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Sandwiched between Spain and Italy, lies the sun-drenched Azure Coast of France, renowned for its relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle, beautiful beaches and a wide variety of windsurfing locations, including the legendary city of Marseille. From our August 2021 edition of Windsurf Magazine, John Carter hears from the GA Tabou team about their lives there and what makes the area so special. 

Photos: John Carter


In the city of Marseille, downtown is a great place to sail as there can be decent waves and strong wind. Parking can be a bit tricky because it is a city. But around Marseille there are plenty of spots and windsurfing here is still an extremely popular sport. Carro works with Mistral and southwest winds which blow from Corsica direction. La Coudoulière is also a popular wave spot and there are a lot of decent sailors that frequent there.

For slalom there are also lots of spots which go right up to Almanarre where Eric Thieme has his centre, as well as the lake where the PWA competed called Le Jaï near Marignane! Le Jaï is a very convenient and secure spot, with exceptional wind statistics, located only 15 minutes away from Marseille-Marignane Airport. The airport offers great connections to all of Europe, at all prices, and accommodation is easy to find in Marignane and surrounding areas.


We have wind nearly all year round and only in summer are there days without wind when we have extremely hot weather. In summer we mostly have thermal winds, but one summer out of four we maybe have light winds for one month! Normally though we can sail in the summer three or four days a week. When we have Mistral wind it normally comes in a burst of three or four days. In the winter it is cold in February, but you can still sail no problem. From September until January we have a lot of southwest wind which brings waves from Corsica direction. The Mistral is southeast in direction and can blow anytime and we never know when it is coming. When it hits Carro it can be side-onshore and strong with decent waves up to mast high.

Many of the locals don’t sail in the city because of the parking, but all the spots around the coast are also good for sailing and are a bit less busy with traffic. Marseille area is quite different to Leucate area. Right in the middle is Montpelier where Pierre Mortefon lives and is bang in the middle of the Mistral and Tramontana wind areas. The winds often meet there and can give no wind at all as a result. So the guys there sail up in Gruissan where the Défi wind takes place. Gruissan and Leucate are both genuinely nice spots, but it is normally offshore and dead flat! Here because the coast wraps around we have lots of places for bump and jump, waves and flat water all on the same day. When the wind is west, I can have choppy water or flat water and then with southeast I can go to Carro for waves or if I need to, I can drive to Almanarre for dead flat conditions. It is great for testing.


I have lived here all my life. My main role for GA and Tabou is testing. The deadline to put boards in production is usually December, so we have to be ready for that, which means working one year in advance. We usually make two or three rounds of prototypes. Fabien needs time to design the boards, then time to send the files to Cobra (the factory in Thailand) and then time for testing here. We then modify the shapes and do it all over again. That is why we need a whole year to complete the process. This is my main target all year long. I also look out for which direction we need to push the range with testing and trends. After that I take care of the French shops, which means I am busy in March when all the deliveries take place. Again, to be ready for this you need to be ready six months in advance so you can present the collection and have all the products ready. So it is hard because I compete on the current boards when I am racing, but in my mind, I am thinking about the shapes we need to produce in the next year. Aside from these roles with GA and Tabou, I obviously train myself and prepare for the PWA race season. This is the part I enjoy the most. It can be frustrating because when I go to Asia at the beginning of the season, I usually know I am not one hundred per cent prepared like the other guys because I have been busy with my other duties. It can be a bit frustrating personally, but it is a choice I made because I want to have a safe future. I dream of the day I only compete for myself, but I don’t know if it will happen! I am in charge of a lot of the boards for Tabou, but obviously we have Thomas Traversa who is also super important with the wave shapes. For the GA sails all the team give feedback, but the main development is done in Marseille with Peter Munzlinger. A lot of our development is aimed at the freeride and freerace market. This is what people buy at the end of the day and I like to think we take special care with those products. We really push to develop our freeride gear!

Windsurfing was my hobby at first, as I was more into football when I was younger. Then I realized that I needed to make a living, so I studied business full power. I found that windsurfing and the business side of the sport fitted for me. It is a much better life than working in a factory! I have a lot of respect for people that do these jobs. As windsurfers we cannot really complain about anything! Windsurfing is still my hobby, but it has also been my work for the last ten years. I try to find the balance between working and still finding that passion because that it what makes you happy in life. I dream of the day that I will do a little bit less work so I can enjoy pure sailing for myself. I probably have five or ten days a year, where I just go out and have fun, but even then, I am usually trying out a board!


I love to travel, but I cannot live outside Marseille for more than three or four months. Here I have everything. We have the mountains behind us and the sea all around us. Every day is different here. There are plenty of good spots around the world, but often the wind always comes from the same direction, here we have a great variety and that keeps sailing exciting. For the next ten years I hope to still live here.


I was born close to Marseille, in a town that has the same spirit as the city. This whole area is a really special place. It is a hub, so there are a lot of people coming from different areas. People from this area really have a strong connection to where they live and a different mentality to the rest of France. This is where I started learning freestyle. It is the Mediterranean Sea, so there are not always so many waves. But it is windy here a lot and the weather is nice, so we are always out sailing anyways. You do what you can with what you have, so when freestyle came along it was perfect.

I normally sail in La Coudoulière, it is a spot on the east side of Marseille. It is a fun place for sailing when the Mistral is blowing. If we have east winds, we sail in Carro to the west of Marseille. I am trying to learn more and more wave sailing. It can be great conditions here sometimes. I sail a lot with Thomas so he has inspired me and I have been on a few trips with him. We have a lot of wind here, plus our location is close to Spain and Italy, so it is not too far to go explore. I think I sail around five days a week normally and usually with never bigger than a 4.8m sail!


I live about half an hour outside Marseille city. There are a lot of people windsurfing here. We don’t have extremely good conditions, but for freeride and slalom it is exceptionally good. It is nearly always warm, even in the winter. If you don’t mind driving in the range of 100 km then you can sail nearly every day. I focus on waves so I don’t sail so often. For freestyle you can still sail many days also. We have thermal winds in the summer and in the winter we have the Mistral and low pressures that bring south wind. I think what is great here is the diversity of conditions you can get. We have strong wind, light wind, waves, wind from the right and wind from the left! The coastline also contours around a lot here so there are beaches facing different angles. We also have different landscapes, with cliffs, bays, and nice beaches. It does not get boring; you just have to drive half an hour and it is like sailing in a completely different place. I like it, Marseille has a bit of everything. It is great our whole team lives here. Plus, Antony, Cedric and Fabien also live here, which is great for the team. We can easily meet up to test equipment or just go sailing together. As a team we can all test in the same conditions so we are sure what is working and what is not working. I don’t feel like an isolated rider on my own! I don’t sail so much with all the guys because I am travelling quite a lot, but it is still nice to all live in the same area. We are all friends. Also, if you think about it, Ross can come here from England relatively easily as well. It does not take long to fly or he can even drive down in his van. It is about a ten-hour drive once he has taken the ferry to France. This place is quite central to Europe, so all countries are within a ten-hour drive or two hours flight.

From September until May it is a lot less crowded with tourists. You can go to any spot and just park in front. You don’t have to pay for parking. On the water it is quite busy with locals, even in winter. In the summer we have three months where it gets hectic with tourists from France, Switzerland, Holland and Germany. A lot of people come here and it is too much for me. Summer is still a windy time, especially with wing and wind foiling there is nearly always enough wind to go on the water. Personally, I don’t like the summer here and due to Covid, last summer was the first time since I was sixteen that I have been at home at this time. I usually skip these few months of craziness as I am usually away in the Canary Islands in summer competing. It is fine though, I can’t complain!


I grew up in Nice but moved here to Marseille in 1995. I liked the fact that here is a big city that has a wave spot. There are also plenty of other spots around like Carro and la Coudoulière. There is a lot more wind here compared to Nice, so for me it was a good balance of everything. I started Tabou in Nice, but brought my company here as it is a better place for testing and development. Now I have all the team around me which is perfect. We have spots for everything, slalom, freeride and wave. It is a great setup for me to have all the spots and riders close to me. I sail mostly in la Coudoulière, which is a wave spot that soon picks up swell when the wind is blowing. I also sail in Carro, but it is not so reliable for waves. In la Coudoulière, as soon as there is wind, like 30 knots, then we will have waves. It is mostly an onshore location, but in the spring or autumn it can swing almost side-shore, so it is a fun spot for sure. I like Marseille because the balance of people is more middle class. Nice was full of people with big cars, Ferraris, and that sort of thing. It is pretty cool and there are a lot of bars, concerts and events happening, so it is very nice. Marseille people have their own spirit. They are Marseille people before they are French!

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