Two ocean goers have drowned in a 24 hour period this week close to the European surf capital of Hossegor, SW France, as violent south winds whipped in on Wednesday (24th) following days of clean, classic surf conditions for the Easter holiday.
The body of a kite surfer, reported locally to be in his 40’s and from Pau was found after search by police helicopter and lifeboat outside Estagnots, one of the most popular surfing beaches in France.
Kitesurfing with two friends, the unnamed man lost his board and was reported missing around 2.30pm local time.
The lifeboat was launched from Capbreton (about 3km south) and in combined search with the Gendarme helicopter, the man was found unconscious after about an hour of searching. All efforts to resusitate were unsuccessful.
The following morning (Thursday 25th April) saw another tragedy at the same beach as the body of Guy Ringrave, a 53-year-old was found north of Estagnots, have been reported missing the previous day.
Ringrave, an experienced waterman, well-respected member of the surf community and founder of the Woo (Waina outrigger organisation) was on a downwind paddle from Socoa (near St Jean de Luz) to Anglet on a Polynesian outrigger canoe in a group of three others, when he was reported missing at 2.30pm on Wednesday near La Barre by the rest of the group. His canoe had earlier been recovered at Labenne.
The tragedies come less than a week before lifeguard patrols start for the season in SW France, and are a reminder of the potential dangers at sea in the region, no matter what the ocean-goer’s level of competence and experience.
South winds are particularly dangerous, with a tendency to blow up to gale force from glassy conditions, with violent sudden gusts often going against the prevailing swell and tidal current creating treacherous sea conditions.
If you’re surfing in the area, or anywhere else for that matter, always check the forecasts and err on the side of caution.
Cover image – Guy Ringrave, RIP. Photo: woo-outrigger.com