Fabrice (center), his brother and a mate preparing for a mascaret night surf.
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Bruno races a solid trailing wave at St Pardon.
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Mascaret surfing began in the late 70's when pioneering kayakers explored the waves along the Garonne between Cambes and Cadillac. It was only when the wave became crowded, that the kayakers moved north and discovered the quaint Port St Pardon sitting along a two mile straight of the Dordogne.
Then, in 1990, Jean-Francois Lalle became the first to ride a surfboard at St Pardon. Since then the number of surfers and kyakers has grown immensely. Although there is only a small group of regular surfers seen on the river throughout late summer and autumn.
High media exposure has drawn increasing numbers of kayaks, canoes, motorboats and even jet-ski's to St Pardon, which now grossly outnumber the surfers. With as many as a hundred people in the water, locals have again started looking further afield for surfable waves on the Garonne.
The tide forecasts are represented by a coefficient - a ratio against the highest possible tide. The mascaret is at its finest in early Autumn when the freshwater levels are low and the coefficient of the tide is high (anything over 85 is surfable).
At St Pardon the head wave can reach four foot over a 4km course, generally breaking out from the tree-lined west bank. As many as ten of the trailing waves are also surfable over considerable distance, and sometimes break larger than the head wave. Waves in excess of four feet have been reported on the Garonne river beyond Arcins island, although these spots are highly secret to the locals.
Potential waves are also surfable in the estuary, in particular around Macau, although here the depth is very shallow, eventually running onto dry banks.
There are currently two excellent sites by local Macaret surfers online, with information, large collections of photos and video, and times for viewing and surfing the mascaret.
The Gironde Mascaret designed by Fabrice Colas
La Mascaret designed by Bruno Boue (in French only)