Life on the road in Fuerteventura.
Surfing with as few people as possible is definitely the dream, chilling and not constantly battling for waves. A university surf trip is possibly not the way to go if that’s what you want BUT going with a crowd definitely has its perks and a whole new level of madness.
Just before Christmas, as a group of 30 guys and eight girls, we headed to Fuerteventura. A mixture of ability with a large number signed up for daily lessons. It was a week of… Surf, beers, bars, exploring, skating, sleeping, not sleeping, more surf, more beers, good food, great company, meteor showers, live music, a potential near death experience, alcohol potions, too much fancy dress, broken boards, stolen boards, snapped leashes, sick surf, cut up feet and a few too many naked photos.
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We arrived in Fuerteventura with the sun shinning (yay), a lot of people and a lot of boards! Eventually, after a ridiculous amount of organizing and faffing we had seven rental cars fully stacked with boards and people. We hit the road (the wrong side of the road) in search of El Cotillo, the town we’d be staying in.
It’s safe to say, there was a lot of questionable driving and getting lost. El Cotillo is a beautiful sleepy town, with photography and art displayed throughout as an outdoor exhibition, unique shops selling locally produced and sourced products and plenty of little cafes situated perfectly with the view. It was windy but warm, pretty sweet.
We were greeted by the staff from Star Surf (super friendly people) we had booked the trip through them making life a lot easier for us and ensuring good quality lessons for the beginners. The apartments were pretty sick, girls in one and the guys in a few others. Our apartments were right by the sea, close to the center of town and we had a pool. We rushed to El Cotillo beach in hope of surf – it was a massive closeout, with a pretty hefty shore break! Not a great start … but the water was clear and warm.
Throughout the week the beginners had surf lessons daily at El Cotillo beach, initially struggling with the less than forgiving conditions a few dropped out but the others managed to progress onto some of the easier reefs.
As a place to learn it seems Fuerteventura is perhaps a little tough, with the multiple reefs and fairly advanced waves. But almost everyone seemed to get on board with the lessons, by the end noticing personal progress. I don’t think it did anyone any harm to get stuck in, especially since getting crushed once in a while is fairly inevitable when surfing (in my experience).
Most of the surfing took place on the North Shore, in particular El Hierro (German right) and the Bubble. Hamish captured some great shots here!
A few guys and myself often surfed a spot called Esquinzo; in fact it became a favourite for us. A beach break surrounded by cliffs, the walk down a little sketchy at times, it didn’t tend to get too busy and depending on the swell was a pretty idyllic spot.
A lovely beach to chill on in between sessions, the waves were usually a good size, chest to head high with the option of a wedgy left and a smaller wedgy right to surf. One particular session the waves were pretty big, with 30-40 mph off shore wind, head and a half high, a pretty quick but heavy wave. Just a couple of the guys paddled out and caught some absolute bombs.
One of our last days in Fuerteventura was probably the most successful as far as surf is concerned! We went to Lobos, a little island off Coralejo with a world-class right hand point. We arrived early in order to get the first boat across, in hope of avoiding crowds. There were 18 of us, spilt into three boats. A hilarious stereotypical Spanish man greeted us, dressed in red and yellow lifeguard colours, insisting on calling me ‘lady’.
He told us that there would be no waves till 3pm, it was 10am. I arrived on the first boat, hopeful for at least a little surf before the waves got too big and too crowded. We could see the waves from the boat so his “no wave till 3” statement was in doubt. We arrived, and well, it was chest to head high and getting bigger.
Lobos is a shallow point break, with long clean waves consistently flowing in. The boys eagerly paddled out, attempting to avoid the ensuing crowds.
We couldn’t really be annoyed about surfing with lots of people…especially since we’d brought them all. So we tried not to draw attention to ourselves, not settling on the rocks in a massive group and staggering the paddle out. Not sure it worked. By the time all the boys had got in, as well as other locals and tourists, there were over 40 people in the water.
They were pretty hassled by the locals who were obviously pissed to be surfing with so many tourists…this could have spoiled the surf but everyone was super pumped by the session.
I sat on the rocks in a perfect position, to take videos as Hamish, our water photographer got kitted out and ready to get in. Wave after wave appeared, big, clean and consistent. Everyone caught a lot, some of the best waves of the trip, a pretty epic day with lots of footage and memories to show for it…as well as cut up feet, ankles and damaged boards (the paddle in and out was a little treacherous).
The food through out the trip was pretty good; we ate locally at restaurants organized by Star Surf staff as well as cooking for ourselves. Our first meal was at Ocean Deli, with the friendliest staff (kindly catering brilliantly for a few of us awkward veggies.) We also ate at BAGUS where we listened to live music and chilled.
Every night people went out for a drink, either into El Cotillo or to Corralejo, quickly renamed ‘Corralegend’ (a 20 minute taxi drive away). The group was somewhat divided, with the committed partiers, venturing out most nights, and the others chilling in the apartments a little more. BUT we all made it out for a couple of pre-planned surf club socials-of course, with ridiculous fancy dress themes, designed to make us stand out. The first social we dressed as tourists, it was a Tuesday. We made a fairly lethal alcohol ‘potion’ for pre’s and then caught a taxi into Corralegend.
We definitely chose the wrong day to go out, everywhere was pretty dead, we ended up taking over a bar as a group of loud, obnoxiously drunk tourists pretending to be tourists. A little awkward, but fun!
That night, several people ended up paying for taxi’s to get home alone, having lost the group, many people threw up and a few were seen wandering around lost, oh and one of the guys was tricked into giving away a lot of money – an expensive but somewhat memorable night out.
There were a few inevitable downsides that came with taking such a big group… it was an organizational nightmare with crowded surfs, messy nights out causing a little embarrassment and a few stolen boards/wetsuits (maybe don’t leave your stuff outside at night, even if it’s a safe area). But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives…
It was a sick opportunity for people who perhaps don’t have a surfing background, or haven’t had the chance previously to surf abroad for the first time, we all got to know new people and created a whole load of memories!
Words and map illustration by Rhosanna Lowe @rlowe
Images by Hamish Lawson