Gran Canaria by Matt Yeates

Gran Canaria by Matt Yeates

Gran Canaria is the island that is famous for laying host to what is deemed one of the most hardcore windsurfing events on the planet. The island is associated with those pictures we see of pros jumping 50 feet maxed out on their 3 metre sails. This was the view I held before going and so was slightly scared as to the fact that it may ion fact be too windy to sail!


Wave Spot

The island is about a 3 and half hour flight from Gatwick so this seemed comfortable enough. On arriving at the pleasant but slightly empty Las Palmas airport we booked our hire car and started driving South. I have been to some pretty bad places in the world in terms of roads but this seemed to be quite reasonable with a motorway spanning the whole East side of the island and good adjoining roads.  The first place we visited was the legendary Pozo Izquierdo. Chances are if you have seen those pictures of people jumping crazily high they were taken at this place. Luckily enough for me my visit had coincided with that of the PWA tour and I was treated to a whole morning of slalom racing and women’s wave heats before retiring to Maspalomas where I was staying.

The sedate laid back atmosphere of Pozo seems to degrade the further South you head until you reach the Southern tip of the island and Playa des Ingles. Literally translated as beach of the English this place certainly lives up to its name. Imagine those pictures you see of mile upon mile of golden sand swamped in holiday makers and you’ve got this place. Couple this with a raving night life party scene and you have got something very attractive or quite the opposite depending on what sort of person you are.


Where to stay?

As far as finding somewhere to stay goes you have two main options. You could either stay in one of the southern resorts such as Bahia Feliz, Maspalomas or Playa des Ingles or in Pozo itself. The advantages of staying in the resorts is that there is, of cause a lot my choice with regards to accommodation, you are also in the middle of a lot of shops and pubs/ clubs etc so the advantages here are obvious too. The second option, staying in Pozo itself gives a slightly different experience. I didn’t actually do this myself but talked to a lot of people that had and so can voice their comments. The whole place certainly had a windsurfing feel to it and this was added to by the fact that a lot of the time, even when the PWA had gone, there were top pros walking around on the streets. There are a couple of grocery shops in Pozo too for getting the daily shop in and 2 windsurfing shops: Cutre and the poison shop. You can hire kit from here or replace any that you may break. As to where there is to stay in Pozo itself there are a number of hostels. I am informed prices range from as low as 10 euros a night but the large Centro International de Windsurfing is where most people I talked to were staying. Prices here start at around 16 euros a night including breakfast the next day so it can be very economical. 

Where to eat?

Gran Canaria as a while offers a wide range of cuisine to suit most tastes. Starting with Pozo itself the bar/restaurant which overlooks the bay is awesome if you want to watch the windsurfing or mingle with the stars of the sport. The food is good too especially the pizzas and lasagnes! In the southern resorts there are of casue the restaurants to cater for those that wish to indulge in the comforts of home with numerous British restaurants. As well as these there are a lot of fish and varied menus on offer from other restaurants many of which also put on live entertainment in the evenings which varied from street acrobats to an abba tribute band so something for anyone.


Where to windsurf?

Pozo, there are several beaches on the island for windsurfing but as I have already suggested Pozo is probably the most famous and is basically a bay with a beach of round pebbles. The wind here is predominantly cross onshore and the waves can get really big on a good day. The wipout factor here is quite large due to the rocks and is best avoided unless you are a competent sailor in waves (dropping gybes on the inside hurts here). The PWA wave and slalom contests are held here and the local standard as you would probably expect is insane. The best thing about pozo is the humping potential with the waves producing really nice ramps perhaps 3 or 4 times on every run out the back, this combined with the nuclear winds can produce the biggest jumps of your life.
Vargas was the other main wave spot on the island and offers more cross shore conditions. It is a big bay and there is plenty of space here usually as opposed to the busier conditions of Pozo. The waves break on a sandbar a bit further out when the swell gets bigger. It’s good for down the line riding and jumping. It can also offer a very feasible option for those less confident in the waves as the waves either side of the sandbar are a bit smaller and less powerful.
Arinaga was the place where I did most of my sailing and is located way upwind of Pozo itself. There is an awesome atmosphere here and the water is flat because of a big harbour wall that has been built. For those that dare there can be some great open sea sailing beyond this wall and the swell can get massive (over mast high), couple this with winds that leave you maxed on a 3 metre and the jumping can be awesome. This place is great for any speed fanatics and for any of you that have watched the Karmasutra windsurfing DVD (variety 3000) this is the speed spot featured with Antoine honking at 42 knots. Likewise for any freestylers the flat water and constant winds offer the perfect training ground and one day while I was there the top PWA women sailors came here for that very reason.
Playa de Aguila this is the spot that works in the winter trade winds nor those in the summer which have a bit more east in them. Otherwise in the summer it offers a great spot for beginners to get to grips with the sport in calmer surroundings. It is where the club mistral centre on the island is based and also the site of the Dunkerbeck windsurfing centre.


The wind

Gran Canaria has two main wind systems one coming from the North and one from the south. Firstly the one from the North, this is what has made Gran Canaria world renowned for windsurfing; blowing strongest in the summer months of July and August this system accelerates around the corner of the islands sometimes producing winds of up to 50 knots! This wind usually misses much of the south eastern part of the coast but it’s quite a sight to be able to see it honking a few miles offshore.

Gran Canaria, Spain

As already mentioned there is another wind system which blows from the South. During the summer this can be quite weak usually between 2-3 bft but during the winter this becomes the dominant system on the island and can at times be up to 6bft.
The main thing to bear in mind is that the wind is very strong here during my stay I used a 3.0 for 3 days and nothing bigger than 4.2 for the remaining 10 days of my stay and that was with me on a 65 litre board!! I did admittedly go at the windiest time of year but these winds shouldn’t really put you off as the wind isn’t quite as powerful as it is in the UK because of the dryness of the air. Bear in mind if you are hiring kit you can always change down a size so too much power in the sail shouldn’t really be that, much of an issue.
One thing as well to think about is not trusting the likes of wind guru on forecasts. While I was staying in Gran canaria they underestimated the power of the wind by about 20 knots each day!


Kit Hire

While I was there I used Club the club mistral centre based in Bahia Feliz. The centre was well run with enthusiastic staff that were always willing to help. Beginners used the safe bay in front of the centre to practice while the more experienced sailors jumped in a minibus with a kit trailer on the back for the short 20 minute transfer to Arinaga (flat water spot upwind of Pozo). For me this left my parents at ease in the knowledge I was being taken to a spot which I had been fully safety briefed on and was under the supervision of a well trained experience guide.  The kit as the name suggests was all mistral and North sails in good 75% carbon masts. All in all a highly recommended centre where I made many friends.

Mistral Centre

For those that wish for a more wave orientated holiday it is also possible to hire from one of the two windsurfing shops in Pozo itself. Both when I looked round had a good selection of kit for hire with cutre especially holding a wide variety of the latest JP models as well as a few custom shapes for the unrelenting onshore conditions. Both the mistral centre and the shops offered a good price on kit hire and more details can be found in the links below.


Don’t be put of by the stereotypes associated with Gran Canaria as it really does have something to offer everyone from the extreme wave head to the complete beginner to the intermediate, give it a go if your anything like me you wont be disappointed.