Wind surfing in St Laurent du Var

Windsurfing - close to Nice

There's no windsurfing in Nice; you can sail, jet ski, canoe, parascend, even water ski but to windsurf, you need to go to St Laurent du Var.

daughter during a wind surfing lesson, July 2009

My daughter having a wind surfing lesson - the calm conditions at St Laurent are a beginner's dream.

It was very easy to be up and away on the first lesson in this sheltered cove, a great confidence builder.

St Laurent du Var is just on the west side of Nice airport, right by the the Cap3000 shopping centre or 'centre commercial'. From the Gare Routière in Nice, catch bus 52 for Pugets at quai 14, it comes every 15 minutes, the journey takes about 30 minutes and costs 1 euro. Get off the bus at the 'Centre Commercial' stop, close to the Cap300 mall. The return bus stop to Nice is on the same side facing the same way, and is marked '52 Gare Routiere', not '52 Pugets' which takes you the opposite way. If you have a car, you can park in the Cap3000 carpark for free.

Once off the bus, walk along the pavement to the sea and in about 2 minutes you will come straight to the entrance of the 'Centre Nautique'

Entrance to the Centre Nautique

Here's the google map - you will need to zoom out to get a better idea of the location.

To reach the office, walk through the cafe on the right and turn right into the Centre Nautique. There's a small office ahead of you. You can sign up for a weeks group course or private lessons for one or two persons. We booked three 1-hour lessons for my daughter and me. The lessons started at 1pm each day which suited us fine and fitted in very well between the morning and afternoon group lessons, although other times are possible - they seemd fairly flexible.

The cost of a private lesson for one was 25 euros; for the two of us, it was 35 euros. They don't take credit cards or Carte Bleu so you need to take cash. We paid for one lesson in advance then on the day for the last 2 lessons.

A week's course of 10 hours (Monday-Friday, 2 hours each day) would have been 91 euros for under 16 years and 101 euros for 16 and over. For the under 10s, there is a week of 30 minute lessons for 50 euros.

The week courses included membership of the club. As we had 1-hour private lessons, we didn't need to join. Joining fees for a year were 46 euros for under 16 and 56 euros for everyone else.

The joining fee gives lots of benefits - use of the changing rooms, showers and loos. Children can use the table tennis tables and a small supervised swimming pool plus some discount in the cafe.

Helene was our instructor and she spoke just enough English. I was surprised how quickly we progressed. I thought the first lesson would be spent just trying to stand up on the board. The conditions were so perfect though, we were up and away and the wind was very light but consistent so it was easy.

The basics seemed straight forward - back to the wind, open and close the sail, drop it and pull around the back, then shuffle cautiously step smartly around to the other side to come back again and tilting it forward and backwards to change direction. After my hour, I hadn't fallen in although I had come close and my daughter had only abandoned ship a couple of times.

I decided that was enough for me just to have a go and to let my daughter have the next 2 lessons on her own - and I could take some photos. She progressed very well and learned alternative techniques to change direction. The third day was windy - enough to make waves in the small cove so that speeded things up a bit during her lesson and she spent a lot of time pulling the sail out of the water - exhausting work by the 20th time.

The whole set up is right on the the beach. The centre Nautique has areas fenced off for the launch of the surfboards and this has the effect of partially enclosing a small area of public beach which made it very uncrowded. For the 3 days, we spent the whole day here on the beach, close by to the club, cafe etc. The beach is pebbly but there was a wide band of dark sand by the water's edge and into the water. The sea here is very calm due to the purpose-built cove of rocks - perfect for beginners learning to windsurf and very safe for children paddling in the water. There is a sign saying no swimming but there were plenty of adults and children in the sea, playing, chatting, on lilos etc. You just had had to be cautious and pay attention when the surfboards went by.

Apart from the wind surfing, it was a perfect place to come with small children - it would be worth paying membership here just to use the swimming pool, loos and showers - much cheaper than the private beaches and nearby Cocody beach, even for just one week.

The only thing to bring would be a mat and parasol although if you get here early enough, there are coveted areas of shady palm trees at the back of the beach, these are bagsied early on by the oldies who bring their own sun loungers and settle in for the day. It's very French - I didn't hear any other English voices at all.

If you didnt want to bring your own picnic from Nice, you could eat at the cafe attached to the Centre Nautique or wait for the peripatetic food/drink sellers who trawl the strip of beach every hour or so - we bought doughnuts and cold drinks, 2 euros each. Or, a couple of times, we went straight from the bus into the Cap3000 shopping centre and bought some filled baguettes to eat on the beach. The cafe at the centre does a great chocolate covered waffle or 'gauffre' for 2,50 euros - a perfect mid-afternoon snack after the wind surfing lesson.

There are several free-standing food kiosks just within the entrance to the shopping centre - some offer a 'formule' - a combined offer drink/sandwich/cake at a slightly reduced price. There's also newly renovated clean free loos to use within the centre - they are hidden away a bit down a narrow corridor. You walk past the food kiosks and turn left at Mango, keep walking on and looking out on the left for the corridor - it's signposted but you don't see it until the last minute.

I recommend having a go at wind surfing, even if you have never tried it - the conditions are so good at St Laurent - in just one hour you get a genuine experience of wind-surfing - it was just enough to have this taster session for me. My daughter went on to have a couple more lessons and I could see her improve over the three days. It was great fun and when the wind is light, it was less arduous than I had anticipated. The whole day - lunch, wind surf, then relax on the beach and within easy reach of Nice was a great day out.

We are all bouyed up by our windsurfing success and have our eye on the water skiing - 'ski nautique' which is right at the side of the beach at the end of an outreach of rocks. Or rather, I might sign my daughter up for lessons and I will relax on the beach take photos.

It's 54 euros for a 30 minute lesson using a bar attached to the side of the speed boat. Then to try the real thing, it's 27 euros for 12 minutes water skiing. Reservations through Thierry who speaks good English on 06 61 77 62 17.

Contact information:

Centre Nautique
416 Avenue E. Donadei
St Laurent du Var

tel: 04 93 07 53 73

Cap 3000 indoor air-conditioned shopping mall
website: Cap 3000

St Laurent du Var website (French)

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