The Quiksilver Pro France Will Kick Off In A Big Way In 2 Days!

27 Sep 2016 0 Share

Ben Macartney

Chief Surf Forecaster

COASTALWATCH | FORECASTER BLOG

Video Above: Wave Of The Week from 2015 In France by Andrew Christie

Life is good in France. I for one should know, having surfed Southwest France out the back of a Kombi Van in the 1990’s - and in more recent history, conceived my daughter a little further north. Of course, few of us know how good France is better than Pro Surfers. Whether you’re among the elite WSL surfers enjoying a full day of quality beach-breaks followed by evenings relaxing over a silky Bordeaux and a filet de boeuf with foie gras - or at the other end of the scale, a WQS warrior on a staple diet of cheese and baguettes - it’s not exactly the kind of place one might be tempted to feign a knee injury to avoid.

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A powerful WNW swell is on the cards for the opening days of this year's Quiksilver Pro France, Photo by Digby Ayton

A powerful WNW swell is on the cards for the opening days of this year's Quiksilver Pro France, Photo by Digby Ayton

The Surf

Hossegor is renowned for its good surf – both with respect to the prolific number of excellent sand-bottomed waves bounded by eight to ten kilometre stretch of coast - and it’s swell-magnifying characteristics derived from an offshore canyon. The region receives consistent and often large swell ranging from W to NW in direction, arriving from an expansive North Atlantic swell window; its southern boundary defined by Spain’s northern coastline and it’s upper boundary extending to Ireland in the north. 

Alluring as they are, French beach-breaks can be, well, a little elusive. In comparison to the modest, 1 to 2-metre tide differential that defines Australia’s East Coast, France’s west Atlantic coast regularly sees 3 to 4-metre tidal fluctuations making for major intra-day changes to the surf zone. For the uninitiated, that means something like this: Check the surf and spot a pumping left in front of the car park. Run back to your car, get changed and paddle out, only to find the tide is already turning the wave off again after just one or two waves. Hence, the trick to scoring good waves in this region is one of anticipation; knowing when a particularly sand-bank will turn on at a particularly point in the tide – and being on the spot when it happens. 

SEE ALSO: What's More Fun Than A Couple Of Sandy Runners 

Hossegor's ample exposure to the North Atlantic storm-track makes it one of the most consistent beach-breaks on the planet. Source: Google Earth.

Hossegor's ample exposure to the North Atlantic storm-track makes it one of the most consistent beach-breaks on the planet. Source: Google Earth.

Long Range Forecast

Given the event doesn’t start until October 4, we’re still relying on long-range computer modelled guidance for an idea of what to expect for the opening days of the waiting period. At this early stage there are emerging signs the world’s best surfers will be readying their step-up boards for the opening day of competition. Based on latest GFS model guidance, a small, innocuous low pressure system drifting north-east of Nova Scotia over the next few days will eventually intensify inside the French swell-window; generating a low-end gale force WNW fetch within close range of the Bay of Biscay during Sunday 2nd and Monday 3rd of October. A subsequent round of mid-period groundswell would follow from an almost dead westerly angle of 260 to 270 degrees on Tuesday 4th; potentially pushing up to a large size; ranging anywhere from 4 to 8ft at Hossegor. Based on this scenario moderate onshore winds would make for less-than-ideal conditions, but the outlook on local winds and wave-size still remains uncertain.

Although the corresponding ECMWF model run pick up the evolution of the low in a similar guise over the same time-frame, it diverges in one key respect. Based on this scenario the low will remain further offshore as it reaches it’s peak swell-producing phase on Sunday and Monday; thereby delivering a still large, but better organised WNW groundswell – sans onshore winds. This scenario also hints a second round of longer-range WNW groundswell reinforcing surf at Hossegor between Wednesday 5th to Friday 7th October; emanating from the low as it merges with an active polar low to form a larger, complex system over the North Atlantic. Again, at this early stage there’s still ample scope for changes to the outlook as the low develops, so stay tuned for updates later in the week.

This NAVGEM model run for Sunday, 2 October picks up the low swinging south to north through Hossegor's swell window, setting up a mid-sized WNW pulse for the first day of the waiting period. Image: NOAA.

This NAVGEM model run for Sunday, 2 October picks up the low swinging south to north through Hossegor's swell window, setting up a mid-sized WNW pulse for the first day of the waiting period. Image: NOAA.

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