When strolling through the nice old town or around the harbour you might feel it: this town has character, more character than most seaside towns in the area. Digging a bit in history one can find a few possible reasons for this aura. Sanary was founded in 1035 as “San Nazari”. Since then it was mainly a fishing town spiced up by a monastery in the 12th century and a garrison in the 15th century.
Just after World War I artists and authors like Aldous Huxley from whole Europe settled here and during World War II a large group of German emigrants gathered here, amongst them celebrities like Berthold Brecht, the Mann brothers, Arnold and Stefan Zweig and a few more. Probably they left an artistic and intellectual aura that still can be felt.
Also during World War II Jacques Cousteau hid here from the Nazis and started refining breathing equipment for diving and testing it in the area.
In the early eighties of the past century windsurfers discovered the town or to be precise the beach south of town. Brutal Beach became its name due to a combination of fairly impressive waves – for that time – in combination with very strong side-onshore winds during Mistral periods. Despite the difficult parking situation along the beach promenade the beach became one of the most famous windsurfing spots in the area, labelled as very challenging by the maestro – of that times – himself, Mr. Robby Naish.
The beach stretches from the yachting harbour in Sanary about 500 metres to the rocky headland at the south. It is separated in different sections by a number of jetties and has a few bars and restaurants along the promenade. At least a few of the bars are open during off season too and are very helpful for taking a pre session coffee, warming up afterwards or just stowing non-windsurfing / non-surfing company for a not-feeling-guilty session.
Windsurfing: best windsurfing conditions come with Mistral that blows side-on to sideshore and very quickly brings wind-swell. As a rule of thumb, waves are biggest the farther you go south at the beach, with the section between the two last jetties the one getting the most. But this is also the most difficult section as its proximity to the rocky headland and the southern jetty includes a pretty high probability of ending on the rocks when breaking gear or during an abrupt drop of wind speed. Close to shore the wind almost always is pretty gusty. But the classic Mistral wind direction offers good ramps for jumping and backside wave-riding with the odd front-side slash.
The spot gets really good when a strong Tramontana is blowing in the western parts of the med and thus pushing in longer period waves from the west while a Mistral with a nod of more north in the direction dominating the local systems. This translates into side-shore winds and waves coming with more power and breaking at much wider parts of the beach.
Kiteboarding: Best conditions are more or less similar to the windsurfer´s favourites.
Surfing: Pure Mistral wind-swell creates mushy but surf-able waves at the southern jetty. These have to be shared with the windsurfers though. Tramontana is better and offers far more options in the bay and south of the headland.
Check the galleries (shots from the past century and actual shots from 2014 and March 2016) for more impressions.