Words and pics: Windsurfing UK
We’re a funny bunch us windsurfers. For a seemingly open minded tribe, full of brimming optimism (you kind of have to be when your chosen hobby revolves around Mother Nature’s ever changing moods), choosing where to spend our hard earned free time can be headache inducing. Checklist as follows (for the P family at least).
A. Wind = essential.
B. Waves = yes please (but flat water OK).
C. Sunshine and warmth = badly needed.
D. Toddler beaches and warm water = definitely!
Seasonality then comes into play – it’s no good wanting a Greek wind odyssey when (in general) Med locations are summer destinations only. So, when the chance arises to escape the tail end of UK winter where do you head? For us it was an easy choice…
Tried and tested
The Canary Islands have been a winter windy bolthole for years. Many a wave warrior has seen fit to up sticks and bomb off to the island of ‘Great Adventure’ – Fuerteventura (literally translated from the corrupted French term). Fuertventura can also be translated as ‘Strong Wind’ by some – we’ll take the latter!
All the islands recieve a healthy amount juice during the off season – it’s very rare for the Canaries to be flat at this time of year. Unfortunately most spots carry a health warning making them ‘no go’ for the majority. If it’s not the risk of being pummelled by super hollow, cylindrical surf then there’s real danger of being dragged in ceremoniously across sharp lava reef – equally unappealing. For sure, there are a handful of ‘beachies’ available but even these can wallop given half the chance. With windy kit in the mix it becomes even less inviting, especially if you’re a sailor still progressing through the ranks.
Possibly known more to kitesurfers these days Fuerteventura’s east coast situated Flag Beach is still a great choice for a windsurf break mid-winter. Summertime does see the most consistent blow but it’s the out of season months where riders will more than likely encounter challenging, but not life threatening, rippable waves. Add to the mix versatility – freeriders and freestylers will also find favour with Flag – fantastic water colour/clarity, stunningly unique scenery and you’ve potentially got yourself a great little tried and tested winter windsurf escape. It’s also not extortionate so fairly friendly on your wallet.
Ben Thomas (owner) and his Flag Beach brand have been in place since the 80s. Having discovered this windsurfing idyll he decided why not introduce the rest of the windy world to his vision of paradise.
It hasn’t been all plain sailing (forgive the pun). Initially Corralejo was deemed too far flung a destination by critics but more recently pleasing the powers that be have been at the forefront of minds.
On more than one occasion the Flag Beach operation has been given little to short notice and had to be removed from the beach due to local authority rulings. But true grit always shines through. With a show must go on mentality toughing it out during these testing times have brought the Flag Beach centre to where it’s at now – a fully functioning set up just a few short steps from the water’s edge.
But back to the sailing… After trudging 150m from roadside parking riders will get a clearer picture of conditions. Gazing seaward, over the brow of undulating sand dunes, turquoise blue water stretches off towards Lobos. If you’ve timed it correctly then wind will puffing left to right with flashes of sail and kit colour dancing in the sunlight.
Across the channel is Lobos island while in the distance Fuerte’s sibling, Lanazarote, rises from the Atlantic. Breeze (the Passat) puffs between the gap created by Lobos and Fuerteventura. Upwind is reef and any swell unloads its juice directly onto the coral. There’s an outside shelf that gets pretty big on solid days with the inside still holding some size. A small channel keyholes the reef next to shore and it’s here you’ll find the kitesurfing launch.
Downwind, and in front of the Flag Beach centre, is where windies dip a toe. At low tide you can walk right in, taking note of the shoreward reef plates jutting from the sand. These are pretty flat and don’t have any sharp nasties lurking (urchins). That said you can still stub a toe and/or ding a fin/board if you clatter into it.
With a flooding tide the reef plates are covered. The launch is still the same but there’s usually more shore dump in the mix. Any competent rider, however, will be able to navigate their way through the flotsam, beach start and blast straight out to sea.
Heading for the horizon you’ll note a large lump of wave unloading roughly in the middle part of the bay. This is super fun to boost all manner of aerial antics off with little fear of too severe a pounding. If you stack it the wave backs off quickly as it hits deep water allowing sailors to compose themselves and waterstart. Out back the water gets lumpy as rolling ocean swell follows the coastline. It’s fun to gybe onto a fat face, the wave blasting riders back down into the trough full power.
Cutting upwind you can ride some of the breaking waves closer to the reef. We’d err on the side of caution here and wait for higher water, otherwise lurking coral heads could potentially rip off your fin.
Heading towards the beach there’s a beautiful flat zone that seems to benefit from funnelling breeze. For those into aerial contortionism (read freestyle) this is your spot. Alternatively crank a gybe and head back out for another run.
Lastly there’s a downwind reef that isn’t sailable. It’s pretty obvious, with fangs of lava protruding skyward, so keep well clear as it takes no prisoners.
The kitesurfing element
Flag Beach is a place many visiting and local kitesurfers head for. As such you’ll never be alone on the water. There was never any issue, however, as kiters generally stay further upwind, and even if you fancy playing in Flag’s waves then there’s plenty of courtesy shown. As anyone will know when going afloat keeping eyes and ears open is a must – as long as this is adhered to then you’ll have no problem.
Kit and other stuff
Flag Beach offer a variety of windsurfing equipment choices featuring bang up to date Fanatic boards and North rigs. As we were nearing the end of our trip the crew had started receiving shiny new 2017 kit with some of it straight out of the wrapper and onto the water – there’s no messing about! For anyone needing to sort wetties and harnesses this can be arranged onsite with the FB team.
Should the wind not blow then fear not as there’s plenty of other entertainment to keep you occupied. Centre side and guests will find catamarans, kayaks and snorkelling paraphernalia. Also, this being the Canaries, there’s always the option for a little surf – be that trad style or with the aid of a paddle. We were kindly allowed to take away Fanatic SUPs which were put to good use in a variety of flat water and wave spots. Be aware, however, if you do the same then it’s your responsibility to take care of equipment.
Staying in the north Corralejo is pretty much the main tourist hotspot on the island. It’s a five minute drive (give or take) from town to Flag or roughly 20 mins walk. A whole plethora of accommodation types are available to suit all budgets. The Flag Beach guys have their own and can arrange this for your stay.
In terms of after hour’s ents you’ll find bars, restaurants – traditional and not so authentic – as well as obligatory clubs where you can rave it up until the wee hours (if you wish). There’s also a water park (open in summer) and various play areas for kids.
Over the years Corralejo has become rather built up, but it doesn’t take long to get away from the hubbub. Even with large volumes of tourists on the island we were able to find our own space. Numbers increase for high season, however, so keep this in mind.
As a winter windsurfing bolt hole, with the added diversity of being able to offer other sports, Flag Beach, and Fuerte as a whole, is a good choice for many. For families who enjoy frolics in the ocean there’s plenty to keep your little ones amused while mum and dad take turns going for a blast, paddle or surf. There may be more consistently windy spots available globally but for an easy to access location, that’s generally hassle free, Flag will tick the boxes for many.
Big thanks to Ben and the Flag Beach team who helped out massively with this article. Also props to Toby at Handiworld who kindly provided the inflatable roofracks we used extensively during our stay. Check out www.flagbeach.com and www.handiworld.com for more.