Il de Re & Il d’Oleron, France
Both Il de Re & Il d’Oleron are offshore French island in the Charentes Maritime region. La Rochelle, the main city, is close by (closer to Il de Re) and both islands have an abundance of stand up paddle boarding opportunities. All spots are heavily tidal, with some put ins drying out completely at low. And there’s potential for Atlantic weather to affect paddling. You can find flat water and waves, depending on conditions.
Both islands serve up decent SUP surfing conditions. Plage de la Conche des Baleines on Il de Re and La Brée-les-Bain on Oleron are goo dchoices for those chasing surf. Unlike the more headline surf breaks of Biarritz further south Il de Re & Il d’Oleron don’t get the lion’s share of swell. Summer can often be flat or small with the tide playing a big part in how swell ends up looking at the beach. If the waves are pumping you’ll need to be wary of currents and strong flow in parts.
Tidal ranges around Il de Re & Il d’Oleron can be big. What appears like an idyllic SUP spot at high can quickly dry out and expose dry reef/rock in parts. Muscle beds and lobster pots are also worth taking note of. There are large muscle bed farms on both islands. If you happen to get too close you may take your fins off. Whilst falling on them can result in injury as the shells are razor sharp.
Wind sports are big on both island. Should it blow then keeping clear of kiters and windsurfers should be par for the course.
Access to both islands is via bridges across from the mainland. Once on Il de Re & Il d’Oleron the roads are fairly good but traffic can be an issue in high season. It gets very busy – especially during French summer holidays. Parking can be particularly tricky.
10+ in high season but bestir numbers drop significantly outside of prime time months. The sandy beaches of both islands also see more tourists than secluded spots. So worth hunting those out.
An abundance of shops, restaurants, bars/cafes, campsites and assorted accommodation options can be found. This is France so it’s well developed with everything you need can be found locally. Heading off the beaten track to discover tradition fayre is worth doing.
Il de Re & Il d’Oleron lie in close proximity to one another. Yet both are quite different. Oleron is perhaps the more rustic island of the two and doesn’t have quite as many sand SUP paddling options as Il de Re. But it’s still a lovely location – whether paddling or not.
Il de Re is often busier than Oleron being closer to La Rochelle. The vibe on the island is definitely more middle class. The sandy beaches you find attracts lots of families during good weather spells.
There’s a big stand up paddle boarding scene on both Il de Re & Il d’Oleron. SUP surfing does get a lot of attention. Many of the obvious beach locations receive fairly decent swells through the year. Waves aren’t quite as consistent as you’d expect, and outgoing tides can suck the surf back out to sea. Big tides are a factor on both islands and should be noted.
SUP racing is also popular with the Oleron SUP Challenge having taken place for a number of years in the past. Other watersports, such as windsurfing and kitesurfing are huge. And now foiling disciplines (wing, wind and SUP/surf) are seeing growing numbers.
In some parts of the Il de Re & Il d’Oleron you’ll find massive muscle and shellfish farms. These can be a hindrance if you’re planning on getting afloat. The shells can be extremely sharp and hard, just waiting to take SUP fins and bits of flesh should you fall. Best advice is to avoid these places if you can. And definitely do a recce of spots you plan on paddling at. Mostly to see how the tidal range changes their face.
This being France it’s possible to discover some fabulous eating and drinking establishments. You don’t need go too fancy for an authentic experience. But do be aware prices ramp up everywhere in summer.
France’s Charentes Maritime region is a big watersports area, which you’ll discover should you decide to visit. There are plenty of paddlers about, with SUP shops, rental companies and schools. If you’re learning or looking for additional SUP coaching it’s not a bad place to head for some skills training.
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