Changing lanes – from Essex to Mauritius with Danny Geereedhary

Words: Danny Geereedhary

Pics: Danny Geereedhary, Dave White, Andy Stallman, Steeve Boncourt: SAR Productions, Xavier Konig: Blastoff Creative for MAC

From the brown waters of the UK’s east coast to sunny, warm and the tropical climes of Mauritius, slalom/speed sailor Danny Geereedhary has gone through an interesting transition in terms of windsurf locations and where he now calls home. WSUK caught up with him to find out more about this seemingly idyllic lifestyle. (We’re not jealous, honest!).

I skateboarded the streets of London where I grew up for ages. Early teens I saw an advert on a British Airways flight of a windsurfer blasting across a tropical lagoon for the drinks brand Martini (or it could have been Bacardi). That left a wow impression with me. At the time I didn’t realise that a few years later I would actually take up the sport.

When I moved out of London to (near) the Essex coast windsurfing was a natural ‘surfy lifestyle’ follow on from my earlier skateboarding addicted years. I was mainly a freeride weekend warrior. But then I started hitting events.

In the past 10 years I’ve competed on two UKWA competition circuits. First wave sailing in the BWA (masters fleet). Then more recently I switched to UKWA /BSA slalom racing (amateur fleet). I did the ams for two years after first trying out their ‘master blaster’ fleet. Brian Talbooth who runs that taster entry fleet is brilliant fun and really dedicated.

My windsurfing development has been about applying what I’ve read in windsurf magazines. Many hours studying the articles of Peter Hart and Simon Bornhoft. I’ve only twice ever had instructional clinic days. Once on a Simon Bornhoft Windwise looping day at Hayling Island and another was a slalom gybe clinic weekend at OTC Weymouth with Mark Hosegood. Both were excellent. Perhaps I should have attended more clinics then I might have been further on in terms of windsurfing skills?

My most recent development was having a go at speed-sailing with the local Essex/East Anglian crew and TWB (Team WhiteBoarders), tagging along with the legend Dave White. I’m forever grateful to have spent some time training amongst this talented group (of friends) which pushed me from a freerider, formerly using wave kit, to potential racer using full on slalom kit and now speed-sailing.

Training with ‘Whitey’s gang’ was definitely the catalyst that helped improve my windsurfing speed regardless of water state and wind strength. Sometimes in gales those boys literally took no prisoners. It was genuinely a case of either try to keep up or go home. That association introduced me to speed sailing. Something that I’ve brought with me to Mauritius – I’ve been helping develop the speed-sailing scene here.

But thanks for labelling me as a slalom/ speed sailor although I’m not sure that I am properly either? I do both but have yet to make a significant mark in either areas. I’m really chuffed to be involved in both as much as I can. I simply love our sport.

I sailed all over East Anglia’s coastal waters but West Mersea was my closest, most frequented, local spot. Of course I will always miss friends and familiar venues.

Coming from a wave sailing/bump and jump freeriding background I used to think sailing quick in straight lines was a tad ‘boring’ and that basically anyone could do it with the latest, fastest, kit, hence where was the challenge in that? So I ignored it for many years … but I was so wrong. The adrenaline produced in racing today’s fast modern, short length, wide performance boards has been responsible for my latest addiction. The efforts the UKWA have made, in large part, membership plus transitioning into the world of slalom racing very easy and highly enjoyable. The craic is excellent. Speed sailing was a natural extension from slalom racing. Although it’s different from slalom racing all it took was one trip down to the speed strip at the Ray, Southend, Essex and I was hooked.

In 2017 Mauritius hosted the IFCA African and Asian leg of its slalom race series. Given the high calibre of racing attendees I predictably placed where I thought I would. But that wasn’t a good competition result for me as I was riddled with kit issues/breakages during the entire race week. I would love a crack at the PWA, even if was only to come last. I don’t see myself at that kind of level although training where I am in Mauritius is really good for me.

I was born, raised and worked in the UK my entire life. Then quickly leaving to live on the other side of the world in Mauritius, far away from everything I know, has not been easy but all things considered the fact that it’s Mauritius has to some extent made it easier. Primarily my relocation was to help both my parents with rapidly declining health issues. They are Mauritian and returned to live there when I was 19. Now many years on they have aged further and both have medical issues that limits their mobility when out and about. Things simply deteriorated with them to the point that they needed help and that’s the real reason for my sudden move over here.

Most people will associate Mauritius with tropical white sandy beaches, lush coconut trees, high class hotels all fronting a very nice holiday destination. Oh, not forgetting great watersports activities. Aside from these obvious attractions none of them were the reason for my sudden, unplanned relocation. Had it not been for my parents conditions I would still be in Blighty. The island has been rapidly developing and since my arrival I’ve discovered it’s now far more attractive to live here compared to when I last visited 13 years ago. With that surge in development there are more resources and services making life here for Europeans, or those accustomed to ‘western habits’, quite amenable, yet still in full island style. I imagine I’m not the first UK windsurfer to relocate to Mauritius although I’ve not read about anyone else having done it?

I have noticed there’s a steady trickle of new expats choosing to live in Mauritius. But my circumstances for moving here are not the same as a typical migrating expat. Nevertheless it’s made available to me the same island benefits plus great watersports in year round warmth. For now my parents are still independent enough around the house so at least that leaves with me lots of free time to go windsurfing.

I live on the east coast but I’d prefer to live anywhere along the western coast as, imo, more development has and is still being concentrated on that side of the island. My parents built their home on the east coast a while after they returned to live in Mauritius, so that’s where I immediately fitted in upon my arrival to island.

I’m three miles inland from the sea although it’s about a 10 minute drive to the nearest windsurfing lagoon. If I wanted I could literally be on the water every day that there’s wind because of the year round warmth. Over here it’s so easy to get picky about which days to go windsurfing as there are plenty of nice sunny days with wind that one can simply sneer/turn noses up at. Now when I drive to a beach I sometimes still have to pinch myself looking around at the place with its vibrancy and colour.

I’m still getting used to the place and it still really hasn’t fully sunk in that I’m actually living here. When I hear of my friends back home struggling with the cold or lack of winter winds it’s really then that it sinks in.

Notably the one big difference I’ve found is that time on the water really is limited for slalom kit training using larger slalom fins. At the most generous it’s about max three hours in a day you get due to tide heights in the lagoons. In the UK I could have easily spent a 6 hour stint at some beaches without such issue.

I haven’t found the best spot (yet). I’m on a mission to discover it. I’ve become aware that many locals are simply content attending their usual venues on a weekend, such is the pace of life here. The west coast intrigues me most because it’s rarely windsurfed due to predominately easterly winds the island gets. It hardly ever comes from a westerly direction. Le Morne is the most widely known windsurfing spot because of the range of skill levels it accommodates. There are other great spots such as ‘Anse la Raie’ in the north east. On the east coast there are couple of flatwater reef locations that at the right tide give delightful flat water. They provide the most blissful freeride blasting experience.

I hit up Le Morne quite a bit. It’s a nice hour and a half drive from home. Le Morne is mainly known for its wave sailing – a local national windsurfing competition was recently held there (at One Eye). Within the lagoon areas there’s slalom blasting, freeriding and freestyle. Lately we’ve been toting up GPS speed sailing runs. Le Morne is definitely a versatile windsurfing location in a stunning location.

I’ve been in the waves at Manawa a couple of times. Sadly I sold all my wave sailing gear back in the UK hoping to buy wave kit out here. I simply had too much slalom gear to bring over. My slalom racing and speed sailing take up most of my current available water time. However, I was asked to co judge the recent open national wave sailing competition held at One Eye and that was excellent both watching and helping judge. Michel Archer (a sometimes UK BWA wave sailing judge) was kind enough to brush me up on comp scoring etiquette, which I found easy enough. Getting back into wave sailing is definitely on the to do list.

I have friends here that surf but at breaks that are not that local to me. It’s nice that I have that option on tap. Naturally there are surf locations here that are kept quiet for locals use only. I would not want to disclose nor diminish that local trust, I do have to live here after all.

Photography has been a growing interest. As is playing the guitar. What’s most notable from my relocation is the freedom of no longer having to work for a living – there’s a lot that can be done. In Mauritius there’s no shortage of activities.

I should mention that I run the ‘Mauritius Speed League’ for speed sailing.

My arrival, mid 2016, was during a fully formed slalom series and that coincidental timing presented the perfect opportunity to facilitate development of the windsurf speed scene from within the local slalom racing fraternity. I’ve been instrumental in setting up and now run the Mauritius Speed League (MSL) along with the two other admins, Christopher Tyack and Steeve Boncourt. Interest and participation in the speed scene here has been steadily growing.

People mention ‘idyllic lifestyle’ and luckily I do not have to work in Mauritius. So on the surface my relocation might actually seem ‘idyllic’. However I do have the responsibility of attending both my parents’ ageing and medical needs, something that will impinge more on my available free time as they get older (fortunately they are independent enough around the house currently).

I could work here if I wanted to but I would then feel obligated and tied to work for a lot less pay than I would receive in the UK for my skills. With my parents needs on one side and my being in a position where I don’t have to work, why would I want to?

Finding employment is tricky for residents. The island has developed a system of prioritising jobs through knowing the right people to get you into any available posts. This makes it none too easy for getting a job here.

Since the Island has economically developed quite well over the last 25 years there is more scope for skilled work. If you have the right skill then it is possible to obtain work. But for anyone thinking to come here simply believing that they could find a job that scenario is virtually nonexistent.

Getting windsurf kit is generally obtained in four ways here:

  1. Bring it over yourself or buy kit from holiday windsurf visitors to the island.
  2. Several brand distributors exist on the island who can be approached for kit.
  3. Buy second hand kit locally through joining the local windsurf/surfing communities.
  4. Make it yourself.

You have to be constantly prepared for replacements and breakages. Then it’s okay. Otherwise the wait to either find a replacement locally or ordering online from abroad could find you without your much needed equipment for months.

For now my home base has shifted to Mauritius. It has to be this way as my parents practical needs require this. I miss all the familiarity of home (UK). Don’t get me wrong. It is nice in Mauritius and really can be ‘idyllic’ but I personally miss a lot about home. Sojourns back to UK? Definitely. It could be this year but if not then surely next year.

I may move back to the UK but I don’t see that happening until my parents eventually ‘move on’ and that could be a while yet. Truth be known I think the ideal set up for me is to have two home locations (Mauritius & UK) and travel between the two. Now that really is the ideal set up!

My plans for the rest of 2018 are:

Get fit again. My mum’s Mauritian cooking, as tasty as some of her dishes are, is not conducive to maintaining a healthier body.

  • More speed sailing and continue to develop the speed scene here.
  • Continue slalom racing in the national league series here.
  • Get a multi finned wave board for Manawa and One Eye missions.
  • Get a surfboard (mini-mal or longboard).
  • Really make an effort to get back into Salsa and Latin style dancing.
  • Make a trip abroad somewhere, which I haven’t done since I arrived in Mauritius.
  • Tinker on a couple of projects I’ve in mind regarding making kit.
  • Push my interest in photography.
  • Keep learning to play the guitar.
  • Windsurf more to get back to my former level (the sudden upheaval of relocating here took its toll and I’m only just starting to find form again)
  • Continue to enjoy the non-working lifestyle.

Thanks and praise must go to:

  • My Uncle and Aunt Ramchurn (UK)
  • Dave White and the Essex crew for some crazy fast sessions in East Anglian waters.
  • F-Hot Fins.
  • Fluidlines shop (Essex) who sponsored me as a team rider.
  • Wet ‘n’ Dry Boardsports (Essex)
  • Simon Chippington GBR 984, for continually keeping me updated on stuff back home and sending me over small kit items that I can’t get here.
  • UKWA & BWA.
  • Andy Finlay (when he was at Zero Gravity/Robinhood Watersports, now at Purivada).
  • Alan Cross (for putting me to task with camera and trusting me to edit some BSC reporting).
  • Darren Herbert (Quiverwindsurfing, Goya/Quattro)
  • John Jessop & Steve Mundy for wave days at Camber Sands and West Mersea local legend ‘Paul Reynolds’ and to all my friends back home UK for great times.
  • Mark Seaney for first getting me into comps (wave sailing).
  • Leigh Kingaby (for past kit help).
  • Christopher Tyack (in Mauritius) and all the resident Mauritian windsurfers (local and expats) for warmly welcoming me into the Mauritian windsurf community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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