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playing amongst the rockpiles - a pozo diary. Jan 1999

Prologue:

Back in December '98, Mike Hodge (he of Wet and Windy fame) started to become obsessed with the notion of a winter windsurfing break (sic) to Pozo, Gran Canaria. Those of you who follow the windsurfing world cup and/or read the boards magazines cannot fail to have heard of the place. For those others, in brief, it is home to the Gran Canaria "leg" of the Canary Islands series - usually held around July - and is always a Grand Slam event, meaning they do both course racing & wave events there. The latter of these being one of the attractions to Mike.

Other attractions were sunshine & warmth in winter, good winter wind stats, and cheap accommodation (if it could be arranged!). Not to mention the possibility of seeing Björn Dunkerbeck, & the fabulous Ruano-Moreno twins.

With the best will in the world, Mike is not an organising sort of person. Concepts - yes. Organising is something that others do. Consequently, 3 weeks before departure, we still weren't sure who was going or where we would be staying. That said, Jonas - proprietor of Cutre Windsurfing shop & the intended arranger of accommodation at the Pozo end, was likewise not the most dynamic or responsive person: It took 3 emails & a couple of phone calls to establish that, "yes, he could arrange some sort of accommodation for us". On the basis of this not entirely concrete arrangement, our hopes were pinned.

In the end, there were 7 of us on the Saturday flight from Bristol, with an unspecified number supposedly arriving on the Monday - another 9, as it turned out. At this point, over to dear diary:

Logue:

Sun 28/2/99

Flew from Bristol To Las Palmas, Gran Canaria with Air2000 (20:35-23:45): Mike Hodge, Simon Andrew, Nigel Wright (a new Nomad), Tony (bald eagle) Hoskins, Bob Pitchford (former Nomad), & John Tinney. The only thing we had in common was we all knew Mike!

Surprised everyone by arriving ½ hour early at Las Palmas. Bob & Tony had arranged car hire at the airport which was all smoothly sorted out. Trouble was, they couldn't go anywhere due to not knowing where they were supposed to be going. Our erstwhile arranged transport (Jonas, again) was noted by its absence. Being resourceful in having taken my mobile phone, I decided to call Jonas (by now about 00:30) to find out what was going on. Needless to say, I disturbed the slumber of several locals who a) clearly weren't Jonas, b) clearly never heard of Jonas, and c) clearly couldn't understand my English (which was fair enough, because I couldn't understand their Spanish either).

Eventually, about 1:00 in the morning, a likely-looking van swerved into sight, spotted the heaped mound of windsurfing gear & made a bee-line for it. Screeching to a halt, the sylph-like figure of none-other than Daida Ruano-Moreno (all bow down & hero worship!), complete with sunglasses (funny - I never though it odd at the time. Must have been the bright lights of the airport building) stepped out & started organising (in a disorganised sort of way) the loading of gear into her van. Things had suddenly started to look up.

Daida took us to the apartment in Pozo, left us gobsmacked with its inability to cater for 7 and drove off into the night to get on with the serious business of partying.

Left to our own devices, we discovered a deficit of one in the bed-supply department. Being resourceful types, we noticed an old mattress in the board-storage room (off the street) which we dragged out & forced Nigel to sleep on. Mike & myself blagged the best room, Tony & Bob - the other mid-level room, & I was so tired by this time, I've no idea where John & Simon slept - somewhere upstairs, I guess.

After a few hours sleep, thoughts turned to breakfast. Breakfast, however, had other plans: It being Sunday, the only shop in Pozo was shut. Resort to plan b - go hungry!

Wandered down to the rockpile laughingly referred to as a beach. Talk about scary - this place is serious bicycle-clip territory. Imagine Minehead or Cold Knap beaches. Increase the steepness slightly. Increase the size & slipperiness of the boulders. Add 1 ½ - 2m waves dumping on the rockpile and you start to build a picture of what the place is like. But hey, there was wind, the sun was shining & people were out shredding.

photo of pozo "beach"Pozo "beach".

Spent almost the whole day watching & deliberating. Eventually picked up courage & lugged board, 4.7 sail, mast, etc down to beach to find wind had dropped. About 16:00, decided to give it a go anyway & found I actually had plenty of power with 4.7m Zeta on 260 Bee. The waves were twice the size they looked from the top of the beach. Decided I'd too little downhaul - needed to go back & adjust. Did my usual trick of getting trashed in the break on the way in. Made adjustments & got going again, only to have my hook pull out of my spreader bar. Total sailing time about 10 mins!

Mike was out there having fun on the borrowed Magic Touch custom wave board, and Björn Dunkerbeck was out slicing waves with some ridiculous manoeuvres. Likewise the Ruano-Moreno twins (one at a time since they were sailing borrowed gear as their own had not yet reappeared from the Barbados event 3 weeks previously!)

photo of Bjorn Dunkerbeck at Pozo

A rather well-known, local sailor!

Somewhat spookily, I'd slung a spare spreader bar in my quiver bag, so I'd be ok again for tomorrow. Even more spookily, the nut which had come undone had been retained by the spreader bar nut retainers, & more spookily still, Simon had brought Locktite & sockets with him so I was back to 100% effective in the spreader bar department by the following morning.

Nigel managed to get mullered in the shorebreak, rendering his 2-piece mast into a 3-piece mast. Several of us dashed to his aid & dragged him & gear out of the dumping stuff.

Ate at a wonderful, dingy little bar - Bar Pozo Izquierdo - by the small town beach & drank far too much again! Actually, we drank ALL the wine they had (all 3 bottles of it). 7 people turning up at once demanding feeding & drink was almost more than they could cope with & probably doubled their expected business for March.

Mon 1/3/99

Somewhat fazed by Pozo, Bob, Tony & myself decided to find somewhere less intimidating to sail & find our sea legs - after all, it was the first time some of us had been on the water this year. We drove down to Playa del Aguila where the wind looked really iffy. This is the home of the F2 centre run by a certain Eugene Dunkerbeck. Any similarity with other well-known persons of the same name is entirely un-coincidental, this being the father of a well-known son. Drove the 2 mins. up to Baia Feliz. This is really the northernmost outpost of holidayism, & marks the beginning of the end (as far as I'm concerned). Any further South, the territory becomes progressively more grockel-like with disgustingly huge concrete block prisons hotels. Baia Feliz itself seems relatively pleasant with a large hotel, large apartment complex, a variety of shops & restaurants & a bar/disco, of which more later. It also houses the Club Mistral centre, with its very confined access to the sea: rocky headland to the left, roped off area fanning out to the right.

Here also, the wind was very iffy (no wind on the shore, ok about 300m. out). This is apparently a feature of the island: Being approximately round, Pozo is situated at about 4 o'clock, Baia Feliz & Aguila about 5 o'clock. The trade winds tend to blow NNE in summer & ENE in winter (ie: a little more from the East). Consequently, the further S, the further offshore the wind line moves, until right at the bottom - in many ways - at Playa del Ingles & Maspalomas, wind effects can only be spotted on the sea near the horizon. For some unexplained reason, we seemed to have NNE winds, despite the season: Obviously someone had failed to remind the wind what to do.

Back to Pozo where it was howling - bad move with current mental state. Watched the good guys.

A further contingent of Wet and Windy customers turned-up today - probably all wanted to return their dodgy gear to Mike! These were: Mark Wakling, Mikey Price (with wife & sister-in-law), Tim Lawes (an Oz friend of Mikey's), Jane (a non-windsurfing friend of Tim's), Simon Bennett, Paul something, and John Shaw.

photo of us lot

Tim enthusiastically & hastily rigged up, dashed over the rocks, neatly dropped kit onto the water & headed out. On the first wave he encountered, he attempted something very spectacular. Not sure what, but it went horribly wrong. When we fished him out of the shorebreak, his mast was in several pieces, boom mangled & sail shredded as though a group of wild cats had torn it up. A most impressive 10 out of 10 for attitude, but a whacking great minus 1000 for style, wrecking most of his kit within 10 seconds on his first day!

Eventually, after driving up & down the coast again, we eventually rigged up at Aguila and, against our own better instincts, went out: Tony on 4.9m, me with 5.5m. Probably more to get away from the all-pervading stink of sewage & drains in the vicinity of the beach than for any other sensible reason. Things started to go wrong almost immediately when we realised there was a fair current in the same direction as the wind, and there wasn't enough wind to waterstart. Both Tony & I floundered around for a while. Things started to look worse when I realised that even if & when I got going, I'd not be able to head high enough to make it back to the beach, and the rocks below looked most uninviting. I eventually got going & took the risk of heading further out to get upwind & eventually made it back to the beach. Tony wasn't so lucky & came ashore on the rocks & had to climb up, dragging his kit. A German lad who'd spotted his predicament went to his aid & helped him & his gear off the rocks. Tony was in serious humour failure mode by this time, a) for having gone out in the first place in such dodgy conditions, and b) for having dinged his board (also a 260 Bee). Packed-up in disgust & headed back to Pozo where Tony - who'd spookily brought an epoxy repair kit with him - applied some TLC to his board.

Ravenously hungry, we ate at Las Bajas bar next to Cutre windsurfing. To say that I would not recommend this bar as an eatery would be an understatement punishable by death - as is eating there.

Tue 2/3/99

Sailed at a location near to the Go-Kart track, south of Juan Grande (either Playa del Cardon or Playa del Tarajalillo. Difficult to say as none of them are marked, but it's just a couple of Kms North East of Baia Feliz.). This was where Simon Andrew & Nigel had sailed the previous day & reckoned it was ok. It took several attempts to find the track off the road leading to the shore (couldn't call it a beach).

Had a pretty good day with 4.7 Zeta, downhauled to death, either pretty overpowered or sometimes slightly underpowered. Pretty flat conditions.

Managed to break one harness line & one footstrap which I repaired (the pin had come out). Although this place looked fairly benign, again there was a very steeply shelving, bouldery water's edge where I managed to damage my toe in the shoredump - vicious at high tide. My board has taken on many new dings on the boulders. Bob P. got water in his watch, Simon Andrew broke his spreader bar - good job I had a spare to lend him! Gran Canaria certainly takes it toll

Ate it La Ola bar in Pozo - basic but alright. Good pool table, but got consistently beaten!

Wed 3/3/99

Sailed Pozo - again with 4.7m Zeta with very few waves. Did ok except I still haven't pulled off a single gybe yet! Otherwise, very pleasant sailing.

In pm, as tide came up, drove down to Maspalomas with Simon & Jane to lie on the beach for an hour.

I think this was the day the Mike Hodge attempted to break his boom by nutting it during a not entirely voluntary back loop attempt. Fortunately, the boom missed his eye - by millimetres, leaving enough blood in the water to attract any passing sharks, and enough of a mess of his face to ward off Frank Bruno.

By this time of the week, we seemed to have fallen into the routine of sailing in the morning, light lunch & siesta (for Mike Hodge - who was always first out in the mornings before breakfast); possibly sail in the afternoon. Retire, repair kit & then settle-down to some serious wine, beer & tapas (we ate the local supermarket out of pistachio nuts, peanuts & crisps; following-through with jars of olives, chilli peppers & some utterly disgusting baked, salted, unpeeled sunflower seeds bought in mistake after everything else snacky had been removed from the shop). Thus sated, we would then visit one of the 3 bars in Pozo to demand more food, wine, beer, wenches & entertainment.

Thu 4/3/99

Had a good day sailing @ Pozo with 5.5m, slightly overpowered at times. It doesn't feel quite so intimidating any more.

Mike Price video'd some of my gybes on the inside: Looks like I'm trying to crank the board round too hard & tripping the rail; not leaning far enough forward; not keeping front arm straight & not bending knees enough! Apart from that - perfick!

Following this truth-revealing footage, I ended up pulling off about 6 dry gybes - 2 of which were even pretty good by my standards. Maybe I do myself an injustice: After all, I'd only sailed the Bee once before coming to GC - & that was at Portland: Hardly good preparation for the conditions. Also, the 260 Bee has a bit of a reputation for being not the easiest board to gybe. It was formerly the 259 Fly - a wave board (although Fanatic added 2 extra litres volume in the tail to accommodate the Trimbox, added fittings for either single or twin rear footstraps, moved the forward straps further inboard, changed the colour from dark orange to pea green and called it a 260 Bee - so no changes, really!), and as such, was probably intended not so much to be carve gybed as sort-of tail sink, "quick-let's-get-round-quickly-before-this-wave-eats-me" - type of gybe.

Ate @ Las Bajas & got fairly smashed.

Fri 5/3/99

A slow start to the day: Felt somewhat woozy today due to last night. Drove down to Playa del Ingles with Bob, Jane, Tim & Tony. Did the duty free shops & changed some travellers cheques.

Didn't sail!

Evening @ Bahia Feliz @ Mike Price's apartment (on the occasion of Paul's birthday). Mikey's wife had baked a cake - pretty amazing considering the range of utensils available in the apartment - and we all had to have a slice. Eighteen people in an apartment for four was interesting! As was trying to find a restaurant to accommodate us all. Following a rather splendid Italian meal it was disco-time in the rather horrible club/bar/disco. I'm afraid discos are not really my scene: Conversation being impossible and dancing undesirable, I set to drinking small quantities of beer (determined not to get smashed again!) and watching the events unfold. Many unfolding events involved the contents of people's stomachs, the ground, and the bouncers. The general policy seemed to be cram the punters in, get them to spend huge amounts of money on drink, & then if they dare be ill or start a fight, beat them up & drag them out. I seem to be missing the entertainment value of this somewhere. However, the others seemed to be enjoying themselves so it would have been churlish to demand the driver (Bob Pitchford) should leave. Eventually got back to the ranch around 04:00.

Sat 6/3/99

Last day's sailing & it's cloudy with light winds.

Eventually picked up enough to rig up a 4.7m. Had a good 3/4hr sail, then the wind dropped while I was on the inside. I fell, couldn't get going again, & got trashed by the next wave. And the one after. And the 2 or 3 after that too. Ended up getting spat out onto the shore, trapped under the board & rig on the rocks in the shoredump, putting a number of new cracks in the board & twisting my knee. Not an auspicious way to round off the holiday!

Flight back @ 01:55, into Bristol ~06:00

Epilogue:

Although I'd said a number of times during the week that I didn't think I'd go back there, I may change my mind: It's certainly a challenging place & the prospect of being able to find wind in March is very appealing. That said, the guys who stayed on for a second week reported very light winds. So maybe we were just lucky. I still prefer Fuerteventura: The attraction of the white, sandy beaches compared to GC's boulders is obvious. Pity the winds only blow reliably in summer. Who knows, maybe I'll be brave enough to try sailing the North shore of Fuerte when I'm there in July/Aug.

Although the many cracks & dings in my board were fairly superficial & easily repaired with gel coat & wet & dry paper, I've had real difficulty finding a paint or gel coat pigment to match the colour of my board. Eventually, I managed to get Blue Chip Sailboards (see Boards & Windsurf for their ads) to supply me with a 60ml jar of polyurethane-based paint which matches perfectly. Not exactly a bargain though at a mere £10!

update...

on the F2 dunkerbeck centre (dec 2002):

"I ended up staying at the F2 [eugene dunkerbeck] place at Playa Aguila which was OK, bit expensive and v German orientated. I did check out one of the hostel places at Pozo which was cheap, great location (owned by "Jose" who was a friend of Jonas in Cutre). Ended up not using it as it was rather full of firemen from madrid on a course + one rather dodgy Glaswegian (non windsurfing).

I wouldn't rush to recommend the dunkerbeck place, customer service didnt really match the cost although the gear itself seemed OK, not that I got to test it out much!"

thanks to david naylor (glasgow)

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