As lifelong BoardHeads, my wife Snapp and I travel to as many boardriding spots around the world as possible. Our most recent trip brought us to the Canary Islands and Spain. The Canaries are known as the “islands of eternal spring,” meaning the weather is pleasant year-round. Since windsurfing was the focus of this trip, we determined that mid-summer’s windy months would be best for us. Three weeks was the most we could get off work, and we flew thru Madrid, so we decided to do two weeks on the islands and one in mainland Spain.
The Canaries are Spanish but lie just off the coast of Morocco, so as expected, Fuerteventura is a “desert island.” Rocky cliffs dominate the coastline, but some giant sand dunes create huge beaches like “Flag Beach” on the north east coast. It’s about four miles long and the windsurf center there is an easy five-minute drive from the fishing village of Corralejo. The town is just the right size – not huge but with plenty of dining and drinking spots.
The “Flag Beach Kite-Wind-Surf School” is well stocked with toys and is right at a great place to launch both kites and windsurfers. A fun place for windsport enthusiasts…the water is so clear it seems like you’re gonna clip rocks with your fin…but there’s actually plenty of depth for safe action. Although we’ve tried kiting, Snapp & I are completely addicted to windsurfing…and at Flag Beach that made us part of the minority. The upside…less competition for the boards and sails.
We had so much fun at Flag Beach that we only took one day to explore the rest of the island…which has a ton of historical sites, cute little towns, beautiful beaches, old churches etc… Overall we found Fureteventura’s fantastic windsports, affordable accommodations, great roads, numerous flight & ferry options, and diverse foods made it a place well worth visiting.
Our next destination, Tenerife is the largest of the Canaries and is further from Morocco which might be why it is so much greener than FV. It also has the capital Santa Cruz, which is much larger and more modern than expected. Like FV, the roads are easy to navigate and generally in great condition.
El Medano was our windsurf spot on Tenerife, but since we exchanged a timeshare for the week, we got to stay at the nearby Santa Barbara Golf Resort. Staying in town would have been more convenient, but the ten minute drive from there to S.B. was well worth it considering the luxury of our condo for the price. El Medano is a huge bay with a tiny port at one end and a large “Montana Roja” (red mountain) dominating the landscape at the other. This red rock funnels the wind and is surely responsible for the 100+ windsurfers and kiters that were out the Sunday afternoon we arrived.
El Medano’s OTC (Official Test Center) was our windsurfing rental choice due to their huge selection of new gear to try. Boards by RRD, JP, Tabou, Quattro and more are plentiful as are sails by numerous brands. Ben and his team are friendly, knowlegable and very reasonable when adding up our bill at the end of our stay.
Unlike FV, at El Medano kiters were the minority, and they mostly stayed downwind of the windsurfers. This separation is a good thing for windsurfers who generally prefer to avoid the prospect of a kite falling on them or in their path. With a sandy beach launch and unobstructed wind, we really enjoyed ourselves. Depending on the swell size and direction, the launch was at times flat and easy and other times challenging to get thru the shorebreak, making it a place better suited for intermediates and advanced sailors than beginners. At the north end of the bay were larger waves where more advanced wave riders could play, and around the point at Cabezo, expert wavesailors and kiters have a playground of their own. Cabezo even has a cute little beach bar where we had drinks while watching the expert riders at what felt like a “European Hookipa.”
Other than in the tourist towns of Los Christianos and Plaza las Americas, we didn’t meet any other Americans…mostly Spaniards, Brits and Germans with some Dutch and Frenchies as well. Overall, the Canaries, with year round nice weather and easy access, seemed to us like a “Maui of Europe.” One thing we really liked about El Medano, unlike Maui, there are tons of cafes and boutiques right at the beach, making lunches and after shredding drinks convenient and fun.
After two wonderful weeks in the Canaries, we headed to mainland Spain. Our first stop, Madrid was cleaner and safer than expected, and having the keys to a friend’s family apartment there made it even better…thanx Jose! With only a few days to check it out, we got on the double-decker sightseeing bus for an orientation before exploring on our own. The parks, dining and shopping were all great, except with the US dollar so weak, everything seemed a bit pricey.
It was pretty bloody, but experiencing an actual bullfight was well worth doing. Not really a “fair fight,” the nearly 1,000 year old tradition is more of a public execution of 6 bulls per night…with style. Definitely interesting unless you’re a member of PETA. The costumes and flair of the Matadors seem to be the main draw…other than the blood for some.
Although not a typical tourist destination, we headed to Valencia next to stay a few days with my brother’s close friends, Patrice & Lucia. The Mediterranean port town has a great mix of medieval walls, historic sites and very modern architecture. The highlight of our stay there was definitely our day trip about an hour south to the coastal town Calpe. We hiked on the huge iconic rock that dominates the landscape, swam under it and got in a little light wind windsurfing at Las Antipodes surf & sailing school. Tato and champion freestyle windsurfer Vicky Sanchez were super-friendly and would be great instructors for anyone who wants to learn sailing, stand-up-paddling or windsurfing.
The last stop on this trip, Barcelona was definitely worth a visit, but way more touristy and crowded than expected. The port and beaches are nice…we even saw some BoardHeads out windsurfing…but for us the Gaudi architecture and his park Guell stood out as the highlights. Overall, our three weeks were fantastic…great windsurfing and sightseeing at all our destinations. Given more time for the trip, we would have loved to get to the windsports mecca Tarifa in the south…something to look forward to for the next time we get back to Spain!
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