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Water sports in France

From the Riviera to the Emerald Coast, France’s seaside destinations and the many activities they offer are sure to win you over.

Seaside activities

Kitesurfing

Kitesurfing has taken France (and the rest of the world) by storm and has only continued to grow in popularity.

The idea is that riders are pulled along by a mini paraglider, with their feet strapped to a short surfboard. While riding the waves, you’re given free rein to try different speeds and tricks. If you prefer to watch others, many competitions are held every year in France, such as the France Kitesurf Championship (Championnat de France de kitesurf) and Kite Race.

The best spots to try it in France:

  • In Languedoc-Roussillon, the birthplace of kiteboarding, the area offers a wide variety of seaside spots between Saint-Cyprien and Port-la-Nouvelle.
  • Vassivière Lake: This artificial lake located in the Limousin region is one of the largest in France. With over 1000 acres of water and 45 km of coastline, it hosts many sports including kite surfing.
  • The Landes coasts: Hossegor, Seignosse Lacanau and are suitable for kitesurfing and surfing alike.
  • Corsica: the renowned spot at Saleccia is described as a kitesurfer’s dream come true, while others prefer the Piantarella lagoon in South Corsica.

Land-sailing

Land-sailing, also known as sand yachting, is an easily accessible sport that allows for some incredible sensations and a new way to navigate the beach. Even beginners will be amazed at the ease with which the equipment can be handled, and will soon discover the thrill of speed that it allows.

Land-sailing requires protective equipment: a helmet, waterproof clothing, gloves and sunglasses are recommended.

Another version is called the Sea-Quad or "Cata-tank", a water-bound catamaran that can pass between sea and water with ease.

The best spots to try it in France:

  • The Somme Bay extends over 70 km of coastline, perfect land-sailors who want to hike as well. It is also the site of many competitions.
  • The Normandy coast, especially in Calvados and Manche, has many nautical centers and clubs that offer land-sailing.
  • The Brittany coast offers many opportunities in Saint-Malo, the bay of Mont Saint Michel, Saint Brieuc, the Bay of Douarnenez, Brest and more.
  • The Vendée coast from Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie to Saint-Jean-de-Monts, via Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez.

Scuba-diving

Want to explore under the sea among coral and schools of colorful fish? France has many breathtaking spots to practice diving. Equipped with your wetsuit, fins, gloves and oxygen tank, you’re ready to explore down below!

After your first dive, it is advisable to obtain your diving certificate in order to familiarize yourself with basic techniques and safety, offered by many diving federations. However, French regulations do not require you to do this before scuba-diving.

The best spots to try it in France:

France’s overseas departments are ideal for divers, with their turquoise blue waters, untouched nature, and extremely diverse marine flora and fauna.

  • The coral reef in New Caledonia
  • Turtles, sting rays (and even sharks) in Polynesia
  • Whales and dolphins in Reunion island
  • Brightly coloured fish in the Guadeloupe Islands
  • Swordfish and manatees in Martinique
  • Volcanic diving at Cap d'Agde
  • Crystal clear waters in Corsica

Sea-kayaking

This sport has become increasingly popular, as it combines the advantages of both hiking and water navigation, providing plenty of fun a new approach to seaside attractions.

Canoes and kayaks are small boats built to sail on lakes or rivers. Canoes are propelled by a single paddle while the rider kneels, while the kayak is powered by sitting rider using a two-bladed paddle.

The best spots to try it in France:

  • In the north, popular destinations for sea kayaking include Somme Bay (Manche), Aber Wrac'h (Northern Brittany), Belle-Ile-en-Mer and the Gulf of Morbihan (with its dozens of small islands) in southern Brittany, and the Vermilion Coast.
  • In the south, the creeks or the islands of Friuli near Marseille and the coves of Corsica are deemed exceptional settings to practice this activity.
  • France's gorges, such as Tarn and Verdon in the South.

Lake and river activities in France

As a country of streams and rivers, France has seen so-called "white-water" sports explode in popularity in the past ten years, including kayaking, canoeing, rafting, hydro speed, and canyoning.

Whether alone or with friends, these sports are accessible to all and will appeal to savvy athletes as well as beginners, with unforgettable memories for all. Practicing white-water sports requires good physical condition, and it is essential to know how to swim although most disciplines require a helmet and lifejacket.

From kayaking at the famous Verdon gorges to rafting along the Durance and swimming in Martinique, there are plenty of great landscapes to explore: get your paddles and let’s go!

Canoe-kayaking

Canoeing and kayaking make for a natural pair. Equipment for both can be rented at most nautical centers and can easily be learned how to handle.

Kayaking is more athletically demanding, while canoeing remains more accessible and fun for beginners. Both can be adapted to any water conditions.

Rafting

As the reigning discipline in white-water sports, rafting is a truly thrilling sport. 4 to 12 people can ride on each raft, each with a role to play while navigating through the torrents. A trip could take anywhere from a few hours to a whole day.

Canyoning

With simple equipment including a combination a helmet and ropes, canyoning involves moving up and down rivers while climbing, jumping, walking, and running down natural waterslides and pools. Similar to caving out in the open, canyoning requires good physical condition and is practiced in small groups. Perhaps its biggest advantage: access to narrow passages and sites of great natural beauty.

Where to practice them, by region:

Auvergne

Tonic Aventures

Aquitaine

Ur Bizia

Burgundy

AB Loisirs

Corsica

In Terra Corsa

Languedoc-Roussillon

Embarquement Immédiat
Canoë-Limoux
Roc-Aqua

Provence-Alpes Côte d'Azur

Roya Evasion
Rapid'Eau
Anaconda Rafting
Aboard-Rafting

Rhône-Alpes

Rafting-Venéon
Essaonia
Coureurs de Rivières

Good to know

Just a few kilometers from Paris, the Cergy-Neuville base offers an introduction to different white-water sports at an artificial and adjustable stadium, inspired by one in Sydney, Australia (and designed for the 2000 Olympics) where rafting and kayaking can be practiced. Anautomatic belt pulls visitors to the top of the site before beginning their descent. The stadium is open year-round and kayaking is available from April to September. The surrounding area also includes 250 hectares full of water-based activities.

In Alsace, the Huningen white-water park offers the same disciplines in an artificial "field". The river is open from February to mid-December.