11 of Vivida's top places to windsurf in the UK
TeamVivida India Bornhoft reports the prime places to rig up without packing your passport
It can be hard to catch wind of where to windsurf in England. You’re probably thinking; ‘Aren’t we too landlocked in London? Don’t I have to go abroad? Isn’t it going to break my bank balance? Surely there’s nowhere accessible close to home? Do I have enough time?‘ Think again! Britain is littered with coves, lakes, rivers, coastal gems and beaches that mean you don’t have to lug your kit, yourself, and lets face it, half your family half-way across the planet. Presenting to you, in no particular order, your windsurfing ‘to sail’ list…
1. HAYLING ISLAND
Ah, Hayling. The windsurfing Mecca that lies untouched along the south coast. Being an island, by its very nature, it is mostly accessible by car as train links are limited. On arrival you’ll be greeted by a feel of true ‘island life vibes’, sure as peanuts you’ll be tossing off your DFL (down-from-london) work brogues and galavanting across the beach barefoot, saying dude before every adjective. Ease of sailing is what gives this spot such value for money. Sand banks make up to a mile off offshore fun ensuring that Hayling Seafront is perfect at low tide on a south west or a westerly. It’s flat, shallow way out at low tide, and a sandy freestyle playground. South westerlys at mid-tide are a wave riders haven. Conditions are ripe for intermediates and people looking to get into waves without any flare or danger! Brave it through the hefty shore break and you get superb starboard tack wave sailing on a dead southerly if you hammer it out to the sand banks. ‘Esso beach’ coined from the very convenient and nearby ‘Esso’ Petrol Station, is another part of Hayling that is certainly worth exploring. Access is via the A27/M27 and A3023. To find ESSO Beach, turn right after the garage if you’re driving onto the island (as a pose to off it) road to access the beach is immediately after it (adjacent to the forecourt). You can't really see the road until you're upon it, so just look out for the garage. Downer is, it has to be high tide, so without water it’s basically a mud land/ fin breaker!
2. WEST WITTERING
Established in the late 70’s west wittering beach is a favourite for all the old school sailors, and legends. You can rent kit from 2XS the windsurf, paddle, and kite club all year round. The beach house is a great place to hang out and shelter from the weather with a cuppa after a chilly winter sail. 2XS offers tuition, so it’s perfect for all levels. Take the kids, and chuck them into lessons/ “babysitter”…
Catch it on the right day and you can get over head high waves to ride, and non-gusty fast winds flying cross tail over the beach. The sand dunes of west wittering are the base of many film set locations as they host a total rural, and natural beauty. Sparkly new kit awaits you upon arrival featuring the seasons freshest toys: RRD Windsurf Boards, Ezzy Sails rigged on Ezzy Skinny Masts and Chinook booms, RRD Kites and Kitesurf Boards, Dakine Harnesses, RRD and Fanatic SUPs, Kialoa and Ainsworth, Paddles, RTM kayaks and paddles. From a safety point of view West Wittering has a lightening speed jet ski rescue squad on hand, if, and hopefully when you never need them. These ballsy guys stick around and are vigilant in all conditions - the gnarlier the better, so you can sail and basically not worry about your safety or floating over to the Isle of Wight.
3. EAST WITTERING
Locals wanting to avoid paying for ‘West Wittering’s’ carparks, ice creams and hire charges tend to opt for the more untouched and locally sought after, ‘Jollife Road’. With its South Westerly facing beach, large tidal range, East Wittering boasts just as many benefits as the West area of the peninsular. This beach is prime and poised during a WSW, suitable for wave riders, free style slammers, speed chasers, and keen, hungry beginners. On a side note, East Wittering can behold unparalleled levels of low tide sunsets. Get your cameras ready, pull on that evening wetsuit, and take a SUP out to the shipwreck and you could be anywhere in the World. East Wittering is a gem, hidden next to the madness and well deserved popularity of West Wittering main beach.
Emsworth is amazing for high wind, flat water freestyle, good wind directions for Emsworth are SW, NE and E. It is a beautiful area situated between Portsmouth and Chichester, surrounded by buzzing cafes, and idilic country pubs for a nourishing bowl of locally caught fish and chips down the road. Using the same harbour as Hayling Island, Emsworth also has a cobbled beach, easily accessible parking, and strong winds on the right days. This being said, Emsworth has absolutely no safety cover, and you go out entirely at your own risk. Emsworth Slipper Sailing Club stick resolutely to their area, as they have many kids in small boats to worry about. Emsworth harbour, namely, ‘Beach Road’ is excellent for a secluded windsurf. You are more than likely going to be one of ten sailors there on a windy weekend - perfect to escape the hustle and bustle of reality.
First of all, don't be put off by Gwithian's reputation, it is perfectly possible to sail this extravagant venue if you are a regular south coast sailor or are eager to expand your windsurfing. Most days have easy, accessible conditions, than off the scale conditions. It’s easy to find suitable waves in this amazing windsurfing environment. So if you want to explore new Cornish windsurfing venues, developing your Freewave skills, catch some real waves, be it WindSUP, freewave or wave board then this is the perfect Cornish windsurfing experience. Gwithian and surrounding North & South Shore beaches offer various options with a great chance of waves. Beach faces NW, with a slight level of shelving*. For consistency and versatility, Gwithian is a solid Cornish bet. Preferable at low tide on the push. It is a good idea to be very careful walking down the goat track to the beach or avoid it altogether by walking the long way round. The goat track is steep, and combined with a gusty wind - you better watch out.
6. STITHIANS LAKE
The incomparable safety and relaxation of an RYA monitored lake. Ahh, breathe out. Stithians has flat water, safety cover, inlets and coves to discover in the depths of Cornwall. This fresh water bay is a solid option to get a weekend sailing in when all else fails. It is usually blessed with a low pressure south westerly and has a bit of a track record for raking in the wind - as good as anywhere else in the UK. RYA centres are specifically set up to get non-followers to hop on the band wagon. Tuition, advice and hire kit are all available from Stithians Lake. Warning: water can be much colder than the sea on winter days. Brrr!
7. RUTLAND WATER
Situated just 20 miles east of Leicester and within easy reach of Nottingham and Loughborough, Rutland Water offers the best sailing in the Midlands. Set back in the gorgeous Rutland countryside near Oakham and Stamford, Rutland has become the new home to ‘The National Watersports Festival’ hosted every Summer, with the industries best in the business legends lurking around doing demo’s and hosting lessons. The National Watersports Festival is worth getting down too next Summer. Join in the light wind racing, legend led clinics or SUP yoga sessions. You’ll see flavours of the seasons top kit from Severne, Gul, Dakine, Starboard, Fanatic, and Ion. No jet skis, or kite-surfers allowed so it really is a mecca for youth sailing and all level windsurfing. Best wind =WNW, E, S, SW. Rumours are spreading that this may be the new foil haven too…
8. QUEEN MARY’S RESERVOIR
Queen Marys is one of Londons largest reservoirs providing fresh water to London and surrounding areas. The staggering 707 acres is the base of Queen Marys Sailing Club where discipline events are held all year round: speed challenge, Team 15, clinics, SUP hire, tuition and kit hire. Perfect for beginners and advanced sailors. Feeling landlocked and desperate for coastal weekend and can’t leave the city? QM is the place for you. Totally easy to forget you’re in London…
9. HOVE LAGOON
Nestled next to the bustle of Brighton, this small lagoon may be unimpressive in size but shines in what it can offer to beginner sailors. This location is hands down the safest place in the UK for beginners to learn. It is in land, waist deep, and riddled with top class instructors to make your day as fun and worthwhile as possible. The vibe at Hove Lagoon with its blasting reggae, honest BBQ’s, excellent gluten free beer on tap, and top class youth wake boarders performing tricks behind you won’t disappoint. You can hire kit for reasonable rates for the day, and membership packages mean more advanced sailors can sail off the stunning Hove seafront. Try your luck and journey down to Brighton pier on your board! Hove Lagoon has a wakeboard cable park, kayaks, state of the art paddle boards, and lots of smiley faces ready to get you into a wetsuit and onto the water.
10. GALLOWAY ACTIVITY CENTRE
On the banks of Loch Ken near Dumfries, Scotland, its perfect for holidays, big groups (stag or hen, choose your poison), again, beginners and advanced all have opportunities to sail here at Scotlands finest inland windsurfing spot. Inland windsurfing keeps beginners under a watchful eye, and allows improvers and advanced sailors to fly off, hook in and start planing. It’s very quick to get on the plan with the glassy waters of Loch Ken, so bring your best harness and your tightest foot straps. Keep an eye out for breezes up here and head down, especially on those days where you feel like you shouldn’t!
11. GRIMWITH RESERVOIR
Grimwith Reservoir, also known as Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club, is situated on the top of the Yorkshire Dales, near Pately Bridge and will harness, (if you pardon the pun) any wind that’s going. This large stretch of water is ideal for developing your windsurfing skills with the comfort off a luxury hot shower afterwards. Grimwith has the highest wind rating within a 30 mile radius, excellent in everything from south west round to the east. Grimwith catches every breathe of wind being so high up, so there’s no excuse not to go out in Yorkshire.
TOP LOCATIONS TO WINDSURF IN THE UK
So when the conditions are right, and the weather ticks all the boxes, wherever you are in the UK rest assured you can find a suitable sail spot to surrender to. Fight that first instinct of hibernating inside with the safety of a warm laptop and stop booking a flight to an all inclusive in Greece. The good old UK can deliver all your windsurfing desires…
* Shelving is the steepness measurement of the land going into the sea. This equates normally to how high and hard a shore dump can be