forecasts still give a weak east, but frankly we do not have much hope, and consider the alternative to go for some trekking at the Presquile de Giens. And instead ... when we visit the spot (La Capte again) at 9.30 am, after a good breakfast at the hotel, we find more than 15 knots, and very few bathers. I rig my beloved Ezzy Zeta 6.4 2017, with the Tabou 106, and Andrea the 7 m sails, with his freeride 135 board. It is funny to see the doctor answering the calls, with the earphone, of his patients, while preparing the equipment, in bathsuit. Now, after the many phone calls he has received these days, I've learned the solfa (what's the pressure? did you take the diuretic? how do you feel?), and I propose to take one of the next phone calls.
We have a funny session, confirming that the session quality depends on constancy rather than on intensity of the wind. We both get planing permanently, and we also have the chance to enjoy almost all the bay for us (just a few surfers in the water). The water surface, however, is very pleasant, with regular waves within 1,5 meters, steeper and most enjoyable in front of Badine/Bergerie. I'm trying to further improve the jibe, and I confirm that in the waves, unlike in flat waters as at Gruissan plage, the bend radius must be smaller, so as not to drop the waves in front of you.
At 13.30, we get off the water, so that we leave for Milan, in time to arrive for dinner. In Hyeres, we're very fine, and it's really hard to leave this wonderful sea, with Les Porquerolles in the background.
This is another fulfilling journey to France. Coming back, I can not help but thinking that the Gruissan/Leucate area deserves at least one trip per year, and that, one of the next times, it would be great to organize a nice group and come here all together.
A bientot. Fabio
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The videos of the holiday