Google ‘windsurfing holidays’ and the choices are almost endless… but what should you be looking for?
From the popular haunts around Greece, Egypt, Turkey and Croatia to further flung places such as Brazil, Mauritius, South Africa, Maui and Australia. If you want to windsurf overseas, whatever your level, it’s covered.
Every year thousands of Brits opt to head to warmer climes to either try windsurfing for the first time or put their already well-honed skills to the test in some of the World’s most revered windsurfing locations.
In fact, more than 65% of people participate in windsurfing overseas. After all, as awesome as the windsurfing can be in UK waters, there is indisputably an added appeal of heading out in your shorts, rash vest, sun cream and bare feet, rather than donning a wetsuit and boots!
Plus one of the great things about many windsurfing holidays is the centres offer much more than simply windsurfing. You could do a lesson in the morning and practice in the afternoon or try one of the other activities at the resort, whether that might be sailing, biking, SUPing, gym/fitness classes or swimming for example!
So, how can you make sure you get the best and safest experience on your windsurfing holiday?
Amanda Van Santen, Chief Instructor, Dinghy and Windsurfing at the RYA, explains:
“People often prefer to learn in warmer waters overseas and look to continue when they are back home in the UK. Some go on a multi-sport activity holiday that offers windsurfing and discover they really enjoy the sport, while others will go overseas specifically to try windsurfing maybe even for the first time.
“There are many reputable operators out there in a wide variety of locations who really understand what people are looking for from their windsurfing holiday and have developed packages to suit, from beginners in calmer venues to adrenaline seekers in the windy conditions offered by Vassiliki, Kos and Rhodes, for example.
“The most important thing is do your homework and know what you’re going to get from your tour operator and the venue relevant to your skill level and experience before you book anything. A location may look awesome online but if you’re a dedicated advanced sailor, who loves their bump and jump or freestyle, yet the venue is mainly flat water you won’t have much fun!”
‘Knowing what you are going to get’ includes equipment provision and what level of kit an overseas centre caters for – most will have a wide range of boards and sails for beginners (wider boards, smaller sails and easier to handle rigs) and improvers, while windier, more expert venues will have specialist, state-of-the-art kit from the top manufacturers in the sport. Experienced windsurfers often take their own kit too.
It also includes tuition. Operators such as Neilson and Mark Warner are recognised RYA Training Centres, meaning you know you will get the same care, with the same high standards of safety and quality of tuition from RYA qualified instructors, as you would at an RYA Training Centre in the UK. Look for the RYA Tick Mark quality logo.
Through overseas RYA Training Centres you are able to get a logbook and the same course certificates as at home. The RYA syllabus provides a framework to deliver the tuition with guests enjoying the warmer environment, confident that all the sessions they do, however advanced, will be to RYA standards.
As with any holiday, whatever your budget you will find a centre and location to suit. And because windsurfing is as much as about lifestyle as it is the water, windsurfing holidays are as brilliant for families and groups of friends as they are for individuals who want to hang out and windsurf with like-minded people in a new country.
Tuition can reflect this and generally caters for both group, private or private lessons. Advanced clinics, with some of the biggest names in the sport, such as Simon Bornhoft, Sam Ross and Peter Hart to name just three, are also massively popular with intermediate and advanced sailors, with sessions focusing on developing higher end skills in the different disciplines, wind ranges and/or using new or different kit.
Neilson Active Holidays estimate 30% of their Beach Club guests do some windsurfing on holiday, and return rates year-on-year are very high as people who may struggle to get out windsurfing at home get their annual ‘fix’ on holiday.
Simon Cook is Activities Manager at Neilson’s Portomyrina Palace Beach Club on the Greek island of Limnos, which accommodates people of all experience levels. He explains what people can expect from their windsurfing holiday.
“The appeal of this style of holiday is it isn’t just windsurfing on offer, people can do plenty of other things. I’d roughly estimate 10% come to us to only go windsurfing, and another 20-30% on top of that come with the aim to windsurf. We only really find out who the advanced windsurfers are when the wind is good.
“All guests receive an activity planner on arrival and are encouraged to think about what activity they want to do for most of the week and then what else they would like to do if timings allows. There’s so much choice they can’t do everything, but we can look at all their options and help them to do as much or as little as they would like. At the welcome meeting staff are everywhere, chatting to families and friends to elaborate more on the planner and explain which groups work for whom.
“People commonly don’t know which group they should join but, for example, the Start or Intermediate with daggerboards groups are scheduled at the same time and have their first brief together. We often see as many as 30-40 people of this ability a week, split into smaller groups and individual sessions.
“Our most experienced instructor leads this and asks lots of questions, like who’s never been on a board before or who’s done a taster to who can sail upwind and who would like to learn about harnessing, to gauge ability levels. The aim is to form small groups of six guests to each instructor who then stay together for the whole week.
“For windsurfing (and dinghy sailing) we follow the RYA Training structure and syllabus, but instructors are reminded not to be regimented and keep things light and fun, whilst learning and progressing along the way. There is a casual, relaxed feel to sessions and use of kit and not all hours of the holiday are in classes. People can come down to the beach and practice outside of group hours knowing they’re safe and secure, and if they need any help and advice or a tow upwind it’s no problem.”
If you want to find a windsurfing RYA Training Centre overseas visit www.rya.org.uk/wheresmynearest
RYA members enjoy a 10% discount on Neilson Active Holidays. Find out more at www.rya.org.uk/go/Neilsonholidays