last week. To avoid the "windsurfing info only!" flames that other
trip reporters have received recently, the first section of the report
concerns the windsurfing only; the second section discusses the rest of
the story. Leave me an email if you need any other specific info. The
bottom line: amazing.
Section 1: The Windsurfing
We arranged our vacation at the last minute through Vela. We had a
difficult time with the other windsurfing/package outfits, and BIC
never even returned our phone calls, which perhaps explains why there
was no-one (literally) at the Margarita BIC center last week. Monique
at Vela was extremely helpful, and did a fantastic job of setting up
travel reservations at the last minute.
You know it is going to be a good week when you are nearly blown off
the air stairs while getting off the plane in Margarita. The Vela
outfit in Margarita is probably the best, with the largest selection of
new Neil Pryde sails and primarily F2 & Tiga boards. For some reason
there was hardly anyone in Margarita our week. The week before was
packed, but our week was at less than 30% capacity for most outfits,
and as I said before BIC was at zippo. This gave us novice
waterstarters (we had taken some initial lessons last Thanksgiving in
Maui) room to float around. The beach must be jammed during peak
The El Yaque windsurfing area is a fantastic place to learn, with
shallow (4' max depth) water out several hundred yards. The wind is
side shore from left to right looking out. There are small swimming
areas on either side of the 400 yard wide primary beach, and some
shallow underwater grass out by the platform (at the end of the shallow
area). A small reef at the outer downwind corner of the primary area
can be dangerous, as it is often only 6" below the surface. This cause
a few sudden stops, with resulting dramatic acrobatics. There is some
small chop, generally less than a couple feet. The water is very very
warm, and a wetsuit/shorty is only required if you are sun sensitive.
I lathered myself down with SPF-15, then 8, the 4, and did find by the
end of the week. Booties are necessary due to some *** urchins in
the grassy areas, and that bloomin reef. Sailing is frm 10:30am to
5:30pm, with most people taking a break for lunch. We began to skip
the morning session by the end of the week due to simple fatigue. At
5:30 the staffs from the various outfits gets to go out, which is great
to watch while downing multiple Polars!
The Vela staff was fantastic, and especially helpful to us relative
beginners. They offered a 30 minute free class every morning at
10:00am, dealing with a wide variety of subjects. The staff was also
available for advice, and duct tape. I say duct tape because you WILL
need it! Even with gloves, everyone we saw there had blisters on every
finger by the end of the second day; we never had a problem in Maui or
San Francisco, so it must be something in the water. At 10:30am you
can take rigs out, and due to the low number of people, we never had a
problem getting equipment. There are probably 25 or so wave sails, the
same number of race sails, and a smaller number of oddball types.
Approximately 40 or so boards, arranged by length. Everything is set
up only a few yards from the beach, which is a huge advantage over
Maui, even with the "Easy Riggin" guys to help you out. All of Vela's
staff are fluent English speakers, with a couple of Microsoft dropouts
(who have obviously found the true meaning in life!). Never met Tom
and Kathy, perhaps because I hand carried them tickets to Maui
complements of Vela. I would strongly recommend renting from Vela as
opposed to the other outfits in El Yaque (Fanatic/SpinOut is next best)
due to their equipment selection and very helpful staff.
Some specific daily notes:
Day 1: brilliant sun, somewhat low wind (relatively, as you will see),
and very light 1' chop. Most people sailing 5.0's by the time the wind
cranked in the afternoon. The daily seminar was replaced by a thorough
orientation. Started on a Tiga Rebel shortboard and a 5.5 sail to work
on the water start.
Day 2: Some haze, low wind but building from 5.5 to 4.5, with me
sailing a half size larger to work on the waterstart. Getting better!
The Vela seminar covered foot stance. 1' chop in the shallow area.
Day 3: Very hazy and humid, but more wind. Move to a larger Tiga
Renegade and a 5.0 sail, and began to nail almost every waterstart!
The duct tape is being used up rapidly! 1-2' chop in the shallow area.
Don't forget suntan lotion on the ears! (I did!) The seminar covered
both planing and non-planing jibes.
Day 4: Clear brilliant sun, stronger wind, with most people using
4.5's. Perfected the waterstart (thanks to the wind!). The seminar
also covered waterstarts. Many people took the trip to Coche this day;
we didn't as you need to be very proficient at waterstarts due to the
offshore winds. Swells were 2' in the shallow area.
Day 5: Clear and begining to nuke! Most people sailing on a 3.5, I
used a 4.0. Worked on hooking in, and was successful a few times, and
generated some rather amusing acrobatics the others! Chop was at least
2'. The Vela seminar covered tacking.
Day 6: Hazy and humid, but an incredible wind. Couldn't see too much
on the beach due to the blowing sand. 3.5's as a maximum. I started
at a 4.0 on a shorter F2 Xantos., but soon went to a 3.5 as well with
no problem nailing every water start. Generally 3' chops. The Vela
seminar covered board techniques. The Vela staff couldn't resist the
wind, and by the end of the day Web was out there doing loop after loop
after loop (if I find a scanner I'll upload some great telephoto's of
him!). We had to leave the next day, but it looked like the wind was
going to continue to increase. What is the cross sectional area of a
boom and mast without a sail?
The bottom line: a great time! I highly recommend Vela, but I also
recommend asking how many people have already booked for your week.
Read my next post for "the rest of the story."