French protest group says no to ‘Le Freak Peak’

A proposed American Wave Machines-powered wave pool in the west of France is receiving pushback from a French activist group and some local residents.

At issue is La Bergerie (field for sheep in French) Surf Camp, a six-hectacre project planned for an agricultural area 30 minutes west of France’s sixth largest city, Nantes.

The PerfectSwell wave pool is projected to be larger than its sister technology at BSR in Waco, Texas offering longer rides and a lower per-wave fee. The Saint-Pere-En-Retz site expects to accommodate up to 100 surfers in the water at a time and charge roughly $30-$50 depending on session.

But not everyone is stoked on a French version of the Freak Peak. Tempers have flared to the point where the story surpassed the Yellow Vest protest headlines and made national news in France.

Activist group Terre Communes, a group working to preserve agricultural land in France, launched ZAP la Vague. Their main point of action has been to occupy the wave pool site long before diggers could start the build.

The local farmers group stated they support the wave pool project and say the protest group is setting a dangerous precedent by occupying agricultural zones in France.

Tensions flared in a well-documented altercation that bystanders said resembled a rugby scrum. Several people were wounded including one of the landowners. The national police broke up the fight and now dialogue between groups is at a standstill.

La Bergerie Surf Camp says they will bring jobs, have the blessing of the local farmers and gov’t and the French Surfing Federation. They added that they have received the go-ahead at each link in the approval chain (of which there are many in France).

With the occupation by ZAP and local residents who don’t want a wave pool in their bucolic town, tensions remain high.

One resident told France Info the tension in Saint-Pere-en-Retz has gotten so bad that he can’t leave his house for fear of encountering old friends on the opposite side of the debate.

“We can not talk anymore,” a local resident using the name ‘Laurent’ told France Info. “We are putting up walls between each other and it’s getting violent.”

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