Wednesday morning and I stuck to routine, up brekfast and bike it down to the break only to be faced with head and a half plus of bedlam perfection. Clean, offshore, sunny and lines racking up as far as I could see. No-one out. Bollox! Just knowing someone else is there sometimes is all I need. It was pushing up towards high tide and still the beach would not hold the swell. Double bollox!! I had left my Storm rider guide at home and I needed a wooss out wave.
Meanwhile back at the Van : (Tonto, disguised as a bucket was feeling a little pale)
'Charms, how do you fancy driving into St. Giles and sitting on the beach reading for a while? We can get our salad in then'.
(All our holidays seem to rotate around food. Where, when, what etc? Last time in St. Giles we had a fantastic salad Nicoise at a cafe' opposite the car park looking across the river towards the slipway).
ST GILES HARBOUR SIDE
It was a plan, stacked heavily in my favour, but a plan. We loaded up an drove to St. Giles, parking up at the roadside near to the beach access just shy of the Southern end of the promenade. Small world for such a big country France. I reckon that I parked in exactly the same spot that we parked in five years earlier when we took our first lads trip. Bizarely I could not remember what the town was then, it just felt familiar and came flooding back as I walked to the beach. There was a very long sea defence wall with built in seating jobbies backed by shops and hotels. With such easy access it was reasonably busy but the sheer size of the beach ensured that there was loads of room and again plenty of peaks. I had a decent couple of hours here on the Nah Skwell. The wave here was a little mellower and the paddle out was do-able first time. It was still a bind getting caught inside and my timing had to be good not to get caught under the lip paddling out, but at least I was not in fear of my life. The weather was fantastic and the sun was behind me and the skatey little Nah Skwell was on song. 'Did you get any pics?' I asked Charmaine after taking my last wave just a bit too far inside to make the paddle out beating worthwhile one more time. She flashed me her 'dont push it pal' look. So I didn't.
Got to admit I'm not be too keen shopping with Charm's and probably would not sit around taking pics if she asked me, and that's pretty much all the ladies do you know, shopping, decorating perfectly fine rooms, making themselves gorgeous for us, questioning the validity of road signs whilst driving. (sit back, count to ten and . . . . ) You know I don't mean it I'm sure that there are some ladies that hate decorating.
The salad was every bit as good as we remembered it. So fantastically decadent sitting outside at the harbourside in late October soaking up 21'c of sunshine, wine rocket, anchovies and French cafe' atmosphere watching people that ooze style without even trying. God I love France.
Later that afternoon I checked out our beach again. The tide had dropped back and although still pretty big it looked like the low tide banks were shaping up a few shoulders. Plenty of surfers out. Charmaine wanted to read her book and I thought hell let's go. Possibly one of my best sessions of the trip. Plenty of decent waves, nothing too 'slashy' but again loads of variety including a very satisfying, very long, tucked tight under the lip backhand and a seemingly endless ride that had me fixed on (near don't exagerate) the nose, with the Naish set high on the wave and me just shimmying my hips to alter the trim and accelerate or slow the board. Felt so good. This place really rocks from mid to low tide.
I got back to the van where Charmaine said a chap called Dan stopped by to say hello. She said that he introduced himself and told her that he reads the blog. I suppose he must have recognised the van. Be nice to catch up with him, maybe have a wave. Small world.
Loosely arranged a dawn(ish) session with Dan who assured me that the swell was dropping off a bit over the next couple of days. Can't say I'm too sorry about that. Got to the beach about 7:30 and it looked like Dan's forecast was spot on. Clean, offshore and chest to just overhead on the sets. As always it took me a little while to crank it up but soon it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Lefts, rights, cock ups the lot. This was why I like coming here, always a decent variety of waves and often walling up offering long rides peeling both ways.
There were a couple of other chaps out on stand ups who seemed to be enjoying themselves, I said hello to one but to be fair the rides were so long and the beach so big you could easily loose hundreds of surfers there so basically it was a nod and a smile, catch a wave and we were miles apart.
Back to the van for a shower, a cup of tea and brekfast consisting of much needed dietry fibre. I wont go into details!
11:00 on the bikes and back onto the piste cycleable. This time we headed South back through the Olonne forest stopping off to check out Sauveterre. This break is a legendary Stormrider venue and it was fair to say that she was showing off a bit when we got there.
SAUVETERRE BREAKING WELL OFF
The cycling is predominantly traffic free and pretty much flat. Personally I would say head for St. Gilles if you have 5-6 year olds or younger. Whilst not hilly, the Southern route to Les Sables is a little more undulating and has a few more traffic intersections. Both ways are very scenic and it's easy to rack up the miles, the routes are well waymarked although we did get lost a bit in Ollone. Doh!. All up we did thirty miles or so and had a great afternoon in 26 - 28°c heat.
Back home we knocked up a quick homemade salad (more fibre) and I was back out the front to soak up the last of the afternoon sun and hijack some more of this amazing swell. The water is so warm I was tempted to go in with boardies and a rash vest but instead wore one of Malcolm's Snuugg Tube Suits.
MELLOW EVENING SHORTIE SESSION
What a piece of kit that is. Short bottoms, body with wifebeater arms, only one of which has a double velcro fastener over one shoulder. Fantastic, I've been so hot in the water this week in my SNUGG SUSpect, this worn over a short sleeve rashie was perfect. Snugg can offer so much stuff that is and could be Sup specific and the beauty is that they make it, so they can totally tailor it to you, it's so worth given them a call. Even Shane has succombed to the custom suit option. Malcolm said when he measured him up, 'You seem to be made up of all sort's of different bits.' Poor kid did not really stand a chance.
Anyway, the wave had dropped a little further and I had a great time. It did not start off too well though as my first wave involved dropping in on a French lad. My fault entirely, there was a bowl like take off section and I was on the outside of it. I just did not see him inside me. He rightly called me off, which I did and as he passed me paddling back out I did my best to apologise profusely. He shrugged, I think he was ok about it.
SHAME THE MOST SPRAY I SEND UP COMES FROM MY PADDLE
The French wave claiming system seems to comprise of everybody paddling for everywave and the guy who catches it who is the deepest has the wave with everyone else pulling off. Anyway, no harm done, and I had a belter of a session.
Tomorrow is our last full day here, what a fantastic spot, decent waves close to the beach, clean site, kids play area, very good cycling. I'm sure that there must be loads of other great spots in France that can offer all this, if you read this stuff and know of one please let me know, but until then Les Dunes does it all for me.
Caught up with Dan again this morning. He was longboarding it at the Northern end of the beach. We chatted and surfed for a while before he packed in having been in since dawn.
NAH SKWELL 7'8" IN MORNING GLASS
I started the session on the Nah Skwell, the wave was a rolling lazy chest high and although I kicked of with a couple of decent skatey rides I again thought that a bit more paddle speed was in order to get the best from the session. I swapped boards but was equally crap on the Naish. I hate to admit it but I may have been suffering from a bout of paddle fatigue. Eight fairly hard sessions to date one last one to follow, thirtyish miles of albeit easy cycling, and twisting the neck off countless bottles of '33 EXPORT' had taken their toll. I was going to need a holiday to get over this.
Out at 9:30, back for brekfast and really looking forward to a mellow evening session. Not quite sure where Dan was getting his forecast info from but it was spot on pretty much to the hour. The latest was for the swell to build again, the wind going onshore and with foul weather coming in for Sunday. Dan gave me the web address of the French forecast site that he had been using.
'Only seems fair to pass these things on'. He said, so here it is. www.yadusurf.com/meteo-surf-report-les-sables-d'olonne.aspx
I checked the top gate end of the beach that evening, and as predicted the wind had just gone onshore, the swell had also jumped back up to the size that it was early in the week. I had had a great trip and did not want to spoil it now. It was time to pack the boards up for the Saturday drive back to Roscoff.
So that's it - another French raid over and all I want to do now is keep some of my hard won paddle tone until January. Well that and sleep, I'm bloody knackered, good knackered but knackered all the same.
Anyone who actually reads this and who wants a heads up for the campsite etc. please feel free to message me. It's through hooking up with people like Dan who has now been twice to the site as a result of reading the blog and people who leave comments that make these things work. If you read it, leave a comment. It costs nothing and lets me know that this stuff gets read. I bet the same thing applies to everyone that writes a blog.