Close to the Italian border, nestled high in the High Alps region of South-Eastern France, lapping on the shores of the medieval town of Embrun, is a very special kitesurfing spot, the Lac de Serre Poncon or Lake Serre Poncon.
A 40 km long man-made lake filled each year with shimmering turquoise glacial meltwater (which is actually much warmer than you’d think!). This place is also home to the most reliable wind we’ve ever seen. You can practically set your watch by it. The wind enters at 10:30, and by 1 or 2 o’clock it’s blowing a perfect force 4 or 5, every day when the sun shines, and between the months of June and September the sun shines pretty much every day.
On most days you’ll be riding a 9 or 12m kite. When the mistral blows it’s more likely you’ll be on a 7 or 9. Whatever the wind, you are guaranteed flat water and some of the most incredible scenery you’ll ever have kitesurfed in.
You might think locations such as this would be packed with kitesurfers and windsurfers. However it is a fairly technical spot in that the beaches are quite small and launching and landing can be tricky. While this can be a pain at times it also means that this spot hasn’t been swamped by the kitesurfing hordes. It is very easy to find huge areas of open water all to yourself.
The main Kite beach is located at Plage Les Eaux Douces (Sweet Water Beach), next to the village of Savines. The launch spot itself is a patch of grass around 300m long. The beach is located just at the point where the lake bottlenecks and so the wind tends to be a little stronger here. Once you get off the beach head up or down wind and you’ll have as much flat water and space as you’d ever need. There is also a kite centre (which will hire kit if needed), a bar on the beach itself and toilets are 200m away.
A few things to be aware of here; the bank of the lake just down from the launch spot is rocky and wooded…make sure you can stay upwind as if you drift downwind here getting back can be difficult. There are several other landing spots further down the beach but you’ll have quite a walk.
Winds are generally cross/cross on shore at all times on all the different beaches, which makes actually getting out very easy. However the mountains often drop straight into the lake which means shore lines can be rocky and often steep sided. As a result this is not a beginners spot. The only school that actually teaches beginners here takes them far offshore in a boat before letting them in the water.
If you can stay upwind it’s perfect, the water is flat and there’s plenty of room for everyone. You can also explore most of the lake from here, so you’ll usually find a space all to yourself.
There are several other spots around the lake that you can kitesurf from, some better than others but we’ll leave these for you to discover, or alternatively join Tantrum Kitesurf on one of their Total Immersion Kitesurfing Camps and let them do all the hard work for you!
Accommodation is available in a wide variety of different formats. For the more adventurous amongst you, camping is very popular in this area and there are loads of campsites. In general the facilities are good and there are several campsites located right on the edge of the lake – literally allowing you to kite surf off your doorstep. For those of you who prefer your creature comforts, there are several hotels and hostels in town ranging from budget to expensive.
Wherever you stay the cuisine here is finest French with an Italian twist and the results are spectacular. The upside of course is that having kitesurfed all day you can quite happily gorge yourself in the evenings without fear of expanding your belt size!
Probably the greatest appeal of this location is the other activities available. If you have the energy, the calm mornings provide the perfect opportunity to indulge in some of the other extreme sports this spot has to offer. Wakeboarding, climbing, downhill mountain biking, paragliding, skydiving, white water rafting, kayaking, gorge walking, wild mountainside camping under the stars, via ferrata, even mountain biking on the glacier at Deux Alpes (which has to be seen to be believed). If it’s an extreme sport you’re after, you can probably do it here.
The town of Embrun itself is a beautiful little medieval town nestled on the side of a cliff overlooking the River Durance. Whilst not the liveliest of places in the evening, it does bustle during the day with markets, concerts and street shows. If you have the energy, there are some clubs around the town, but a better option is to head up a mountain and camp out under the stars around a fire, cooking up some of your favourite treats while sharing a beer or two.
However you arrive here, you are probably best off renting a car. The easiest airport to fly into is probably Turin, about 2 hours stunning drive away over the mountain passes of the French/Italian border. However failing that, Marseille, Grenoble or Lyon are all options, with around a 2/3 hour drive.
Win a Kitesurfing Holiday
Ladies, how would you like to win a 7 day all inclusive kitesurfing vacation for 2 at Lac de Serre Poncon? Well thanks to Tantrum Kitesurf, you can! All you have to do is nominate yourself, and get your friends to nominate you for the “Most Influential Girl Kitesurfer 2012”. Nominations close on November 1st. See the competition page for details.
And guys, you can win too, just make sure you are the winner’s +1…
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