If you go down to the beach today, you’re in for a big surprise….well, maybe you are, maybe you aren’t! You see there’s this most unusual phenomenon at our nearest beach, commonly known as la vague de 16 heures or the 4 o’clock wave, but it’s no longer on time!
About ten years ago a large wave started crashing on to the shore in Villeneuve-Loubet and Cagnes sur Mer, washing up high on to the beach catching sunbathers completely unaware, soaking them, their towels and all other beach paraphernalia, even causing panic. It was 2-3 metres high (we’re talking about the calm Mediterranean here not the Atlantic remember), came from nowhere and always around four o’clock in the afternoon. Nobody knows the reason for this mysterious occurrence, with hypotheses abounding, from the banal to the ridiculous. Earthquakes, aliens, supernatural goings-on, a Loch Ness-type monster, but the most likely theory is that it is related to the afternoon departure of the high-speed ferry to Corsica from Nice. However, the ferry always departs at the same time and yet by 2009 the wave was no longer arriving in time for tea. It was happening any time during the day, sometimes more than once, and more frequently in the early evening.
The first few times we experienced it we were caught out like everyone else and then we got savvy. It became fun to wait for it and try and surf it, but you had to have your wits about you as there was never any warning and it didn’t last. It wasn’t a series of waves, just the one. And then the clockwork went wrong and there was no way of knowing when it would come. One time we were having an apéritif with friends in the early evening and we got hit. Our bottle of rosé got swept away and we had to send the children after it (they were quicker off the mark than us, I wonder why?) And as we weren’t in swimming costumes but fully clothed we ended up with very wet bums!
The wave became so irregular that I honestly don’t know if it still exists. I couldn’t find any mention of it after 2011 when researching this post and although we spent a lot of time at the beach last summer we didn’t see it. We’ll look out for it again this summer and let you know.