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Jack Galbiati sent us this interesting review about a mythical waveriding spot in southern France: La Coudouliere. We are happy to publish it, sure it will be useful to many! For photos, we thank friends Michele Ferraina, and Michele Iungo.

 

Windsurf spot reviews: Coudouliere (France)

We recently updated this review after our visit to the spot, in januray 2017. Additional suggestings are highlighted in blue.

"Taking advantage of the feast of 25 April (in Italy it is pubblic holiday), we finally made the much-desired trip to France.

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Overnight at Hotel F1, at 33 euro per night (room for 3 people). Optimal solution: cheap, decent, nice shower (and it is necessary, after a good session), attached to the spot, enclosed parking. Hotel F1 is a rather cheap solution. Anyway, it's all in order and clean. The triple romm (January 2017) is actually around 30 euro (10 euro each!). Be warned, however, that the rooms do not have toilets and shower in the room (only a sink). Toilets and showers are available in sufficient quantity in the hallway. The main discomfort related to this is the fact that in the late evening and early morning, you can hear the room doors open and close continuously, because of people going to the bathroom or taking a shower. In addition, it should be noted that the breakfast (€ 2.99), is essential, and of lower quality than that offered, for example, the B&B Hotel. Finally, the Hotel is 5-6 km from the spot. Adjacent to the Hotel F1, you have the Hotel Premiere Classe.  We tried it, too; it also belongs to the category of lower-priced hotels. Unlike the F1, in this case, the rooms have a private bathroom.

Alternatively, in the area you have two B&B hotels: one in La Seyne Sur Mer, the other, more distant, in Toulon. Obviously, if you want to find other types of accommodation, you can try the usual booking.com, airbnb.com, etc.


Three-day stay around 25th of April, three days of nice strong wind.

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You exit from the beach adjacent to the port of La Coudouliere (Six Fours Les Plages), from the point more upwind; the bottom is rocky, with some sea urchins. You park the car at the parking of the port. See map at end of article.
With Mistral (W/NW) wind, you go out at starboard tack. The beach to the North of the harbor is the real beach spot, ideal to go and catch the best waves just offshore of the rocky promontory that marks the spot to the North. Someone, fearing the downwind breakwaters at the pier of the port, goes out from the beach just south of harbour (the real Plage de la Coudouliere). With NW wind (and not the W) we think that it can be an alternative, although we did not tried it. In this case, you have a 300 meters bay in which you can ride, before heading out to sea. Pay attention to the south of the bay, beacuse there are some submerged rocks, about 50 meters from the coast.

 

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As for parking concerns, the most comfortable places are those (fifteen) immediately behind the beach where you go out at the real Coudou spot (coming from Sanary, turn right at the sign "Port de la Coudouliere" and, then, again immediately to the right). Otherwise, as you enter the parking lot of the harbor, turn left, and you will see other (twenty) parking places, in a herringbone pattern, that line the harbor. Finally, driving south past the entrance of Port, at the very next roundabout, you will find both on the sea side and the street side, two large parking lots, comfortable for the beaches leeward of the port, or where to park the car, in case of crowding, after downloading the equipment to the true spot of Coudou. Before the roundabout, on the street side, you also have other car parks, at an area of commercial establishments (bars).

 

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At Coudou, you often ride with small boards and sails (with 35-40 knots, boards of 70 liters, and sails from 3.7 for windsurfer who weights 70 kgs). With NW wind, then, there is the problem of overcoming the first 50-70 meters of sea in front of the beach, which remain covered by the promontory to the north. In that case, as usual, you have to find a compromise between gaining soon some speed, and not to lose too much water, getting dangerously too close to the harbor cliff. Look local riders, and you'll know what to do. Generally, I saw that the most guys tried to keep a route pointing to the Isle of Embiez, trying to get quick planing, both traveling parallel to the smaller waves, and not jumping right soon on the larger waves that gradually you meet going out to sea (to save energy, and to avoid risking a wipe out just in front of the cliff). 

 

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The spot itself is not extreme: it could be defined as a spot suitable for anyone who knows how to handle the equipment in strong winds and wave conditions, often breaking also offshore. Essential, at least, the basic maneuvers, especially the waterstart. The shorebreak is generally not a problem for those who already have a little experience. However, you need to properly evaluate the conditions you are going to face With winds up to 25 knots as average (and gusts little higher), especially if wind is from the NW, the spot is not very challenging; with wind above 30-35 knots, as average, the spot definitely requires good command of fundamentals, and proper equipment (appropriate board volume related to rider's weight, and boards with wave shape). The spot can be tricky with NW, because near the shore the spot will give you the feeling that the wind is not too strong, and that the wave is not so high. Offshore of the promontory to the North, however, you will see that the wind gets really stronger, and the waves consistent.

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Pay attention to the leeward pier, if you fall and fail to restart: wind and current take you there fast enough (especially with West wind)! The best solution when you are 2-3 meters from the pier is getting carried away by the current and return to the beach at the end of the pier. At the pier, in fact, a kind of undertow forms, that keeps you at a distance from the pie, if you do not commit mistakes: if you try to do the waterstart there, but you fail, it is very likely to end up on dock, driven by the wind. I do not guarantee about undertow strenght, in case of really big waves.

However, to avoid any problems, I advice to keep upwind, away from the pier, and with so much water to lose in case of wind, or sudden drop of wind.

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The best waves rise near the upwind cliffs: so, you have to go a little bit upwind, to be in the best spot for surfing on the way back; but you have just to look at someone more expert, to figure out where to take place.

 

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And it's a must to ride here with a responsive board if you really want to have fun! The waves are not difficult to take; but if the wind direction is not optimal, it becomes difficult to exploit them well (at least for me, who am a newbie). Sometimes the problem is the traffic in the water, so give the right to pass, to avoid unpleasant collisions. Also be careful not to push too near to the reef to catch the waves". In the early rides, once you have started, bring yourself well upwind towards the open sea, and then go almost completely to the West of the promontory point, and begin surfing the waves, with a first powerful bottom-turn. In this point, in case you fall, wind and current take you to the center of the bay (and therefore in safe), while the waves would make you shatter against the headland in an area where the sea bottom is low and rocky (danger).

 

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However, if you fall, you have a bit of time to do the waterstart before reaching the shallow water area (watch carefully this video, where you'll also see some riders falling in that area, to understand the situation). Otherwise, if you do not feel like surfing the waves in this area, just stay further offshore, during the session. 

Aloha! Jack

 

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If you want to get an impression of the conditions you can find at the spot, with NW wind at 40 kts, read the report of the session here on 14th of january 2017. In the article, you can also find a beatiful video in which you can admire, local and pro-rider, Loick Lesauvage's show.

P.s. The risk of ending up against the downwind dock, according to experienced surfers, is higher in the case of West wind. If, however, the wind is from the North-West, it allows more easily to ride remaining far away from the dock, or not go close to it, in case of problems and leeway. In case you had some problems near the brakewaters of the harbour, remember that, as in other similar places, the current entering the little bay in front of the beach tends to flow out parallel to the breakwater and to take you beyond this, to the south (at the mouth the port, and then do not make the mistake to swim against it, towards the spot beach); keep in mind that downwind of the port, as mentioned, you have about two hundred meters of sandy beaches, where to land. However, if your level is not that good, the first time, try the spot with wind at 25 knots on average as maximum, and with relatively small waves.

Finally, we inform you that near to La Coudouliere you have also the spot of Le Brusc, less riscky and easier. Read here Le Brusc review. Clicking here, you can also watch a video, partially taken, at Le Brusc with NW wind at 40 kts. Just north of Coudou, towards Sanary (and just in front the Tourism Office), you also have the Brutal Beach spot. We have not tried it, but it seemed relatively quiet with NW wind (pebble beaches, and waves less demanding).

 

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Any photographers, or friends/girlfriends in tow, who want to take position and take good pictures of riders, can move to the cliff of the headland to the north of the spot (maybe, they will be in good company of professional photographers). To access it, you have to enter the public park "Parc Mediterranee" which occupies part of the promontory. The entrance is from the road down to Port, just before beginning the descent (where there is a traffic light). Entered the park, after 150 meters, on the left (towards the sea), you will identify the paths (you have some II World War bunker here). Taking them, shortly after, you get to the small terraces, where you can place.

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