A WINDSURFING JEWEL: SARDINIA’S NORTH
SPOT GUIDE – WHERE TO WINDSURF IN SARDINIA
A yellow and pink sea of fresh flowers covers the hills, while the view on the turquoise and deep blue sea couldn’t be more beautiful. The evergreen Maquis spans the gently rolling hills and the sound of the rushing sea on the wild North West coast is reminiscent of the Atlantic Ocean and makes you forget that ‘the small continent’, as it is often called, is situated in the Mediterranean Sea.
All of its spots boast sandy entrances where you can drive to the waterline, far away from motorways and runways for aircraft – making for a magic mixture that has us fall in love with Northern Sardinia.
Words Chris Pressler // Photos Kerstin Reiger
In the 90s, I traveled to Sardinia for the first time, along with Michi Schweiger [Now Naish Int. Brand Manager]. He taught me the forward loop.
We met Michi Hautmann, who built the Il Borgho bungalows at Porto Pollo. He stuck old stones to the facades and was one of the first to sail when the Mistral wind hammered through the channel in between Corsica and Sardinia – or from the other direction through the Isola Gabbiani and Porto Pollo.
When I phoned Michi H., over ten years later in 2013, he recognized me immediately. “It’s about time that you visited us again. The island has changed quite a bit since then … “
We wiped the last snow off from our windscreen at the Italian boarder in early April as we dashed south to reach the evening ferry from Livorno on time.
Famished after a long cold winter in Austria, hungry for the first beach start and the first acceleration in clear salty water, the first jump and the first wave ride in proper swell.
That’s what we were looking for Northern Sardinia to satisfy in our appetite. Plus we wanted to feel how Sardinia is now, in 2013.
THE ISLAND EVOLVES
In the late 60s and 70s, everything changed fundamentally in Sardinia. Karim Aga Khan invested and created the ‘Costa Smeralda’, the Emerald Coast named after the bright green colour of the water on the NE coast.
Glamour was brought to the island without putting a dent in nature. Roads, villas and entire locations in uniform, loving style emerged.
Even the most isolated part of the island was provided with infrastructure. The Monti di Mola mountains’ granite rocks became landmarks in the region. Even James Bond, in the guise of Roger Moore, stayed the night at the Hotel Cala del Volpe for the making of the “The Spy Who Loved Me” in 1976/77.
He drove his white Lotus Esprit S1, which was nicknamed “Wet Nellie”, below the water, and also appeared in Palau for further filming.
ENDORSED BY NAISH
In 1979 it was finally Robby Naish, the 15-year-old talent from Oahu, Hawai’i, who travelled with his family to Europe. The team of photographer Ulli Seer and his assistant Jill Goodall organized a shoot with Robby in Canningione.
Peter Brockhaus – Mistral Co-founder – and team rider Charly Messmer were also part of the crew. Ulli Seer shot from a special crane for three weeks and Robby and the team were blown away by the great wind conditions.
READ MORE WINDSURFING SPOT GUIDES
The old traditions are disappearing slowly nowadays. The sea is fun and water sports are accepted by the locals. “We had a house on the beach, several years ago”, says Claudio Cudani, the owner of a water sports centre and the Rio Bar at his home spot of Palau, located at the Bahia la Sciumara.
“Now I m 46. In 1978 we began windsurfing here … I was just 11 years old. A friend helped me … it was a real sensation. We practiced on Mistral and Ten Cate boards.
“Very soon we cruised across the sea and we seldom had to wait for wind. From that moment on, windsurfing’s always remained a part of my life.
“Nowadays I love to windsurf on the open sea. I start at the bay of Sciumara and sail out into the channel in front of Palau, preferably with strong Mistral wind.
“I love to sail so far out that I ‘m almost closer to Corsica than Sardinia. Sardinia is a paradise to me. Even during the coldest months, the water temperatures are never below 10° and, once it snows, we’re happy as children at Christmas.
“February is the coldest month, but temperatures from April on, with less rain and longer days. May is, for me, the most beautiful month of the year and known as ‘the Mistral month’ while all the plants start to grow and the flowers are in bloom.”
THE WIND KICKS IN
After just four days on the island we’ve explored the sun-soaked Costa Smeralda and asked the priest at the church of Stella Maris on Easter Saturday for waves and wind.
He fulfilled both wishes. First the Mistral kicked in, which built up some waves and turned to the Poniente direction later on.
During one session we rode waves on 5.0 and 80L in Vignola, a less known spot that works excellently in this wind direction, when it’s howling at Porto Pollo.
After a great sail, we drove through a stunning landscape along the northwestern coast south towards Valle Doria. La Ciaccia presented itself from its vantage point.
Looking from a cliff above we couldn’t believe our eyes. The waves were clean and lined up, breaking over a reef with several wind surfers riding simultaneously on different sets in sideshore conditions.
Even Paolo Biondani, Andrea Franchini and Fabio Calo, the current Italian Wave champion, appeared that afternoon. And although there was a bit of a battle for the best waves, everything remained peaceful.
Dieter van der Eyken, who was preparing for the World Cup season, banged a perfect front side wave 360 on a three-metre wave. “Almost like Western Australia,” Dieter said after his session. “The 80-km. drive from Porto Pollo was absolutely worth it!”
IN THE WORDS OF DH LAWRENCE
In the last sunlight we follow tight curves and enjoy the reflections of light on the fresh grass. “It’s strange how scrubby and uninhabited these areas of Sardinia are.
“Sardinia is wild! Much of the island is overgrown with heather, strawberry scrub and a chest-high myrtle. Sometimes you see a few cows; then a grey-coloured area of arable land appears where grain is growing.
It resembles Cornwall, the scenery from Land’s End. Here and there one can see farmers at work in the lonely landscape.” (DH Lawrence, Sea and Sardinia.) The description that the Englishman, who traveled there with his wife in their 1919 self-exile in Italy gave.
He described the nature so beautifully and his descriptions are both perceptive and timeless almost 100 years later. The days usually start chilly in early April.
“The night was cold. Yet we slept quite well until dawn. At seven o’ clock it was light, a cold morning, and the sun had not yet risen. A bit later the sun rose in yellow splendour, and reluctantly a bluish light dropped on the dark landscape.
“Weathered walls and ditches shared the flat green hillsides into fields. Here and there stood a stone like barn, sometimes with a few naked, crooked trees. Two shaggy winter horses were grazing in the tall brittle grass.” (D.H.Lawrence, The Sea and Sardinia).
We’re on our way from Barrabisa to Capo Testa. Everywhere, stone walls, olive trees and Mediterranean vegetation fly past the windows of our van in the morning light.
The fig trees and pines are already shaken by the wind. We don’t want to miss out on the waves and Force 5 Poniente. It’s sunny with just a few scattered clouds directly over the massive Granite Cape, perched powerfully in the extreme north west of the island.
White foam runs from the turquoise waves and the wind, which warms the air minute-by-minute, heralds the spring. It’s time for the short-sleeved wetsuit.
We’re definitely at the right place at the right moment. 5.5 with a 100L freestyle-wave board. Proper Euro conditions with a turquoise touch and the flair of the Gallura.
We are the only ones there and remain alone all day. A spot just of our own!
SAN TEODORO LA CINTA
The show goes on! The following day, the Sirocco wind started to blow. Warm air from the southeast! Finally we can test the conditions in San Teodoro La Cinta.
And just at the moment we thought we’d missed the wind, the clouds push together into a tight grey ball, as it started to blow 25 knots side-onshore from the right. The water moved up and flooded the flat, sandy beach completely within 30 minutes. The mighty Tavolara Island was hidden in the fog on the horizon. Just the finest contours were visible. With a lot of pressure in the 5.5 on the 80L Twinser the session was a success. Jumps near the shore and onshore wave riding under cloudy skies.
And about the freeride session between the Isola Gabbiani and Baia Delfini I will lose no more words. Wherever we stopped, it was at least 15 knots.
We remember the words of Robby Naish and Charly Messmer from 1980. “Just in front of us we had the choice between two large bays with crystal clear turquoise water, with the option of either picking metre-high ramps in one or to sail in the shallow water like a salt lake of the other.
“All this in totally secure conditions with a sandy bottom and 360-deg. coastline within the space of a mile.”
We spent the following day in Porto Pollo. The swell on the west coast has left. We enjoy the panoramic view from the hill above the sandy Bahia dei Delfini and became one with the lines of 19th century German writer Ferdinand Gregorovius in his poem “On the Strait of Bonifacio”.
Silently we look down on the foam-covered shores of the blue strait that separates two sister islands.”
Mekhi Hautmann has been living in Sardinia for 25 years. He left Germany and called Barrabisa at Porto Pollo his new home. His wife is a doctor and Michi takes care of the apartment complex Il Borgho.
It has been built of natural stone. Together with his colleague Rudi Grün he runs the complex. “Now, nothing will take us away,” he explained in Bavarian dialect.
“Currently there is damn good news concerning the wind. The ‘real’ Mistral wind increased in strength over the last three years and the northwesterly wind brings quite good waves to Porto Pollo.
“The lack of water isn’t a problem anymore. A lot of rain, especially during the winter months has helped a lot. In terms of customer wishes we’ve become more flexible, too and can fulfill almost all their wishes,” promises Michi.
“Express your wishes and you get what you want! Currently, we just have a bar on the plaza, but the authorities don’t make it easy.”
Porto Pollo is becoming a hotspot for younger audiences and the youth want parties, especially during the warm summer months.
PRE SEASON BARGAINS
We’re happy to have visited Sardinia in the preseason. All the entrances to the beaches are free. There’s always a parking place available and there are still no parking charges levied.
The shutters of many shops still remain closed during the day. The high season will start early enough and the prices for accommodation will be three to four times higher than now.
We walk up to the famous Bear Cape, a huge granite rock in the shape of a bear or enjoy the sunset along with two goats at Capo Testa. It feels as we have the North of Sardinia booked for us alone, without the crowds and without the scorching sun.
“In the spring or autumn you must go,” once wrote a travel magazine in 1998, “ … when the crowds have left or not arrived yet!”
The idea works 15 years later as well. The weathered Tafoni rocks shine in the best light, Corsica reveals its snowy peaks as dream scenery in the background and the local windsurfing scene just awoke from hibernation.
Jacopo Testa and his friends practice their hard-core freestyle program daily in the left half of Porto Pollo bay to prepare for the competition season.
The windsurfing school owners Spring Clean their centres, which have suffered during the winter months under the heavy rain.
The Dutchman Michiel Bouwmeester from the Pro Center and Agusto Rosso-Chioso from Sporting Club Sardinia are ready for the masses to line up at their water sport schools by the end of March.
One of the first Dutch windsurfer on the island, Michiel has 200 boards available for hire.
“I moved from Lake Garda to Porto Pollo five years ago. A restart in my career, but the Garda concept doesn’t work here. You have to strive for each guest.”
“We’ve specialized in family windsurfing since most ‘old’ Windsurfers bring their kids to learn this great sport.”
Always active, Michiel works hand-in-hand with the Windsurf Village – a perfect water sports heaven. “I want to offer something especially for young audiences and together with my team I’ve developed a special Kids Academy.
“It’s the perfect spot for it.” The competitors already have big respect of Michiel. Claudio from Salty Surf praises the Dutchman’s hard work. “Bouwmeester is doing a great job. He has customers from March till October and a constant growth.
In Porto Pollo, windsurfers even have priority over swimmers”
“But”, says Claudio, as he polishes the counter of his beloved Rio Bar, “unfortunately, the Sardinians have very little windsurfing ambitions. Augusto and myself now encourage locals, who are interested in the sport. The community of Palau supports us. I started here 35 years ago and Augusto left over 16 years ago for Valle de Aosta to start the Sporting Club Sardinia with his Argentinean wife.
“Everything went on the right track. Now we need a new mayor in 2013, as the elections were declared as irregular in Palau in 2012. But windsurfing works without politics too, right?”
THE BEAUTY OF SARDINIA
“Furat hierarchy venit da’e su mare” is a Sardinian proverb, which, translated, means something like “Who arrives from the sea is going to rob us.” The locals of Sardinia don’t need to fear anything.
Our kind of species are not thieves that come across the sea and hide behind granite blocks. They just show up because of the wind and waves and because it’s still snowing at home.
Groups of people, who arrive and enjoy the Mistral, Libeccio or Sirocco winds. They move from spot to spot and just follow the best possible conditions. From flat water conditions at Porto Pollo, to onshore waves at Capo Testa or the nice surf at La Caccia, Marina della Rose or at Cala Pischina.
And, just before bedtime, a bottle of Ichnusa beer, along with cruda, a paper-thin flatbread and Panne Karasau – or Sebadas – a sweet dessert.
What a fantastic life. Almost too sweet to be true. Come on! Pack your things, Sardinia is so close. You don’t have to go to the Canary Islands, Egypt or even Hawai’i to score great conditions.
Hawaiians Robby Naish and Jason Prior came to Northern Sardinia to enjoy the beautiful lifestyle and conditions. You can too.
Explore the Gallura in the north of Sardinia, where the Mistral, Poniente, Libeccio and Sirocco blow all-the-year.
GENERAL INFO SARDINIA NORTH
WIND / WEATHER
In Sardinia there is a typical Mediterranean climate with a relatively mild winter and hot, dry summers. The predominant winds in the north and west of the island are in the fourth quadrant oscillating between west and north.
The winds are, the famous Mistral (Maestrale) from the North West, the Tramontane from the north, the Levante from the east, the Libeccio from South West and the Poniente from the west.
The Tramontana (N), Poniente (W) and Libeccio (SW) work very well on the West Coast. The west wind is often deflected in a SW at Castelsardo on Southwest at La Caccia to offer optimum side shore conditions.
In the south and east of Northern Sardinia east and southeasterly winds dominate. Most of the wind in Sardinia is reinforced by local geography, such as in Murter Maria next to Olbia and Porto Liscia.
It’s always windy somewhere, but to get most out of it it’s recommended you stay mobile. Bring sail sizes from 4.2 – 7.0 and a wave board or freestyle-wave board – and a free ride board if you can squeeze it in.
Windsurfing equipment can be rented from end of March until the end of October.
TRAVEL TIME / NEOPRENE
The best time to visit the north of Sardinia is from April – October, with the off-season highly recommended. The best wind period, according to statistics are April, May and October.
During the high season (July, August), prices for accommodation, flights and ferries are significantly higher in price. In April, the water temperature is about 15°, so you should definitely bring a 4/5 full suit suit and possibly booties too.
From May onwards a shorty or short-sleeve suit is fine. In the summer months windsurfing is possible in board shorts or shortie. In October the water and air temps. are still warm and around 21°.
ARRIVAL / JOURNEY
Sardinia can be reached by ferry or plane. If you bring a vehicle by ferry you’ll enjoy the advantage of being mobile.
By air: Alghero airport in the west of the island is served by Ryanair who fly direct from the U.K. Olbia is best with Easy Jet or Sun Air Scandinavia.
Rental cars can be found at the airports. You should book car rentals in advance as the prices are usually lower.
LIVING / LODGING
The absolute 2 best addresses to rent accommodation are at the Windsurf Village and Il Borgo. Just contact Tomasina (Windsurf Village) or Rudi Grünmann and Michi Hautmann (Borgo).
Both offer accommodation for every taste ranging from a simple apartment to top hotels or first-class villas. They rent accommodation close to Porto Pollo.
The Windsurf Village is 200m. from the Windsurfing Beach and the MB-Pro Center. The Il Borgo complex is 500m. away and has a small supermarket for fresh bread and other groceries.
These are beautiful apartments in Sardinian style with easy parking directly in front of the apartments. Some have direct views of the spot and the windsurfing centres are within easy walking distance. For early booking a discount is included.
Michiel Bouwmeester: Rudi Grünmann and Michi Hautmann Phone 0039-0789-705001 or 705002 Fax 0039-0789-705135
email@example.com Il Borgo:
SURF STATIONS / RENTAL