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SUP backyards: Calais to Boulogne, Cote d’Opale, France.

France’s nothern Channel coastline, bordering Belgium and stretching south to Boulogne, is known as the Cote d’Opale (or Opal Coast). Marked by two big sea cliffs one in Calais and one in Boulogne) this is the closest stretch of French coast to the UK. as such it’s easy to access via cross Channel ferry or Euro Tunnel. For a quick hop paddling getaway it’s a super easy journey to access some fab paddling. Whether you’re into waves or flat water touring there’s something for every level here.

Calais.

Calais is a bustling port town with a variety of paddling beaches to choose from. It’s as busy on the water as it is on land though. and there’s ever present wake from ferries, cruise ships and tankers. You’ll need your wits about you and be careful.

Tide is also a big factor, as is wind and chop. When it’s blowy the tidal movement can be exacerbated in some areas. And chop can be harsh. Sumer is super busy and paddle boarding is a popular activity. You may find it hard to park and access put ins though.

On land you have everything you could ever need as far as amenities go. It’d be worth booking well in advance, however, if fancy staying in Calais as well as eating and drinking.

Wissant.

Emerging from the Tunnel and heading south through Calais (unless you fancy stopping for a cheese and wine stock up) your first port of call is Wissant.

Wissant is a village built on the watersports ethic. It’s a main hub for  kite surfing and windsurfing excellence. And SUP has its day here too. 

The vast expanse of sand at low tide is more reminiscent of SW French beaches. And even being this far up the Channel Wissant does ok for a wave or two. It’s pretty consistent – especially after a blow when you get remnant swell left over. Just be mindful of the cross shore current at all times and the beach disappears at high tide.

On calmer days Wissant is a good location for recreational paddling or a spot if touring. Round it out with some Moules and vin at the La Plage beach bar or choose one of the other local eateries.

Parking is plenty out of season. During high summer it gets packed. Get to the beach early.

Wimereux.

About half an hour down the coast from Wissant you’ll find the large town of Wimereux. It has a nice vibe and isn’t quite as busy and neighbouring Boulogne. The promenade is well maintained and delivers easy access to the beach. At high tide the sand disappear and there can be quite a backwash off the sea wall. The river, to the right of the beach, also has fast flowing current at its mouth.

With the right conditions, Wimereux can get a mellow SUP surfing wave. It’s often weak though but great for beginner SUP surfers. Flatter water gives more recreational paddle boarding opportunities. And those who fancy a spot of adventure will be able to tour along the coast when Mother Nature allows.

Elsewhere along the Cote d’Opale.

There are lots of other put ins along this part of France. From stoney beaches to secluded inlets you may discover something blissful. as mentioned with the spots above tide and wind do dictate exactly what’s going on so be aware. You may be the only paddle boarders at some locations so have contingency plans in place.

Heading to Boulogne is another option. As with Calais, this is a coastal city with all the associated trappings. Paddling options may be better either side being totally honest.

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