Articles > Elphinston’s Road Trip July/August 2005
Back in March earlier this year, my long suffering girlfriend Anna announced that she had to spend five weeks working in Bregentz, Austria in June. “Oh….”, I said and I thought, what am I supposed to do with all that nag free time!? Go kiting and lots of it!!
“I will miss you lots darling.” “No you won’t, you will be too busy playing!”, Anna said. She knows me too well!!
“I have an idea”, I said “how about if I drive out to Austria to pick you up, then we can have a camping holiday while making our way back home?”
“Sounds good, as long as it doesn’t totally revolve around your bloody hobby!” Anna replied.
Time to start planning my kite/road trip...
The kiting schedule was a loose affair really and was wind dependant. I intended to arrive in Calais and head straight to Wissant, about 30 mins south west of Calais, followed by Hardlot-de-Plage for some possible wave riding and also a quick pop into Crotoy. Then head back up to Les Hemmes for a few days land boarding, before heading across France on the Peage toll road to where Anna was working.
My departure date was fast approaching, I’d changed the engine oil in my trusty old Peugeot and bought a roof box to hold all my kiting gear, including my 6’ directional. I packed the car with all the camping gear, camera gear and land board. The car was already groaning under the load and it hadn’t even got any of Anna’s luggage in it yet!
I only hoped that the old car wouldn’t break down along the way.
And most importantly I stuck a Kite-Fantastic sticker on the back!
WISSANT - France
At 4 am on my day of departure I checked the weather forecast for the week ahead. It wasn’t looking good! A large high pressure was about to park right over the channel and it was forecast to have light to no wind for the week a head “CRAP!!!” On arrival in Calais at 07.30 the wind was howling 25 knots from the NE as forecasted.
I drove my poor old car in a ‘There’s wind! I have to kite sort of way!’ to Wissant beach. The only beach which was suitable to kite with a NE wind.
When I arrived in Wissant it was very quiet, grey and overcast - but importantly there was wind! But no other kiters were out. (There was a reason for this!) The tide was already on the ebb and had exposed a beautiful gold sandy beach for setting up and launching on. Low water was around midday.
Giddy as a kipper I got kitted up and charged down to the beach with my 16m Venom and my Naish TT under my arm.
I went through my methodical process of inflating and attaching the lines to the kite. To my relief (its always a relief), I launched the Venom successfully and headed for the water. By this time a sole windsurfer had joined me on the beach. I was on the water by 9.30 am!
Off I went out to sea on starboard tack fully powered up hopping off the chop with a big grin on my face! I did a slide turn and headed back to shore - this is when I discovered why no one else was kiting. A strong current races along the beach and it was moving in the same direction as the wind. My up wind abilities are sketchy at the best of times so that day I had no chance of avoiding the walk of shame! And over the next few frustrating hours I did a lot of walking!
About one hour before low water I noticed kites being inflated at the other end of the beach (the reason they where doing this, I was about discover!). Rocks!! Not many of them but at the low water they where lurking just under the surface! I hit one with my board and put a nice little ding on the heal edge!
At this point I decided to have a break, pack up and relocate to the north end of the beach where all the kiting was starting to happen. This was a good choice of action, there were no rocks and there were sand dunes to have a discreet pee in.
After talking to the locals I discovered that a SW is the best wind direction for the beach. I was told there is usually more wind at Wissant than at near by beaches due to a funnelling affect of the surrounding landscape. You do need to be aware of the direction and strength of the local tidal currents. When the conditions are right there can be 2m waves, so good fun for you wave riding nuts out there!
So if you decide to give this beach a go head up to the car park at the north end of the beach near the Dingy club and life guard station, not at the centre where I started kiting where there is a sea wall.
There is a campground in Wissant that isn’t to far from the beach.
LES HEMMES - France
With the wind decreasing and after a good session at Wissant, I headed up to Les Hemmes Beach for some land boarding action. Les Hemmes Beach is about 15Km north from Calais and is famed for its miles of hard packed smooth sand (supposedly!)
Once I settled in to my campground I went out for a spin with my land board. Sadly I was to be disappointed! The legendary sand of Les Hemmes was soft and no good for land boarding. There was this massive expanse of sand, a nice breeze and it was no good! I searched for some hard sand and found a strip near the waters edge at about 1km from the campground.
I think Les Hemmes is more suitable for buggies more than land boards.
I returned to Les Hemmes on our return trip home in the hope of getting better sand conditions, once again the sand was soft! And I had to hunt for some suitable sand to board on. Im sure that the sand can be hard enough to board on when the conditions all come together to produce it.
Kite surfing can be done at Les Hemmes. You have to wait for high tide, as it’s a long walk to the waters edge, also there are some wooden posts that stretch up and down the beach about 900 metres out from the sand dunes (see photo below).
Once the tides in you are able to kite surf. Be careful, as even at high tide the water depth is very shallow. It varies from ankle deep to knee deep so this can make for some hard landings when jumping with the kite!
A good place to stay is at:-
Camping “Les Oyats”
272, Digue Verte,
62215 Oye Plage.
Tel: 03 21 85 15 40 or 03 28 24 91 91.
This campground is behind the sand dunes right on the edge of the beach, so it has really easy access to the beach, but mind the dog poo as it seems the French dog owners don’t pick it up!!
If you decide to go in August I strongly advise to book a pitch in advance to avoid disappointment, this is the high season and is packed.
SILVAPLANA – Switzerland
Without being too melodramatic, this has to be on the top of my list of top for kiting venues.
Lake Silvalplana is situated in the Swiss Alps near the glitzy town of St Moritz at an altitude of around 1600 metres; and is surrounded by large mountains. In late summer at around lunchtime a thermal wind starts to blow up the valley from Italy. This is called the Maloja wind. This is often about 3 bft to 5 bft in strength. A 5mm wet suit is highly recommended, as this mountain lake is very cold even at the height of summer. There is a large grass launch area between the lake and the kite surf school. A launch permit needs to be purchased from the kite school/shop at the cost of 5 sfr and proof of a IKO certification card. If you don’t have an IKO card, the kite school will need to assess your ability. They charge 10 sfr for this service.
For further information contact the kite school direct through their web site: http://www.kitesailing.ch
The nearest campground is right next door to the launch area.
C. + E. Wyss
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel: 081 / 828 84 92
This was one of our favourite campgrounds of the holiday. It was clean, quiet (but busy) and very helpful English speaking staff. Fresh bread is delivered to the campsite shop in the morning.
Again the weather wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing. We sat around waiting for the wind for two days. But on the third day, the day we where leaving!! It started to blow! I had a good afternoon kiting using the V16 and my 6’ surfboard.
I did get some strange looks as I was the only Peter Lynn kite there and the only one riding a strapless directional.
It was along way to go for an afternoon’s kiting but worth it (Its all that different to going all the way to Iceland for an afternoons kite skiing!).
Anna and I packed up that afternoon and headed down to Lake Como in Italy but yet again on arrival there was no wind or space in the campground so we carried on driving and I didn’t do any more kiting till we returned back to Les Hemmes in France at the end of our holiday.
3 weeks driving over some of the highest passes that the Alps to throw at us and 3200 miles later my trusty old £250-00 banger got us home. Hoorah!!
Copyright ©2005 Elphinston - August 2005 - All Rights Reserved.
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