The tides around Mont St Michel are described as rising at the speed of a galloping horse. I am never sure whether this is true but clearly at times there is going to be a significant amount of water moving and this has the potential to create a tidal bore when it enters a river estuary.
Obviously a Spring tide is required to ensure that the bore works and we selected a Thursday morning when there was a tide with a co-efficient of 109. We hoped that by choosing a Thursday morning just after dawn there wouldn’t be that many other people turning up to surf the wave.
The first problem was try and find the departure point. We arrived on the evening ferry to St Malo and in the dark had to navigate our way through the narrow lanes of eastern Brittany, looking for somewhere near the Pointe de Rochtorin, where we could park up and sleep in the cars. Eventually at about 23.30 after a number of false tracks we eventually decided that we were in the right place and settled down for a night of luxury on the front seat of my car.
We were up before first light, preparing equipment and still not too sure that we were in the right place when suddenly a couple of stand up paddleboarders arrived and ran off down the path. Confirmation that we were in the right place. We followed quickly and selected a place for launching with the minimum amount of mud to wade through. In the soft light and calm of early morning we then headed downstream unaware of what we were going to find.
The first indication of something approaching was the flocks of birds taking flight, then there was the unmistakable roar of water when suddenly a wave appeared around the corner. Not particularly large, between 30 and 60 cms high it stretched right across the river and was flooding the exposed sand banks. As regards time it was now about 40 minutes before high water at St Malo.
We were soon on the face of the tidal bore and surfing upstream, the 6 of us in sea kayaks and the 2 people on SUP’s, were joined by a long board surfer and a paddler in a general purpose kayak. That was it, 10 of us on the wave, a complete contrast to some of the carnage we had witnessed, on some of the films we had watched beforehand.
We surfed up stream for 5 nautical miles and were on the wave for 40 minutes, a couple of us rolled and one person swam but was surprisingly easy to rescue, it hadn’t occurred to us that the whole of sea was moving upstream behind the wave. This meant that if you dropped of the wave for a rest, it was pretty straight forward to regain the face when you felt like it.
The French clearly knew where the tidal bore was going to finish as they had their cars parked ready. The wave just disappeared so we pulled up on the bank had a quick coffee and within 20 minutes the flow had reversed and we were heading back to the cars and a well earned breakfast.
This was one of the most unique and enjoyable experiences I have had sea kayaking in recent years. Surfing the tidal bore or the “mascaret” as the French call it is a unique and highly recommended activity.