Surf camp in Lacanau: a relaxing weekend

A weekend in a surf club in Lacanau, near Bordeaux, kicked off my season.
Surf camp in Lacanau: the south beach under the sun

I’ve always loved the ocean. When I stand on one of the long beaches of the Atlantic coast, near Bordeaux, I tell myself that I’m lucky to live in this region. The uninterrupted thud of the waves makes me want to spend time into them. That’s one of the reasons why I like surfing.

I decided to buy myself a surf camp in Lacanau during a weekend for my birthday. Discover the learning and encounters I made.

Why did I attend a surf camp in Lacanau?

One year after moving to Bordeaux, I fancied practicing surfing. Except a one-week course a few years earlier, I had never surfer before. A dozen sessions during spring and summer, in Lacanau and in Le Porge, allowed me to discover this sport. Even though I didn’t follow any course, I managed to stand up on my board for a few seconds on my board in the soup, which means the area where the broken waves are.

I enjoyed confronting myself with a fascinating natural element. Rowing and sliding on my board into the powerful and unpredictable waves made me feel like I was in communion with the ocean. Plus, I was both relaxed and tired when I returned home after my sessions.

One year after this first surf season, I decided to take my practice to the next level. What better way to have fun than to follow a several-days surf camp? My goals were to meet other people and to progress during collective courses. More specifically, I wanted to stay in the soup to be more comfortable standing up and to develop my turning skills. Surfing in the beautiful waves would come later. The focus was to have linear progression.

A few weeks before my birthday, I visit the website of the surf club in Lacanau where I usually rent boards. They organize surf camps for several days. After identifying the one that suits me, a weekend camp that includes 3 courses, accommodation and breakfast, I book. I’m relieved because this club is welcoming and the people working there are friendly.

Once my stay is planned, the excitation rises. First because I’m going to relax during a weekend at to the ocean. And also because I’ll hopefully meet people and do sport.

Encounters, recreation, and waves

The day when I leave, a Friday, my work keeps me busy longer than expected. In the end of the afternoon, once my laptop is closed, I hurry up to leave my flat. In the bus taking me to the beach, I look at the grey sky. The weather forecast says that it’ll be raining during the whole weekend.

A surf camp in Lacanau in a welcoming place

I arrive in Lacanau-Océan in the early evening, later than agreed with the employee of the club I talked to. I accelerate in the empty streets until my destination.

In the surf club, a 20-years-old woman welcomes me. My later arrival doesn’t seem to be an issue. She shows me the place where I’m going to spend the weekend. I come in the kitchen and then in a small living room. Two young people who must be around my age are sitting here. They also just me for the first and will stay here this weekend. They’re not the only one sleeping here. Upstairs, while going to put my luggage in my room, I come across a couple who say hello in English. I’m wondering what’s their nationality. These first exchanges make me happy and I’m glad that other young people are here.

Then, I go out and find myself in front of the rough sea, covered by a grey sky. Every time, the holiday atmosphere on the seafront of Lacanau-Océan relaxes me. Moreover, the waves surging on the beach amaze me. Suddenly, I feel rain drops on my face. Then, I notice a pizzeria that is open but with no one inside, in a wide street next to the seafront. I take a pizza to go and go back to the surf club to share my diner with the people I just met.

In the living room, Leo says that he lives in Reims and that it’s his first time in Lacanau. According to him, the seaside resort is not ugly and less touristic than other cities on the French Riviera. This outside eye raises my curiosity. Let me tell you why. I understand his point of view, but, knowing other beaches of the Médoc coast which are wilder and not in any urban area, I find Lacanau full of concrete. In other words, when I don’t need to rent a surf board, I prefer other beaches which are closer to nature.

Leo is a beginner too and he took a course today. Ludivine, the woman I saw in the living room when I arrive, joins us. She is also a beginner and comes from Paris for this week-end only. I tell myself that Southwest France is a touristic region. Especially Lacanau, as the place attracts surfers from all over France and beyond. To be honest, I didn’t expect to be the only person from Bordeaux attending the surf camp.

Between pleasure and efforts

The next morning, I eat a hearty breakfast in the kitchen. Then, I have a look at the water surface forecast of the day. The orange thumb means that they must be okay. The waves are less than one-meter high and the wind isn’t so strong.

I leave the surf club and join Ludivide and Léo in the small courtyard. 2 other attendees, who don’t sleep at the same place, are here. The young employee who welcomed me yesterday gives me a suit and a jersey. Once I’m in my suit, I feel the cold wind on my naked feet which makes me want to go into the water. Then, I choose my board. I decide to take the same as the one I rented here last week. It’s a foamy board with a 8-feet length.

The instructor is smiling. He introduces himself to the 6-people group in the courtyard, changes in the premises and takes a board. We follow him until the central beach. There, I see beautiful waves surge without being too close. A thud accompanies them when they break. This sound makes me want to jump into them.

In a circle, every attendee says a few words about his level and objective of the day. Mine is to feel more comfortable on the board and to improve my change of directions skills. Then, we warm up before coming into the water.

I soar to surf as many waves as possible in the soup today. When the water reaches my waist, I position myself, the board next to me, to take a first one.

My eyes follow the show in front of me. When I see a wave arriving at the right time, I lie down on my board.

I row in the direction of the beach, looking in front of me.

The wave hits my feet. It’s time to add a few rows before standing up.

I fall down backwards and feel the cold water on my head and face. This first bath wakes me up and makes me want to go back to look for another wave.

On the next one, I stay up for a few seconds. I slide until the beach, a smile on my face. As I wait for the next wave, I see the instructor, Raphaël, on the beach, with his arms crossed. He watches us and scrambles to call the people in the water and gives them advices. Suddenly, he gives me sign. I go to the beach and hear him with surprise offering me to exchange my board with his, which is smaller. I’m proud of myself for finding my feet and at the same time excited to try a small board. I accept. As I soar, I find it light. When I see a wave breaking in front of me, I hurry up to position myself.

Surprise! I thought I would fall down, but I stand up. I move to find the right place on my board, in the middle. Then, I bend my back leg. Despite this, my speed remains limited.

As I’m satisfied how easily I surfed, I don’t want to wait to take the next wave. Second one: still slow. Plus, my board is more nervous than the 8′. What I mean by that is that it changes direction without a large move.

All of a sudden, I hear Raphaël calling us. On the beach, I share my impressions with him. The big board gives me better feelings, as it’s fast. However, I prefer to keep the small one until the end of the morning to improve my acceleration skills.

On the sand, the instructor shows us an important move. He leans his upper body forwards while bending his knees. While looking at him, I think that it’s easy to do that in training but it won’t be the case on the board, in the water. We do this exercice one after the other.

Then, the group goes back to practice. Several times, after standing up, I jump, then bounce back, before soaring in the waves. Everytime I fall into the cold water covered with a white foam, I feel alive and full of energy. In other words, I do active meditation. This reminds me of my trips in the straight lines on the bike path from Bordeaux to Lacanau. Getting this feeling is one of the reasons why I surf.

After standing up, I put my weight forward. This move causes an acceleration, but it’s still not enough to me. How do experienced surfers manage to slide at full speed on their light short boards?

My heart rate accelerates and I loose lucidity. Moreover, I almost don’t feel my feet anymore because of the cold. Raphaël asks us to come back to the beach. The end of the course happens at the right time. Then, on the way back to the surf club, we have a chat about the best board to buy for my level. He suggests a 7’6 foamy.

After taking my suit off, I go inside to warm up and take a shower. When I enter the kitchen to have lunch, I see a young staff member eating. While cooking, I chat with her. She’s a surfer who enjoys working here as she can practice her sport, at the end of the day for example. This lifestyle attracts me. Plus, I imagine that her job is not difficult, since she deals with tourists who are in a good mood. Wha’s more, working her would please me, but I might get bored at some point.

After lunch, I go up to take a rest in my room. I watch through the window the waves. The whole landscape is grey or dark blue.

At 2:45 pm, we prepare ourselves before meeting with Raphaël. I’m glad he accompanies us again, as he’s a good pedagogue and he’s friendly. After that, I choose a 7’6 board to test the type I plan to buy after the camp. This time, Raphaël takes us to the north beach.

As I move forward with my board under the arm, I watch the threatening sky and feel the cold wind on my feet and hands. Plus, my muscles and my mind are asleep. In spite of that, I’m happy to surf again, because I’ll enjoy myself. Moreover, the water is less cold than the air. A good reason to hurry up to jump into the ocean!

After another short warmup and a briefing, we take the plunge. I walk with my board next to me until my lower body is covered with water. It’d be useless to row where I have feet. The waves are very loud as they break next to me, and they push me to the beach. While waiting for a first one, I notice the small board laying on the sand, next to Raphaël. Maybe someone else in the group will try it out.

I notice a wave coming and so I lie down. I feel it in my feet just after it breaks. Once I’m up, I bend my back leg and put my body weight forward.

Then, I make a wide circular move with my left harm, to turn right.

Suddenly, I hear Raphaël screaming on the beach. He encourages me to strengthen my move. With his hands in bullhorn, he shouts “Come on!”

My left harm has a semi-circular shape and I force myself to bend over. Then, I turn my head behind and see a wave coming. When it hits my board, I look for the right balance and then throw myself out.

After that, I go back to the beach to exchange with the instructor. He congratulates me and gives me advices to improve my gesture. On the next waves, I notice that the board still doesn’t turn much, even though I overemphasize my move and stand on my finger toes. The small board is calling me but I prefer to keep the 7’6 for its speed.

Suddenly, I see drops falling on the water surface. Whatever, I’m already wet. Little by little, I feel the tiredness. That’s why I’m less enthusiastic to go and look for a new wave after surfing one. Plus, it’s difficult to improve my move because I loose lucidity. I stand up on my board several times again though, and try to change direction when I reach a good speed. I notice that the people who also attended this morning’s course are tired.

That’s when Raphaël, still in a good mood and communicating, ends the lesson. I’m glad for doing some much sport during the day. This is felt in many muscles of my body. Plus, I’m relaxed and positive.

In the evening, our tri surfers go to eat in a small restaurant I know. The sound of the waves and a seafood plate create a peaceful atmosphere. Then, we go back to the surf club, where we spend the rest of the evening listening to music. Léo, who travels a lot, tells about his last holidays abroad. He says that he likes traveling solo, mainly because he can meet people and discover foreign cultures. His story makes me want to have a trip again, as I haven’t had any vacation in 9 months.

An offshore challenge

The Sunday starts with a surf course. While putting my suit on in the courtyard, I see a man coming in. He’s the instructor, Alain. He takes us next to the place we were yesterday afternoon.

On the way, he stops just before reaching the sand. There, he explains to us how to read the water surface to know where to surf. This is one of the things I wanted to understand during this surf camp. First, because my goal is to take waves at the best place. And also to surf safely. While showing an area on the water with his finger, he explains that there is the sand bank which breaks the waves. Then, he designates a space where the ocean is flat. We should avoid it because that’s where the baïnes are. This natural phenomenon can take swimmers and surfers far away from the beach, which causes drownings in Gironde every year.

We reach an area where there are waves and few surfers. There, after a quick warmup, the group comes into the water. After around 30 minutes in the soup, the instructor says that our condition is good enough to go offshore. I’m surprised to hear that so early during the course, but at the time I think that going to the line up will be easy. I’ve already done it and this wasn’t a problem. Taking the beautiful waves that haven’t broken yet will be another story.

Let’s go! The powerful waves slow me down. Suddenly, an impressive one breaks in front of me. I dive and then feel dragged towards the beach. Under the water, I hope that my board didn’t hit a member of the group. After going out, I’m relieved to see that there’s nobody behind me.

I don’t have the time to walk more than 3 meters as another wave is coming. Diving again.

Repeating this move several times exhausts and demoralizes me. I look for the instructor. He is sitting on his board, after the line up, with an attendee. Then, I notice next to me another member of the group who seems to row as much as I do.

I intensify my efforts. As soon as a wave is behind me, I put all my energy to row while encouraging myself out loud.

My lap belt tightens against the board and my harms make quick moves.

After pushing myself to the limit, I reach the flat area behind the line up where I join two course attendees and Alain. The latter congratulates us and explains that it’s difficult to row today because of the wind. I’m sitting on my board and feel relieved as I don’t have to fight with the large waves. I rest and feel proud for reaching the line up. Then, I notice several experienced surfers on short boards made in resin next to me. They seem to fly on the water.

My heart rate is back to normal. The instructor suggests going back to the beach. I lie down on my board and row. This part is easy. I turn my head behind to have a look at the waves. They’re slick and have a beautiful shape. Every time one passes by me, I heave in the water.

Which one should I take? I miss a few waves before noticing one that seems ideal. I have to try it. That’s it.

I row with energy while staring at the beach.

The big wave hits me. I add two more rowings and then stand up.

It’s hard to find the balance in this huge amount of water. So much that when I start to rev up, I fall down.

The wave was too powerful. Back in the soup, I’m happy that I managed to go that far. Suddenly, I hear Alain’s blowing from the shore. It’s time for a summary of the first part of the course. After arriving on the sand in the middle of the group, I hear that some of us didn’t manage to reach the line up. I see tired faces but also big smiles. Alain offers us to go back offshore, but everybody prefers to stay in the soup. The efforts we just made discouraged us to do another expedition. Again, I notice that I loose lucidity. Fighting against the tide again would be exhausting.

So we stay next to the shore. The small waves are easy to surf. I stand up and find balance without any difficulty, which proves that I’ve made progress today.

Back in the surf club, I have lunch in the kitchen while listening to the music from Leo’s phone. He and Ludivine were surprised, like me, that Alain take a beginners group to the line up. They find it a bit too ambitious. I share the same opinion, but not completely. According to me, to make progress, you have to take the plunge, and you reach the next level when you fac difficulties. This is the learning I make after these courses: it’s necessary to take risks and push oneself’s limits to improve.

Towards the rest of the season

My goal is to manage to reach the line up during every session and surf the slick waves by the end of the summer. To do that, I plan to advance to the next steps one after the other. The first one is to buy a second-hand board. Plus, I need a suit since the one I bought last month is too large.

During the afternoon before my departure, I go out to search for a board. I find a suitable one in a surf club south from the central beach. It’s a 7’6 foamy, which Raphaël advised. Its marked signs of wear shouldn’t be an issue to surf and it’s price of 160€ fits my budget. I don’t want to spend too much money for my first board as I plan to use it this season only. If my progress allows is, I would change it for a smaller one after that.

Holding my purchase under the harm, I walk under a light rain towards the bus that will take me back to Bordeaux. It’s time to rest and say goodbye to the ocean, or actually see you next time for another session. The sooner the better.

Have you ever attended a surf camp in Lacanau or elsewhere? If so, was it useful? Which memories do you have? Tell me in the comments!

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