The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

The 4 o'clock wave

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!

4 pm waveAbout 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 paraphenalia, even causing panic.  It was 2-3 metres high (we're talking about the calm Mediterranean here not the Atlantic remember), came from no where and always around four o'clock in the afternoon. Nobody knows the reason for this mysterious occurrence, with hypotheses abounding, from the banale 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.

beach V-L apero

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.


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  • Guest
    Andrew Sunday, 02 February 2014

    I used to live in Nice between 1996 and 2000 and you could set your watch by the "la vague de quatre heures". It always got those at Castel Plage who were on the shoreline and not further up on the nice sunbeds. Another favorite beach of mince was at Eze and the rather narrow beach was often completely soaked.
    I for one never beieved the Corsica Ferry theory as it simply did not make sense that such a wave could be felt from Promenade des Anlglais to Eze - maybe it was felt in Menton too or Antibes?
    And now you say it has gone altogether. Very strange. I guess we will never really know what caused it.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 03 February 2014

    Hi Andrew, thanks for sharing your experience of this wierd wave. I didn't realise it went as far east as Eze. It's such an odd thing. I'm not completely sure it's disappeared but I haven't seen it for ages now.

  • Guest
    Catherine Monday, 11 November 2013

    How much rose had you been drinking? I do believe you

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 25 November 2013

    Cheeky!!! Luckily there's a photo of the warning notice as proof!

  • Guest
    Rin Tuesday, 02 April 2013

    I have heard of the Mexican Wave but never the 4 o'clock wave:D

  • Guest
    Sue @ Busy Moms Connect Sunday, 03 March 2013

    I always enjoy reading your posts and find it interesting to learn about life in other countries. Your pictures are always beautiful!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 04 March 2013

    Thanks Sue, your comments are always very appreciated!

  • Guest
    Delia @ Blog Formatting Saturday, 02 March 2013

    Phoebe, amazing story! I love the posts on your blog, keep them coming! Sometimes inexplicable things happen, that's what makes them so interesting!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 04 March 2013

    Thanks Delia. Quirky = interesting don't you think?! :o

  • Phoebe
    Phoebe Friday, 01 March 2013

    That's so interesting. I guess it's just a sign of the changes in our environment.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 04 March 2013

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. No one knows why this wave happens but I reckon you may have hit the nail on the head. There are so many changes in our environment now that lots of unexplained things happen.

  • Guest
    Rachel S. Wednesday, 27 February 2013

    True - all of it! If you look closely, you can even see where I was sitting when the wave snuck up and caught me totally unawares. Despite repeated warnings beforehand. :-)

    This is one of those things that I love about the area, though. It's the sort of quirky thing that gives character to a place and makes a day at the beach with friends even more memorable. The weather and environment are so beautiful, but they're also unique. Keep us posted on the phenomenon; I'd really be a little sad if it were gone for good!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 01 March 2013

    Hi Rachel, thanks for stopping by. And thanks for pointing out your wet trousers, I didn't think it was my business to ask my readers to look closely at your butt, but if you say so then that's OK!!! :D
    It's true what you say about the quirkiness of the area. Did you see my post on the Nice midday cannon? that's pretty quirky too! I'll get back to you in a couple of months when the beach season starts with an update on the wave...

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