Slip to the sunshine - Fuerteventura.
Every time winter closes in on us, the dark evenings and colder climates leave us twiddling our thumbs looking for the opportunity to slip off to the sunshine. Every year I plan to venture to far-flung lands but, somehow every year our ticket seems to get re booked to Fuerteventura. Sitting once again in the Canarian sunshine we delve into what keeps us running back to this cluster of volcanic and desolate islands planted in the Atlantic Ocean. My original introduction to Fuerteventura came from once toy boy, now boyfriend Pro Kiteboarder, Surfer and SUP rider Tom Court. Years ago he used this very island for some ‘courting’ excuse the pun, so he obviously he had good faith in what this island had to offer. I like to consider myself a passionate and capable water women surfing, kiting, SUP and windsurfing. Like many of the fairer sex I also appreciate lazy sun filled mornings, sipping coffee in a hammock and afternoons horizontal under the suns warm glow nestling my toes deep into the sand. With that in mind, you can imagine travelling with Tom; a restless action man, short on time and chomping at the bit to fit in all the sports. There is a certain amount of skill involved in finding a happy balance.
We constantly dream of coastlines soaked in surf and sprinkled with afternoon breezes and, without a shadow of a doubt these are things that this island has in abundance. A welcomed contrast to it’s volcanic and somewhat bleak landscapes starved of greenery and that’s what separates this destination from the rest. Get over the fact that Fuerteventura is often a ‘go-too’ for the Hen and Stag do’s slash Brits on Tour. Only really during summer months in the bustling towns will you encounter this. The general tone of lifestyle ebb’s more towards a bohemian surfer community, where people are more inclined to socialise on the water rather than in the watering holes. All in all, Fuerteventura is where the sun is a permanent fixture, the sand champagne colour and the sea your playground. If there is no wind, there is waves and with great food, cold beer, delicious wine it’s enough to induce a serious case of wanderlust. This is Fuerteventura in a nutshell and what holiday companies will sell to you and yes, it’s all true. So, why would something so obvious and available worldwide keep ‘us’, a well travelled duo returning? Off the beaten track there is an island of mystery and interest, offering things that you can’t find in every place.
The first sensory delight is sunrise. Appearing from behind the volcanic mounds in Lajares and casting shadows across the barren surroundings, it’s like stepping into an abstract painting. As the sun glides higher it brings warmth and pure light, flowing across the surrounding mountains. It’s the most natural and predictable of alarm clocks that pulls you from your bed, straight to the car and off to the North Shore for the usual dawn patrol. For those of you who aren't familiar with Tom’s recent movie ‘Dirty Panda,’ he is the proud owner of the most comedy of rides, a Fiat Panda. Smaller than a matchbox ladened down with surfboards, SUP’s, kiteboarding gear, you name it it’s in there. A toy box on wheels often seen hammering along the hairy tracks of the North Shore at mach 10, arriving in a cloud of smoke. The North Shore is very much the wave and wind seekers stomping ground. Hardly a continuing coastline, bays have formed after years of breaking waves and each one rounded off by a rocky point. Greeted by still winds and lines of swell we hit Hierro, a popular local spot which lies next to an equally favored break known as Derecha Alemán or German Rights. Whether this is a cheeky dig from the Spanish about the ‘majority’ frequenting this wave, or a claim by the Germans it’s an awesome break. A long, gentle and fairly chunky right hander that has heavy potential in larger swells, it was a good introduction back into surfing after the start of a cold winter at home.
To those of you who are daunted by ‘action sport’ motivated trips, often headed by antsy men don’t despair; I here you! Although I share a mutual passion with Tom for all these water sports, our approach to how we would ideally carry out the days activities are polar opposite. If I was travelling solo, in addition to scoping the action side of things I’m not adverse to some ‘me time,’ stretched out on the beach with a good book and some tanning lotion. However, I am the girlfriend in ‘consenting’ tow, regularly mistaken for one of the lads, who rarely complains even though my heart was in my mouth as we paddled out at Lobos. My initial response to this jaunt to Lobos was ‘NO!’ If I wanted to observe this ‘pumping swell’ I would do so from the comfort of a towel, on the beach and if I was happy then I would suit up and give it a try. As it turned out this was impossible without hiking solo across this desolate island as the boat had one drop off point; the opposite end to the surfers. Call me lazy but that was not happening so, I only had myself to blame as I jumped off a boat at 7am and paddled over to an island where I would be left for the next three hours. After all the tall tales from the boys the night before, to my surprise this was a great surf spot for most levels of capability. When Lobos works well, there are about four breaks running perpendicular to the coastline. Starting at the peak with the heavy rollers often cluttered with a lot of testosterone, just below a large hollower ride, down to a much more mellow wave and finally an ideal beginners break. I had tried and tested them all and the only downside to this otherwise perfect ‘Surfers Paradise’ was having a rest. After watching many a tourist try and exit the break unsuccessfully, I decided that it was best to hang out on the shoulder of the waves where many a Local could be found taking solace and a time out.
One of our favourite spots is Esquinzo, often tricky to find as you seem to drive towards the edge of the world. The route unmarked and tracks so bumpy I suggest wearing a sports-bra but, it’s one of the most unusually breathtaking beaches resembling another world. Each time we scrambled down the cliffs ladened with surf and SUP gear I promised myself I would do it in a glamorous fashion but, I have yet to work out how. Once again I resigned myself to the fact that for the next 5 minutes I would closely resemble the rather unflattering image of a mountain goat. Esquinzo is not only and great destination for surfing and SUPing of all levels but it is secret and secluded. Mini bunkers are dotted amongst the dunes that lead down to the crystal blue waters and if like me you like to flit between getting involved and spectating, then this is a place for you. Enjoying a cold beer after a full day on the water is one of lifes simple pleasures so, ensure you arrive with a 6 pack and stay until sunset. It’s a scene that looks like it has fallen out of the movie Planet of the Apes; a sunset unlike any others and well worth the journey back home, sure to loosen of the bolts of your car and your back teeth.
The lagoons in Cotillo really get the juices flowing and is often the go- too place to set up camp and stay there all day long. Tom knows the score when it comes down to keeping the ladies happy on the beach so, if it looks like we’ll be somewhere for a while then the GYBE inflatable tent comes out. The ultimate shade and windbreaker often accompanied by a cool box and tunes. Whats not to love about that set up? Dipping in and out of the flat waters to explore the lagoon reefs on a SUP is a sensation in itself and when the wind picks up, the lagoon turns into a kiteboarding paradise. Out of season it’s a playground for two with butter flat, waist deep water. It’s also my top spot for sitting behind the camera and capturing the action.
Fuerteventura is an Island full of options, you just need to look for them. For every barreling break there is usually a more forgiving one a 100 meters paddle away. I have also experienced in the past a friendly local willing to show me the sweet spot to take off. At a kicker spot for kiting, not far away you’ll find a sheltered lagoon tucked away behind the volcanic reefs. For SUP there is Majanicho, a progressive playground blending cruising and shredding conditions in one space. So, let me reassure you. An option to suit you and your level is always close by, you might just have to look. There are also many ways to enjoy the same conditions and breaks as our fairly uninformative hasty ‘pro’s’ who have been at it since birth. We can’t knock them for what they know and how they do, nor can we expect special treatment or time out from their playtime to benefit ours. Getting stuck in is the only route to improving and remember; if all else fails, there is always a good book and a towel waiting for you on the beach.