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Home or Away – What’s The Best Winter Windsurfing Plan?

Yesterday we caught up with Steve King, as he announces he will join brother Andy in the Goya team next year. Now, Andy shares his views in the home vs away for winter windsurfing debate. 

The catch 22 is you need a sizeable chunk of money to travel to South Africa, Chile, Maui, Oz etc and to get the money you need to work but with work comes commitment and restrictive leave so it is a vicious circle.

“My feelings are this is pretty dictated by your circumstances, available time off, family and finances being key!

Andy King at Crantock, making the most of the British winter conditions. All image credits JnP events photography

If you’re employed and committed to work full time most people will have between 20 – 30 days annual leave for the entire year, so when you spread this over 12 months a “long” trip is going to be two weeks at best. Whereas if you’re casually employed or free of commitments etc i.e. on a gap year or have the option for a sabbatical then a “long trip” could be the average maximum tourist visa stay of 3 months.

Previously when I was free of commitments I would jump at the chance to train for a long period over seas. I had no time restraints so I would stay for the longest possible time and as I had very low standards ref accommodation, dinning etc I could stretch my budget to the max. What these long stay trips offer, if you pick the right location and right season, is regular almost daily sailing in warm temperatures and sailing in company of other very good windsurfers, which is conducive with improving ones own ability very quickly.

However, now with only two weeks to spend overseas it pains me to pay £700 for a flight as even South Africa in Decemeber can see a seven day patch with no wind and certainly regularly sees weeks without a good swell. Ultimately good waves arrive at beaches during winter and good winds i.e. trades in summer, so even overseas there is no guarantee of both coming together at the same time.

Andy King

If you have the flexibility and finances to go last minute there is no doubt that with modern forecasts you can score awesome action packed weeks abroad. Timo is the master of this and must be permanently glued to bigsalty.com. However, last minute flights are rarely cheap these days and finding accommodation short notice even with the internet at hand can be difficult.

The catch 22 is you need a sizeable chunk of money to travel to South Africa, Chile, Maui, Oz etc and to get the money you need to work but with work comes commitment and restrictive leave so it is a vicious circle. Generous sponsors, wealthy parents or miss spent student loans tend to be sought to fund these overseas adventures.

To get the most out of UK sailing conditions you need to be good at reading weather charts and not solely reliant on forecasts with the exception of BIGSALTY.COM which has it all in one place!! You also need a good reliable, preferably economical vehicle because you’re going to need to put some miles in, to score the best days. You’re also going to need a wide array of decent equipment, big floaty boards and at least a couple of decent wetsuits with boots and a hood are essential additions. Better still, you will really benefit from a group of fellow local like minded windsurfers to share journeys with and to give reassurance / inspire confidence in you when your setting off on a 6 hour drive on a 50 / 50 forecast and awaiting sea temps dipping below 5 degrees.

Gallery: Andy and Steve King taking on Crantock in freezing temperatures. All image credits JnP events photography.

In my opinion UK winter sessions do have some major advantages over the majority of overseas travel destinations. Top advantage is the lack of crowds… even busy weekend days at Gwithian, West Wits or Rhossy are quiet in comparison to SA, West OZ or Maui. Another thing about surviving a full on UK winter session is the challenge you’ve met and sense of achievement you feel… you come off the water exhausted, cold and battered but when you warm up you feel you’re a winner / survivor, one of a small band of wetsuit clad extremists who faced the storm head on.

In comparison in Maui at Kanaha for example you come off the water alongside 5 year old kids on boogie boards, honeymooners in kayaks, families in Hawaian canoes, 80 year old kiters, down wind sup tourist etc before passing frolicking ladies and gents splashing around in thongs with inflatable orcas etc etc and you realise that for the majority of sailing sessions, bar big days at Hookipa and Jaws, the portrayed extreme isle is actually far from it.

The final major disadvantage of overseas trips taking your windsurf kit as baggage!

The dreaded forward only airport trolley!

Packing light ultimately will only reduce your time on the water, for which you are already paying a lot and not taking spares is really going to cost you if you have a breakage, so you literally have to squeeze the entire contents of your van into as few bulging bags as possible. Gone are the days of being able to pull your van up at the doors of the departure terminal… now your lucky if you can get it within half a mile of the airport. Even when you do get your gear inside the terminal the trollies no longer go sideways so you have to wind your way through Gatwick like a 3m wide chav sweeper taking out the half-wits wearing the garish group t – shirts, so appropriately adorned with “TOSSER” or “LOOSE LIPS LINDA”, before they get to let unleash their hilarious wit with questions like “HAVE YOU GOT A BODY IN THERE?” or “IS THAT A CANOE?”

Then having finally reached the check in desk your faced with the most complex maze of a queuing system, which is barely possible to navigate with a suit case let alone 6 bags of windsurf gear. Even if you’ve arrived super early and are the only passenger waiting woe betide you if you dare avoid the said maze and take a direct approach. Now, this is not the time to piss off the desk attendants as they are ultimately about to have free reign at pilfering the remaining contents of your bank account. So you have no choice but to ignore the repeated tannoy announcements and leave your gear unattended whilst walking 500m in order to reach a desk that’s just 10 feet away. During the navigation of the maze your gaze is filtering between the airport police who are about to carry out a controlled explosion on your precious £1500 wave board and the three check in desk attendants. Figuring the Police are going to take their time your now purely focused on the three check in attendants, the first a stern faced older lady with a pony tail pulled so tight she looks like she is in a wind tunnel, the second a rather officious looking male looking disapprovingly at your baggage and third a young attractive lady busy inspecting her latest manicure…. You stand there running your options through your head, do you opt for the older lady hoping her motherly instinct will take pity on you? Do you try flirting? Do you try to be all pally? Ultimately knowing the decision you’re about to make could cost you upwards of £500 if they discover just how many boards you really have crammed in that bag…. the choice …… STAY AT HOME !!!




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