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Fuerteventura - a guided windsurfing tour

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map of fuerte North of Island East Coast Sotavento area

The island of Fuerteventura is a 50 mile long, 2-15 mile wide, NE-SW orientated, barren, volcanic wasteland, lying in the Atlantic some 60 miles off the W. coast of Western Sahara, Africa, and about 3 1/2 hours flying time from the South of the UK. It is blessed with N - NE trade winds which blow fairly reliably from May through September. Other months can be windy also, but perhaps less strong & not so predictable. Outside of the summer trade winds, you're taking a chance upon Atlantic frontal weather systems for the wind (just like in the UK).

According to Sotavento statistics, windiest month is July with 95-100% of days having above force 4, 70% above force 7!! Next best months are June & August with 90-95% above force 4, 33% above force 7. It's almost always going to be windiest in Sotavento in the summer (when the trade winds blow). The wind in the North never seems to be as strong as it is in Sotavento - which can be a good thing!

In the Winter, the North coast comes into it's own (as long as there's wind) as the swells and waves are bigger, and the wind direction has a better chance of being cross-shore at at least some of the locations there.

However, be aware that - like anywhere else - the winds are not 100% guaranteed! The last few of trips I've had out there have been disappointing from the perspective of wind. In June, 2001, and the 1st week I was there in June 2003 (supposed to be 2'nd windiest month, statistically) the wind was pathetic. The largest sail I took was 5.5m & was too small most days. Even a 6.5m sail would have been too small in the N most days.

For up-to-date wind stats, check out Flag Beach Windsurfing for Corralejo - use the "weather" link - and René Egli Pro Centre for Sotavento (pick your language then use the "wind and weather" link).

There is a 1-2 knot current running N to S, on both E & W coasts. Although this is the same direction as the prevailing wind, it's only a problem on light wind days! However, the currents are stronger in particular locations and at particular times.

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Weather

Weather is warm (23 - 28 degrees daytime) & dry in the summer, & is slightly cooler in the winter. In Jan, expect 1 or 2 days per week when it might rain a little (or a lot!). Take a sweat shirt or something similarly warm to wear in the evening. In the summer, use (minimum) factor 15 sun protection for the first week of your trip. In winter, factor 8 should be ok after the first couple of days. (I take no responsibility for sunburn or skin damage caused by following this advice - it is intended as a guide only and you will need to make adjustments for your own skin type).

Although barren, arid & volcanic, Fuerte has some of the most beautiful golden and white sandy beaches I've ever seen. The beach at Sotavento is around 16 km of fabulous, white sand. Much of the island is formed from volcanic outpourings and much of the Northern shore is "lava meets sea" with the odd sandy beach here & there.

Apart from Caleta (as far as I know), there's a very relaxed attitude to nudity on most beaches. Don't be at all surprised to see naked people on the beaches away from hotels and town centres.

In the North (Glass, Flag, Cotillo, etc) a number of "hides" or "igloos" have been constructed on the beaches over the years. These are circular, will generally fit 2 people horizontally, made of lava and/or sandstone, home to myriad small lizards (who will always be grateful for you sharing your lunch with them!), and are testament to the windiness of the place. The sand in Fuerte is very fine, light, and dry. Anything over ~Force 4 will cause the sand to blow. The stronger the wind, the more, and harder, the sand blows. It can be pretty annoying to spend 10 minutes coating yourself with expensive, high-factor sun goo and then turn into a sand-encrusted, mummified object within 2 minutes of lying down. When it's windy, try to grab a hide for yourselves as shelter from the blowing sand - though they'll be in great demand!

Sotavento - having no lumps of lava or rock conveniently to hand - has no such hides. The wind here is also almost always stronger than in the N. So suffer, baby! For this reason, my other half & I tend to head down to El Paso rather than the more popular Los Gorriones windsurfing spot: The beach at El Paso has some scrappy vegetation which helps stop the sand blowing quite so much (though it still blows around a lot!).

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Infrastructure

Fuerte has, over the last 5 years or so, suffered from unconstrained development which is beginning to change the nature of the island with places like Corralejo in the North & Costa Calma (Sotavento) really beginning to sprawl. Caleta de Fuste / El Castillo has quadrupled in size in the last 5 years - and hasn't entirely benefitted from this expansion - much of it targeted at the "full-english breakfast", "wide-screen Sky Sports football" & "let's all get totally rat-arsed" brigade. That said, it is still possible to get away from other people in a few areas and even now it is not very commercialised. (2003 update: There's now a small hotel in the centre of El Cotillo and a latge hotel is being built just to the North of the centre & there are rumours of 3 more hotels. There are a new set of apartments at Los Lagos and loads of new building work going on in and around the centre. Thus ends El Cotillo's isolation from mass-tourism. A great pity).

The airport was hugely extended in 1997/98 and is due for further extension in 2004/5 with the runway being lengthened again. The airport is just S of the capital of Puerto del Rosario, about 1/2 way down the E coast.

Possibly of interest to some - a large, 18 hole golf centre has opened in Caleta de Fuste, and there are plans for several more golf courses on the island. Where on earth they'll get the water from to keep all the courses in good condition is anybody's guess as there's generally a shortage of water - most tap water being de-salinated.

Alongside all the development and commercialisation, prices have risen dramatically over the last 2 years, and most prices are now comparable with those in the UK. Even the "local", out-of-town restaurants are now catering more for tourists - with commensurate pricing.

For those staying in an apartment and/or self-catering, it's well worthwhile making a shopping trip or two into the capital - Puerto del Rosario - to visit the main supermarket there - Hipo Dino. Prices here are significantly less than those in the smaller supermarkets in the resorts.

Petrol, however, still remains very cheap. June 2003 price was around €0.56 per litre

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Car Rental:

A hire car is essential if you're to get around the different sailing areas. Car hire is cheap (& cheerful!). Try Cicar, email: info@cicar.com. Note - 2003: Cicar have gone more upmarket and no longer provide roof racks for their cars. The only roof racks I saw were on cars rented from Avia cars and Autos Soto, SL (Tel: +34 928 541419, Fax: +34 928 541589). And because windsurfers tend to mistreat their rental cars somewhat, the car you'll get will - according to my 2003 experience with Avia - be a beaten-up, gutless heap with no insurance cover for theft or off-road (ie: unsurfaced roads) use. Take a look at http://www.canary-travel.com/GuiaEmpresas/Fuerteventura/CarRentals2-in.html for more details of rental companies on the island.

If you're taking your own kit - or want to use rental kit at various locations - you'll (theoretically) need roof bars or something similar. With many companies not supplying roof bars anymore, I saw a lot of rental cars in 06/2003 with kit simply loaded straight onto the roof, and strapped down through the front doors & under the hatchback hinges respectively. I guess I can understand people doing this but it will eventually lead to rental companies taking some serious steps to prevent windsurfers from using their cars at all.

With the increase in tourism, there's been a corresponding rise in petty crime - especially theft from cars. Most rental companies will now not cover you if you leave anything in the car at all. You will also - in theory - be liable to pay for damage done to the car if it's broken into when there is anything left in there. Worst trouble spot is Corralejo. Don't leave your kit on the car roof.

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Roads:

Roads on the island come in 4 types - Excellent, crap, impassable & combination.

The main roads from Puerto del Rosario to Corralejo in the North and to Sotavento & Morro Jable in the South are excellent, though (in 2003) there is still some improvement work being done in the South to add passing lanes on the hills. Most of the other main roads are excellent, too.

There are 2 problems with the road improvements over the last few years:

  • The method of resurfacing does not include removal of the old road surface - The road just gets a further 5-6 cms of surface laid on top. It has to be said that the quality of surface is excellent. Unfortunately, with the increased depth of road surface, there's now a significant drop off the side of the road onto the hardened sand at the side of the beach where you want to park. In many places - Glass Beach being one - it's now almost impossible to park next to the beach with the standard issue Opel Corsa rental car without traumatically removing the exhaust/gearbox/chassis or other low hanging parts. Jeeps, etc don't have this problem, but they're very expensive to hire & difficult for transporting & securing your kit.
  • The amount of traffic on the roads has trebled over the last 5 years. Whilst it's nothing like as bad as central Bristol yet, it now takes longer to get anywhere than it used to.

The crap roads are the ones that tend to run across the island. Whilst almost always surfaced, they can be very narrow and badly finished. Also in this category are the many unsurfaced roads on the island. These can range from ok to impassable except with a 4-wheel drive. Many of the best beaches on the West coast are only accessible by such roads - long may they stay that way!

The North coast track is shown as a road on several maps. Don't even think about about driving along it without a 4-wheel drive (although I've done it a couple of times with a Corsa, it was hair-raising in several places). The soft sand along this track moves around and you can bury your wheels if you're not careful. You can also severely rearrange the chassis, axles, exhaust and many other bits.

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The Windsurfing:

There are 3 main, popular areas - The beaches just South of Corralejo in the North (particularly Flag Beach and Glass Beach) and El Cotillo on the NW tip; a couple of spots on the East Coast; and the main spots in Sotavento - Los Gorriones (the World cup site) and El Paso. With the possible exceptions of Cotillo and the North coast, these are all fairly easy places to sail for the reasonably competent sailor. Additionally, Caleta caters for beginners and El Paso in Sotavento can also be used by beginners - with caution and/or under instruction - on the "open sea" or with slightly more confidence in the lagoon that forms on high tides.

For those who prefer a little more adventure, then some of the launches on the North coast and those off the tourist trail (Puerto Lajas & El Matorral, for example) should provide more of a challenge. Cotillo can pack a mean wave - especially when the tide's high.

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other relevant information sources

Apartments to rent (Spanish)

Canaryventura.com - lots of good info about the island & resorts

Fuerteventura - general info
& links to other sites

Fuerte Info Books

If any of of this has been useful to you, or if you have any comments, updates or amendments, please let know.

Info from - K62 - July 2003

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