Tuesday, June 23, 2015

FUERTEVENTURA – Sotavento session

 by: Zoran Košmrl


We heard a lot of wellknown Sotavento beach on the Canary island of Fuerteventura, the windsurfing and kiteboarding mekka for recreational and professional athlets. PWA Tour stops there every year too. So, three of us, fellow windsurfers,  decided to use the opportunitiy to experience our first windsurfing in the ocean.

Factography

Fuerteventura is longest but with the area of 1660km2 the second largest of the Canary Islands.  It is closest to Africa (less than 90km away from Marocco) and separated from Lanzerote by the 10km-wide Strait of Bocaina. Volcanic mountains stretch along the western half of the island up to the 807m abowe the sea level (Pico de la Zarza). A lot of dry river beds suggest that there is limited precipitation (only 140mm/year) mainly between September and May. Humidity varies from 19% to 38% and sunshine reaches an annual average of 2800 hours. Fuerteventura is affected throughout the year, specially in summer, by anticyclones of the Azores (high-preassured air). These winds are loaded with humidity, salt and clouds due to long jurney above the ocean. The constant northeast winds – Alisios – speed up on account of the island's relief and reach average speed of 25km/h. So generally, west coast („barlovento“ – windward) has side-onshore wind with lot of breaking waves along rocky and sandy beaches (the longest and nicest is the Playa de Cofete).

The seas are very rough with lot of current and suitable for pro surfers and windsurfers. East coast („sotavento“ – leeward) has side-offshore wind with flat seas along the sandy beaches and ocasionally swell as a result of the ocean. The longest and most popular windsurfing and kiteboarding beach is Playa de Sotavento de Jandia in the south of Fuerteventura between Costa Calma and Morro Jable. It is nearly 6km long and in low tide about 500m wide. During high tide it fills up with up to 60cm deep sea that is separated by a narrow sandy dune from the atlantic ocean and is ideal for windsurfing and kiteboarding beginners.


Windsurfcenters
In 1984 Rene Egli established the biggest windsurfing center in the north of the Playa de Sotavento de Jandia and later the kiteboarding center near the Melia Gorriones hotel too http://www.rene-egli.com/ . The windsurfing center has a wide selection of first class NeilPryde and JP Australia equipment and rental is devided into three categories. Prebooking is 15% cheaper as the rental on the spot. Besides the center has storage for guest equipment, changing rooms, lockers, showers, relaxing area with free WIFI under palm trees, simple snacks and drinks for refreshment, professional photo service, massage area, ... It is well organised and comercialised, everything in favour of windsurfing from the beginner to the professional. Windsurfing area is wide so no crowd on the water is expected. With offshore wind the sea is flat to choppy after 100m of the coast. 

The restricted area is marked and ends with the start of the dark blue sea some 200m from the coast. The guys on jetski are fast and effective when rescue is needed. In case of being to far from the coast they are there in the moment and in the other moment the equipment and the windsurfer are safe in the shallow water. The whole area is supervised from the highest point on the beach from 9:00 to 19:00. The same goes for the kiteboarding. There is shuttle service from Costa Calma to windsurfing and kiteboarding center several times a day (distance is 5km). The surfshop in the nearby hotel Melia Gorriones is well equipped. Neverhteless, on my opinion, the prices are generally in both the surfshop and the center to european and a bit to high.
    
Club Mistral joined later with windsurfing centers in Costa Calma and in the southern part of the Sotavento beach called Risco del Paso. We did not visit the center in Costa Calma but that one in Risco del Paso was a discovery for me. It is less equiped and smaller but more user friendly, with more relaxed and cosy atmosphere. Everything is cheaper and less commercialised in comparison to Rene Egli's station. There are some slowenian instructors in well organised staff, and a friendly multilingual croatian girl on the reception desk. Windsurfing equipment offered is by Northsails (sails, masts, booms) and  Fanatic boards. http://www.club-mistral.com/en/destinations/home/29/genInfo.

There is no place for storage of guest equipment, no drinks and snacks (you should have a plenty of own drinking water and a lunch package with you), no shade for relaxing. But the conditions on the water are different from that in Egli's center. Due to direction of the coast there is no chop, just flat water with some swell coming from the ocean ocasionally forming jumping ramps or nice waveriding slopes. Direction of windsurfing is from 20 degrees to paralel to the beach in the shallow sea (standing area is to 20m from the coast depending from the tide. All the time there is a small laguna basin between the station and oceanside for beginners. During high tide the laguna with knee-deep sea is stretched across the whole beach up to the station over the period of few hours. The supervision is organised from the station and from the nearby mountain. Constant radio connection with rescue team on jetski asures fast and efficient operation.


Trip 

Everything started and was going as planned. Ivan, Mario and me, we left Varazdin at 4 a.m. and after a short break and vehicle change in Satledt, where Jura joined us, we arrived to Munich airport at 11 a.m. just on time to check-in before the crowd started at noon. Some Slowenian guys joined us with windsurfing luggage too. Later they happened to be in the same apartment house with us.

The afternoon flight aboard the confortable Condor Airbus took 4h30m and finally we landed on the sunny Fuerteventura island. We picked up the windsurfing packages and luggage and checked-in for the car rental. The new Citroen Berlingo (the car had 18km) was the right choice.

The only pain in the ass was in stead of the two, just one sliding door in the back, but we used to it soon. We have put all the luggage into and onto the car and our jurney along the desert island to the south started. The moon relief without any flora except in the cities, around hotels and on the golf grounds, was accompaning us all the way to Costa Calma. The wind coming from northeast helped us to come to Costa Calma in less than an hour. The apartment house was not difficult to find because it was the last one on the road to windsurfing center. The boys had to check-in for the equipment rental in the Rene Egli's office but it was closed so we had to leave it for the first thing next morning. Whole Costa Calma is 90% tourist oriented. Apartments and houses to rent are on every corner and big hotel complexes on every second corner.

After a big breakfast next morning and Egli's office check-in Jura and Mario went to the windsurfing center to get the board and sail. In the meantime I rigged my 5,8 NP Atlas on the FSW102 and started my first ocean session. The wind was pretty stable and offshore but there was apsolutely no crowd on the water in spite of some 30 windsurfers moving up and down. The aclimatisation period was pretty short for us. Only 1hour difference made a trouble for a start but we got used to it soon. As we injoyed windsurfing Ivan got infected with kiteboarding virus and started kiteboarding lessons in Club Mistral.

First two days we had to put on the right place all the details with the Polish owner and get used to the microscopic dust coming into and scatering all over the place. A Czech boy helped us to get familiar with the apartment, city, shops, restaurants...

First six days we had 25-30knots of wind during a sunny day with air temperature 23-28oC and ocean temperature of 21oC. I spent three days in front of Rene Egli's center. The choppy conditions in strong wind I changed than with a flat contitions in front of Club Mistral and enjoyed it much more. The turquise sea poured over white sandy beach in a row of 80cm high swell.

The waves coming from the oceanside would appear just few meters before the beach forming sometimes steep ramp for a nice jump over it into the flat sea before the next wave that might even not happen. It was pure soulwindsurfing experiance. During a short break I would lie on the beach between the board that was protecting my back from the sand blown with the wind and rig in front protecting me from the sun. I would just lie down and admire the moves of other windsurfers passing by. The swell would pour the sea over the sail covering it more and more with white sand. After few sets of waves the sail would be covered with 5cm of sand and one would have real trouble to get it out.

The everydays warmup due of carrying the rig for 150m over the beach to the oceanside was soon exchanged with windsurfing through shallow laguna sea during high tide to the sandbank and than crossing on foot few meters to the oceanside. It is amazing how fast filled up the beach depression with sea throught two corridors in the sandbank where the current was strong like some river. Soon the whole „beach“ was full of windsurfers and kiteboarders but noway we can speak of a crowd on the water. I personally still prefered the oceanside.
    
We made some exploration of surroundings by car. We made an excursion to La Pared on the west coast to see the oceanwaves. Unfortunately we did not go to the magnificent Cofete beach in the southwest. We visited Morro Jable, a big tourist city in the south that is 20min by car from Costa Calma. Southernmost city of Puerto de la Cruz was to far for us to go along the dirty road.
   
Last five days the wind dropped to 15-18 knots. As I had no sail for it with me I decided to go for kiteboarding lessons. Unfortunatelly, a high fever in next days stopped me from improving my kiteboarding. In spite of that it was a worthwhile trip and I would repeat it next year but go to Corralejo in the north.


Expenses
Condor has cheapest flight tickets variing from 170€ to 290€ depending of the pickedup dates. Windsurfing luggage is restricted to maximum 30kg of luggage 250cm long and costs 60€ for both ways. In my case it was a bag with freestyle wave 102 board, two masts, three sails, two extensions, one boom and harness. But in case you have more luggage that is not paid with the ticket do not forget to call or e-mail for the reservation before the flight, otherwise it is besides additional 60€ extra 50€ one way.  All is bookable online.

Nearest tourist place is Costa Calma so we looked for the accomodation online too (http://de.rentalia.com  www.houstrip.de   www.tripadviser.com  www.booking.com ...) We found a nice place to stay with the underground garage for the car in Costa Calma for 60€/day for 4 Persons. The accomodation for 2persons is possible from 30€/day. In case you are lucky you can have studio for 100€/week from Žan Ribnikar who works in Club Mistral as instructor from May to October (www.bushmans.si ).

There is a cosy setlement of apartment houses in the Risco del Paso region over the Club Mistral with terraces looking to the beach for 100€/day (www.villa-christina.eu ). Costa Calma is 70km far from the airport and because we had own windsurfing equipment we booked car rental for the whole stay. We took Citroen Berlingo and it suited perfectly to the need we had. The equipment could be inside the car but to be more confotrable we put the board derectly onto the roof fixed with straps through the cabin. The car with full insurance took us 230€ and we spent for 11 days and 500km 36€ for fuel.
 
Two persons could pass with Renault Clio for 110€ + fuel. Transfer to Munich and back took us 100€ and 60€ for parking on the airport. All the food for 11 days we bought from day to day in SPAR in Costa Calma and cocked in the apartment spending approx 40€/person.  The prices of everyday food are approximatelly the same as here, excluding fish and beer that is much cheaper. But the taverns and restaurants are not so expensive too. In case you need any medical treatment it is rather expensive all the invoices for cash payments are refundable if you have travel insurance. I have got it refunded in 10 days after coming home.


Hints
  • Check tidal forecasts for planning the trip if you want to use laguna for windsurfing or kiteboarding.
  • Don't hurry to buy the flight tickets online. Check out the price every day because it usually drops down as the date of departure nears.
  • Check your windsurfing luggage not to make it to more than 30kg. Make a reservation for that luggage because on check-in it gets expensive. If you buy it with the flight ticket it is 60€ both ways. If you buy it on check-in it is 60€ one way plus 50€ space reservation.
  • Check the conditions of accomodation reservation with the owner. On the spot it is usually to late to discuss all the features of the apartment, final cleaning expenses, wifi connection, SAT TV, sheets and towels changing, pets in the house...
  • Don't rent car from the online rental company because it usually does not have own counter for check-in. It uses third party on the spot that does not aprove the insurance you have paid online, and charges extra 200-500€ deposit for the case.
  • Be prepared to cash the medical help. Private clinics usually avoid credit cards and trevel insurance policies in spite of the statement that they accept all that. All the invoices for the medical help and drugs are refundable if you have travel insurance.
  • Don't drink tapped water. It can cause digestal problems. We bought big containers of potable water even for cooking and brushing teeth.
  • Check the prices in shops. The differences can be to 30%. We had good experiance with SPAR in Costa Calma.





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