Testing Times: El Medano, Tenerife
With such a large range of windsurfing equipment now on the market, it is tough, particularly for us ladies to know just where to start. Over twenty manufacturers producing numerous types of boards, sails, masts, etc all boasting the latest technology and high performance, there is equipment out there to suit everyone, but how exactly do you find what will suit YOU?
The best way to compare pieces of equipment is of course by testing them against each other. Any windsurf publication is sure to include an equipment article and with many testing a different genre and size of kit each month there is an abundance of information readily available. These articles will include kit specifications, suitable conditions, special features, what type of sailor may like the equipment, as well as their pros and cons.
Unfortunately for us, and although some test teams do have female influence, most of the equipment will have been put through its paces by men. As we all know, a woman’s sailing style can be very different to our male counterparts, and the characteristics we may look for from equipment can be worlds apart. The tests are of course still hugely beneficial to read, as is speaking to other women about what equipment they use, how they set it up and why they like it as all of this will expand your knowledge. I would always recommend speaking to someone who knows the kit like the back of their hand before purchasing, particularly if you can find a female who is of a similar, or slightly higher standard than yourself. Our facebook group, or simply through commenting on relevant FLOW articles (like this one!) is a great way of talking shop and getting to know other female windsurfers.
However, there is nothing better than getting out on the water yourself, and trying the wide variety of boards and sails available. Until a few years ago, there was no windsurf centre in the world that provided all of the main brands, then two windsurfers (Tris Best and Ben Wood) came up with an innovative concept and OTC (Official Test Centre) was set up in El Medano, Tenerife. The OTC enables clients to hire the latest windsurf equipment from a wide range of manufacturers, all of which is set to the highest standards with recommended high carbon content masts. Equipment that you may be suited to you will be suggested by the staff, rigged with your choice of harness line length and adjusted in any other way to make your windsurf as enjoyable as possible.
The team in Tenerife is headed up by OTC co-owner Ben Wood, with Adam Lewis (centre manager) and Graham Woods (second in command). Both Adam and Grey have worked at the centre for over 3 years, meaning they know almost everything about the location, equipment and what will be best for you. Both are incredible windsurfers, competing on the UKWA wave tour, they are friendly and approachable, as well as encouraging and supporting female windsurfers. check out their blogs http://adamk516.blogspot.com/ http://grahamk51.blogspot.com/ Summer 2010 at the OTC has the feminine touch too, with myself (Amy Carter) working alongside the boys.
Due to the success of the El Medano centre the OTC have now also opened a new centre at the home of windsurfing and sailing for the 2012 Olympics, Weymouth and Portland Sailing Club. The Weymouth centre will offer the same wide range of equipment, and as the location is suitable for everyone from beginners to speed or freestyle experts it will offer hire for all levels and for provide tuition, so that you can learn or improve your windsurfing as you try out the latest gear. More detailed information about windsurfing at Weymouth to be provided in a future article.
Simply windsurfing on the equipment yourself will give you a good idea of how it feels and whether or not it will enable you to windsurf to your full potential. Even more useful is to try out different set ups between yourself and another female, especially if you are of a similar size and ability. This is simpler than it sounds, and does not have to involve days of intense sailing or difficult tasks. As with any experiment you need a constant, it is not a good idea to change all the equipment at once as it will be more difficult to identify exactly what you do or do not like.
Following a format similar to this is a good way to start:
set up two pieces of kit similar in size eg two 85 litre freewave boards with 4.7 wave sails.
go windsurfing staying close to your friend, try to sail alongside each other a couple of times so you can compare speed. Attempt whatever is in your windsurfing repetoir so you can get a good idea of how the equipment performs in various areas.
swap come onto the shore and change between yourselves which ever piece of equipment you want to test, either the board or sail, and alter boom height, harness lines, etc to your personal settings.
more windsurfing ideally the conditions will be similar to your previous windsurf, so you will be able to directly compare the equipment, follow the same plan on the water as before.
feedback you may have been able to notice the pros and cons of the equipment on the water, but talking through it with your friend afterwards will help. Bare in mind things such as, was one it set up always planing earlier? Was one set up faster or did it feel more comfortable? Did one sail feel like it had a lot more power than the other?
It is important to be able to get a good idea of the equipment so make sure you spend enough time on each set to be able to figure out exactly how it sails, if you do not get planing on your first run do not assume the sail or board is to blame, try adjusting your outhaul or settings to get the most out of the kit.
Another key point is that we all set up out equipment very differently, from the length and position of our harness lines to boom height and footstrap tightness. Using kit rigged by someone else is means you will learn to sail with new style, you may even find you prefer some aspects of your friends set up and can transfer these onto your own windsurf equipment. Just trying out your friends kit at your local beach can be extremely worthwhile, the more equipment you use the easier it will become to identify the differences between pieces of gear and features of them that you like, ultimately making it less challenging to recognize when you find equipment that you love.
EL MEDANO FACTFILE
currency - Euro
language - Spanish, although English and German also widely spoken.
wind - all year round, but strongest and most reliable June to August.
temperature - air 27 degrees in summer, 21 degrees in winter. sea 23 degrees in summer, 19 degrees in winter.
windsurfing abilities catered for: to rent from the OTC you need to be confident waterstarting and planing in the footstraps. This is for your personal safety, as the conditions may be a little too demanding unless you are already at this level.
windsurfing spots -
South Bay is a large 'classically coastal' sailing area, it has a gently shelving sandy beach and the added security of a safe lee-shore, reassuring those that have limited coastal sailing experience. The wind is predominantly cross-onshore from the left, making it easy to reach across the wind to and from the beach. The bump and jump sea state makes South Bay suitable for windsurfers who are waterstarting, and in the footstraps and harness.
The Harbour Wall is easily accessible from either South Bay or Cabezo, it is located between the two, and offers a clean punchy wave at the right tide state. A good introduction to wave riding for the uninitiated, it is also capable of challenging the world's best sailors on its day. Suitable for advanced windsurfers (learning to wave ride) to professional.
Cabezo, is the northern most bay of the town, which, with its typical European cross-onshore conditions provides the ideal test arena for wave and crossover equipment. Hosting World Tour events in the past, the sailing standard in the bay is awe-inspiring and is sure to captivate even the non-windsurfer's imagination. It is only really suitable for experts and above, but provides great cross-onshore wave riding for those at this level.
Other activities - El Medano town is full of shops, restaurants and bars, a stones throw from the water, making it ideal for a relaxing holiday if the wind does not blow. I would thoroughly recommend staying in on of the apartments in town, many have a sea view and are exceptionally close to the beach, this also allows you to truly soak up the relaxed surf town atmosphere and take advantage of the variety of well priced restaurants and bars. If you fancy heading a little further afield there are opportunities to mountain bike, climb, and of course surf for newcomers and more experienced participants. Exploring the island is particularly well worthwhile.
Getting there - El Medano beach is located just 10 minutes drive from Tenerife South Airport also known as Reina Sofia (TFS). There are frequent flights from most UK airports, with airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet, Monarch, etc. Alternatively you can book throughSportif International http://www.sportif.travel/destinations/show/el_medano_-_tenerife_ or Oceansource http://www.oceansource.net/windsurfing_in_tenerife_el_medano.asp
For more information about booking a holiday go to
and check out the rest of the OTC website for more information, the lastest news and more photos.