Red Letter Day: The Bay Blow

RIDER & WORDS: Mathis Ghio
PHOTOS: Arthur Samzun
LOCATION: Marseille, France
DATE: Friday November 4th, 2022

Aligning conditions and the schedule of in-demand photographers for an action photo shoot is a tricky operation that’s a part of many a pro rider’s responsibilities. Forecast apps, webcams, and a choice of locations certainly helps, but sometimes it just comes down to that inherent gut feeling. Fortunately, for champion wingfoiler Mathis Ghio, his instincts didn’t let him down…


Photographer Arthur Samzun and I had been planning a shoot together in the South of France for a while. We’d already done several shoots together, but we’d never done one at my home spot. Less than a week before we met up, I was already fixed on the forecasts all around Montpellier (where Arthur lives) and Marseille (where I live) to try to find the best spot for shooting. The closer the date got, the better the conditions were looking for Marseille. Not only that, but the forecast was also looking like one of the most optimal of the year. Although set to be an extremely sunny day, the temperature was due to drop from 20 to 7 degrees Celsius, with a very strong west wind. In Marseille, we call this kind of wind a “bay blow”, because it brings some massive waves, and the wind is slightly side-onshore.

With that kind of forecast in the offing, it was impossible to not ride at my home spot in Marseille: La Pointe Rouge. The wind reports were high, but it was almost impossible to find a correct webcam to look at the waves. They were extremely salty and dirty, compared to how they’d looked the day before so I took a 5 minute-walk along an elevated spot down my road which allows me to check out the state of Marseille’s Bay, and to figure out the exact place where the shoot would take place. When I arrived, the sun was absent, blocked by clouds, the wind was stormy, and the waves were crashing onto the seawalls of Marseille’s Bay. It was a chaotic first impression, and I started to lose confidence in my spot choice but Arthur was due to arrive in 30 minutes so I chose to trust the forecast and prayed it would run smoothly and told him that we’d meet at the Vieille-Chapelle beach, a unique beach, with a small bay that sits between two unparallel seawalls over on the right hand side and has a very big and aggressive peak for jumping. On the left sits a really big bay, which gets softer and longer lines.

When I arrived, the clouds were occasionally breaking, allowing the sun to shine through. The 30 knots of side-on wind were sensational, and the waves were looking rough but potentially manageable (from one to two meters in the big sets). With these very quick changes that had occurred within the past 40 minutes, I stopped worrying about the weather and started to concentrate on the choice of shim for my 250sqm rear wing! I was now extremely excited to be on the water and to rip these waves. The waves were passing over the seawalls, creating some gorgeous water spray, and consequently making the scenery even better. I had one of my best wingfoil jumping sessions ever in Marseille that day. I was sending backflip after backflip, raileys over Frioul island in the background, and pulled some big turns in the sets.

After that first two-hour session, I had a quick break to grab something to eat, and to talk with Arthur about what kind of pictures we were still missing. As the sun was beginning to set, the light was just getting better and better. The clouds were forming a thick curtain above the horizon, which was creating a fabulous and concentrated light. I’ll never forget the feeling of foiling on that orange and pink water surface that was affected by that light.

When the sun disappeared under the horizon, the sky went completely gray and dark, lending a highly dramatic atmosphere to Arthur’s lens with this kind of gray shade. The mood completely changed, and the wind was coming back stronger than it had been throughout the whole day, and with bigger swells too. It was feeling like the nature wasn’t done at all and had suddenly become angry. At the same time, my muscles were suffering, and I was feeling exhausted. At this point I was only doing long turns in the waves, appreciating the low speed and carves of my Levitaz foil in the swell.

This day was amazing, definitely a Red Letter Day, and one like I’d never had before. And when the bay blow returns, you’ll see me in Marseille’s water again, but this time from sunrise till sunset.

 

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