SAINT PARDON, FRANCE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tidal bores are rare and only occur on certain tides in certain areas. One of those unique spots is in France. Malika Dudley was there and got to experience it for herself. She has more from Saint Pardon as we continue our week-long French Connection series.
The little town of Saint Pardon is in the middle of nowhere but twice a day when the tide is high, spectators and surfers flock to the banks of La Gironde river. Fabienne explains, "It's just like lot's of adrenaline. Most of the time at the beginning, because you see this thing coming and say oh my god!" She's talking about what draws the crowd, riding the river bore. Here, it's called "Le Mascaret". People have been surfing it for more than twenty years.
"We told ourselves one day, after going on all these surf trips to Morocco, South Africa, why not surf in our own backyard?" Jean-Francois Lalle said. That's just what Jean-Francois did. On a shortboard first, in small increments. I asked him "How did you start? He explained, "Ten meters, from there to there. The next day, 20. Each time it was really just an extra leap or so. You're so stressed because you don't know if you'll catch the wave or not."
So what is it exactly? Fortunately I had an oceanographer on hand to explain, my father Walter Dudley said "A tidal bore is an ocean phenomenon produced by the tides the thing can go up rivers. It needs to be about twenty feet or more typically to form a tidal bore and it only occurs every couple of weeks when the tides are at their largest."
As the leading edge of the tide is funneled into a shallow narrowing river it forms a wave which rushes in from the ocean. The flood tide actually causes the river to temporarily reverse its flow. So surfers drift down the river to wait for the wave but if you pass the pier, you're paddling up current to get back. "The one we've seen here is called an undular bore and that it undulates it's like this there's not just one wave but there's a whole series of waves," Dr. Dudley said.
"So there's a wave in front of you, you're on a wave and there's a wave behind you," said surfer Rico Leroy. Surfing on river waves using Hawaiian ocean toys. Stand up paddle boards, longboards and even OC4 Hawaiian outrigger canoes. "When we surf an ocean wave for 30 seconds it's already a beautiful thing, but my first time on the river, I surfed the bore for 8 minutes," said surfer Vincent Grenier.
That's how long it takes to get from the bend in the river back to the pier. "And then if you're lucky enough you can go maybe 8 more minutes on the other side," Rico explains. Did you do your math? That's 16 minutes of constant surfing. Jean-Pierre explains, "Potentially, here, I think we could ride for 28 to 30 minutes." If you don't fall off.
The first time I tried it, my heart was in my throat. There for a total of three days, we surfed the bore 5 times. "I just got out of the water, and this is a dawn session like none I've ever had before, tandeming, in the dark on a river," I said one morning after having surfed for 10 minutes straight.
Exhausting yet exhilarating and to make things even more special, these riverside residents share their unique brand of aloha. Bernadette and Bernard have been serving coffee and cookies to the kooky river bore surfers for years.
Now that's Francais...
Click HERE for a link to Malika's travel blog.
Click HERE for a link to "Le Mascaret" on Facebook.