If you are new to the world of surfing, you’ll find that once you get started, you’ll have a better understanding of why it is such an addictive sport. Watching the pros take on monster barrel waves can be intriguing, but you might want to begin from the basics before you try to do this yourself. If you choose to venture into surfing overseas, the best place to do this is none other than France. Not only does this European country has an incredible history and delicious cuisine, but its surfing scene is unrivaled as well. Aside from learning the perfect technique, there are a couple of other things you need to know about surfing the waves in France in particular, as there is quite a bit of interesting information.
Timing Always Matters
Despite France being a year-round surfing destination, you may not have the same experience in every season. As with any other seasonal sport, if you choose to go surfing during the tourist season, everything will be much more crowded, not to mention expensive. That being said, the swells are a lot more consistent during summer and autumn, which is generally more suitable for beginners. On the other hand, more advanced surfers may like to tackle winter swells known for producing powerful waves. When it comes to choosing the time of the day, usually the afternoon hours or sunrise would be your best bet. Around noon the sun is the strongest, which can be problematic even during the colder months as it impairs visibility. During the summer, it can be downright dangerous staying such long hours under the sun.
You Will Need Appropriate Clothes
The maximum water temperatures on France’s Northern coast range between 16 to 20°C (61 to 68°F), which means that you will probably need to wear a 3/2mm fully sealed wetsuit regardless of the season. During the winter, the water temperature can drop all the way to 10-11°C (50-52°F) here, so you should be prepared to wear a 5/4/3 wetsuit with a hoodie, gloves, and booties.
If you are traveling from Australia (and are used to the local balmy water), you may fare better in Southwest France, where water temperatures move in the range of 20-25°C (68-77°F). Nevertheless, sales consultants at Southern Man Surf Shop still advise you to opt for quality clothing even if a 3/2mm spring wetsuit should suffice in summer. After all, you will still need adequate protection against the wind, which tends to be up during morning hours, the ideal time of the day for surfing. Plus, you will want your clothes to be durable and withstand all that action they will be subjected to.
There is an Elaborate Surf Scene
France’s Southwest coast has an abundance of pretty little surf towns with surf shops, rental facilities, surf camps, and trendy surfer hangouts. And this is not only good to know because they can provide you with any equipment you haven’t brought with you. In these places, you will always come upon some pro surfers who can offer you advice or two on how to improve your technique. The Northern coast tends to be less crowded due to the harsh weather conditions. Despite this, even here, you will find plenty of local surfers who are generally welcoming and eager to help foreigners.
Replenishing Your Energy is Crucial
With all that wave-riding and hopping from one surfing spot to another, you will definitely make sure to replenish all that energy you burn. While it may not be haute cuisine, most coastal local restaurants offer all the staples that will more than make up for your lost calories. The meat and cheese-based meals are full of protein and are a lot more affordable than anywhere else in the country. And if you decide to rent a place with a couple of buddies and cook for yourself, you will find enough fresh seasonal produce on the market to make all the food you can eat.
Finding Surfing Camps is Easy
Whether you are landing in the small international airport in Bordeaux (BOD) or on the large one in Paris (CDG), getting to the surfing camps will be easy. From the latter, you can take the TGV and get either to Bordeaux in about 3hrs or to Biarritz in 5hrs. This is the most convenient way of traveling for surfers, as this is the cheapest way to transport your surfboards, and if you can book your ticket in advance, you will save even more. In addition, some surf camps even offer transfers from the nearest airport, so check your destination to see if this can be arranged for you.
Once you arrive in one of the coastal surf towns, you’ll find lots of popular surf beaches literally within walking distance of one another. And if you find some spots that are further away, you can always rent a bike with surf racks to get to them faster. You can opt for renting a car as well if you find this a more convenient solution.
You Should Be Respectful Towards Locals
French surfers are usually known for their laid-back vibes. That being said, they can become overprotective of the surf spots they frequent, particularly if these are located in lesser-known parts of the coast. If they see a newcomer occupying their turf -not to mention crashing into their waves, ruining their fun – they might have a word or two to say about that. To avoid any conflict with them, please follow proper surfing etiquette and wait for your turn. If they see you are respectful towards them, the locals will be much more likely to allow you more time on their spot and even show you a trick or two.
These are some of the most important things you need to know before grabbing that board and taking on the majestic waves. Some of these are exclusively applicable to the French shores, while others are part of universal surf etiquette. Regardless of where you decide to try your luck, always remember to have a ton of patience as you learn more about how to surf and be respectful to other surfers. After all, if you want to learn how to catch those massive ways yourself too, you can benefit greatly from their advice as well as your own hard work.