The South of France is well known for providing strong winds and glorious summer sun. But John Palmer chose to venture over this winter and was rewarded with a fantastic trip, here’s a run down of where to go at this world class destination.
I had planned a trip to Leucate last year, but unfortunately the forecast let me down so I never made it. This year the planning for the trip started with upgrading my van. I hadn't really thought about how I'd kit it out inside so I went along to Juice Boardsports to get some ideas…
This ended up with us doing two days solid work (7.00am to 11.00pm) kitting out the van! New captains seats, insulated, carpet lined, lights, awesome floor, a rock n’ roll bed and windows were all fitted. My vehicle being transformed from a simple panel van to the perfect windsurf van! I had a few days to recover (at work) then it was time to go!
I booked the channel tunnel which was a bargain... £120 return and it only takes 30 mins. It was the cheaper than a ferry and far quicker! So, I arrived in France at 5.00pm then started the long drive down to Bordeaux, this took a good few hours on the peage, so I arrived pretty tired at 2.00am, although I was greeted with a nice beer in the pub there, which was nice!
With the forecast looking good for the next day I got my girlfriend up early and we set off to Leucate. It was about three hours from Bordeaux, not a bad drive. There were a good few speed cameras on this road; I got done three times by the cameras but no ticket yet....
Just as we were getting close to Leucate the signs all along the motorway changed from "Don't drink and drive" to "Caution Strong Winds"! The last bit of the drive went pretty quick….
The first place we went to was the Wesh Centre Crew, at Le Goulet. This is at the top of the lagoon and it was nice and windy! Expecting the freestyle ramps to be out, I was a little disappointed to see no one there, so we drove round to have a look at a few other spots. We got to the next spot, which is about 10 mins away called Éole and there was no wind, pretty devastating! Thinking it had dropped off we waited there for a while then met a local who told us to go back to the Centre and it would be windy. It was! I had a perfect session on my 4.3 S1.
There are so many spots in the area if you are going on a trip its worth picking up a Windsurf Guide to Europe and I got given a local guide when I was there, which was brilliant. It tells you all the spots and when they work. The main thing I learnt was that, if there is no wind in one spot drive to another few before you give up!
I've chatted a little about the Wesh Centre Crew’s spot and it’s pretty good. It usually gets the wind first and it stays the longest. It’s pretty choppy and cross shore from the centre so a nice easy place to sail. There are also facilities for campervans free of charge(off season) here and a massive car park to camp in.
Éole usually has the least wind and is onshore but there's a little protected lagoon so it’s good for beginners and intermediates. Also, it has a big enough car park, where a couple of campervans had set up camp.
Le Parc a Huitres is just by the road from Leucate to Eole and sign posted pretty well. This spot is epic. It’s knee to waist deep everywhere and has good consistent wind. There are a few issues with it though. At times there can be lot of weed, I had a freestyle fin so it was fine but big freeride fins wouldn't be good. There are also oyster pots around so stay away from the posts coming out of the water. If the Tramontana has been blowing strong for a few days it can get pretty shallow.
La Franqui is back in the direction of the motorway - on the other side of the headland and it’s pretty well sign posted. The wind is cross shore at the town and offshore further upwind. It’s nice and flat with good chop the further out you go. This spot isn't great for beginners and intermediates, because if you can’t get back in you'll end up in Africa. It was my favourite of all the spots, the water colour is nice and the wind is pretty good. You've also got the option to sail upwind for flat water. This spot was pretty busy and I reckon it gets difficult to park here in the summer.
La Nautique is a spot on the lake towards Narbonne. It usually isn't as windy as Leucate but does get the wind a day earlier. It was nuking when we were there though. There’s also another spot downwind, which is waist deep and good for beginners and intermediates. Can get busy with kiters though!
- There is a pizza takeaway by the windsurf shop in the village which is amazing!
- The normal winter population of Leucate is around 11,000, in the summer this goes up to around 80,000 so the whole place gets very busy and the water really crowded! Fortunately I wasn't there in the summer and it was great, water was pretty cold though!
- Several naturist villages can be found scattered around the area…
- Sigean African Reserve - This is on the small road from Leucate to Narbonne and is awesome. Basically drive round loads of animals like lions and tigers then you can walk round a zoo section after. It’s pretty expensive but definitely worth it! If you’re doing it in the summer make sure your car or van has aircon! Apparently when it’s busy it’s like the M25 in rush hour.
- Narbonne is average to poor.
- Montpellier is about an hour away from Leucate and is a really nice city. Definitely worth a visit and there’s loads to do there.
- Carcassonne is about an hour away too and is a really nice town, awesome castle to go round!
Overall it’s a great place, windy about half the time and lots of good things nearby. The food as always in France is excellent, and it’s sunny! I think the best time to go would be April/May and September when it’s not too busy. Stay away in August at all costs when the French are on holidays because the whole of France will be there. Fact.
John Palmer is sponsored by: Severne, Starboard, Mystic, Juice Boardsports.