France is a dream for any stand-up paddle boarder. From rivers to lakes and miles of coastline, you will find yourself spoilt for choice. If you are planning on heading to France purely for a SUP trip, then I highly recommend taking some sort of van and an inflatable paddle board. There are plenty of campsites or wild camping throughout France, and having your own SUP will ensure you make the most out of the endless opportunities.
You don’t necessarily need a guide for stand up paddle boarding in France, it is a case of doing a bit of research combined with the locals knowledge once you arrive. However if you happen to be exploring in some of the same areas I did, you can read about my three favourite SUP spots I came across in France.
Provence-Alps– Lac de Serre-Ponçon
Lac de Serre-Poncon is one of Europes largest artificial lakes. The shore covers over 50 miles and there are plenty of access points for watercraft or swimmers. Despite the lake being “man-made”, the area promotes pure beauty. You can expect to witness deep aquamarine waters with beautiful reflections of the French alpine mountains. The area is described as “the sea to the mountains, the mountains to the sea” and it attracts many water sports and mountaineering lovers.
We managed to find access towards the South East end of the lake, however most of the access is in the Savines Le Lac area. It is less crowded in the South East end, which is perfect for those more after an adventure.
Quite often the lake has calm waters and you are able to stay close to shore. Some areas of the lake are narrow so you can paddle across to the other side. You will need to watch out for high winds as this will make the lake choppy. As always keep an eye out of other watercraft and do not enter the water alone if you’re not a confident swimmer.
What else to do in the area:
There is so much to do in the area. If you are done with paddle boarding there is also wind surfing, water skiing and sailing. If you are more of a land lover you can go hiking in the Ecrins national park which is a beautiful area of mountains and glaciers in the heart of the French Alps. Near by there are also miles of mountain biking trails. The area is perfect for wild camping and exploring.
Côte d’Azur – Cassis / Calanques National Park
Cassis is a picturesque mediterranean fishing port located on the French Rivera, between Marseille and Toulon. Surrounding the beautiful seaside resort, is the renowned Calanques National Park, which is by far one of the most beautiful national parks I have ever seen. Tall jagged limestone cliffs, narrow inlets and coves, crystal clear aquamarine water. This is what you can expect to see for 20kms of coastline from Marseille to Cassis. Paddleboarding is definately one of the best ways to explore the national park, however I still highly recommend you explore the area paddling or not.
Access / The Paddle:
In the right conditions you will be able to paddle along one of the most picturesque parts of the Mediterranean coastline. Sadly when I was there, the sea was a little rough to paddle out into open water. Therefore we parked and launched at Port-Miou and paddled up and down the first calanque, which was still an outstanding paddle along deep waters, past incredible rocks, pine trees and beautiful yachts. We then explored the rest of the national park by foot.
If heading off on your own feels a bit daunting and you would rather join a group, this company Calanco Kayak / Paddle have information on sup board hire and tours. They offer a whole day tour which cover 12km of distance along the calanques.
What else to do in the area:
Take a stroll around the beautiful harbour at Cassis, which features pastel colour buildings and plenty of world class cafes and seafood restaurants.
West Coast – Lake Hossegor
Photo Credit: Roxy
Admittedly, Hossegor in South West France is not renowned for paddle boarding on calm waters, more like surfing gnarly beach breaks. However if you happen to be there on a surf trip or enjoy SUP surfing then you can sill enjoy a gentle SUP at Lake Hossegor.
2km inland from Hossegor’s beaches, the lake is tidal and fed by the Atlantic Ocean through the Hossegor canal. It was constructed by Napoleon in the 1800’s. The lake almost empties completely when the tide goes out, so make sure you plan your SUP around high tide. The lake is surrounded by beautiful pine forests, as well as 6km of walking paths and picnic areas.
There are four beaches around the lake, however Rey Beach is the furthest from town so a perfect spot for launching your SUP. There are places in the area where you can hire a paddeboard or have lessons.
Ensure you are aware of the tides and plan to paddle an hour either side of high tide. Any other time you will find a lot of movement in the water and you wouldn’t want to get stuck with the outgoing tide. In the right conditions Lake Hossegor can be a perfect place for beginners where you can stay close to the beaches and paddle in flat water.
What else to do in the area:
You can cycle or walk around the lake. There is also a plethora of fantastic seafood restaurants. If you are looking for something extra special and healthy after your paddle then you must visit The Lemon Tree for incredible Acai bowls and good coffee. The lake is also close to Hossegor Village for a spot of shopping and more restaurants. Did I mention that Hossegor has good surf?
*I’m happy to share my experience of stand up paddle boarding in France with you. However all paddle boarders are to take on their own responsibility when it comes to research and the risks involved.