Like a breath of fresh air, over 60 of the world’s top windsurfers swept into El Medano marking a welcome return for the PWA (Professional Windsurfers Association) World Cup. Competitive definitely, determined without a doubt, but the whole atmosphere at this latest round on the circuit had a mellow, refreshing quality that most sports just can’t match.
Even the waves whipped up by the timely arrival of perfect strong winds had their own poetic surge that lapped at a packed shore where competitors and fans mingled in the sand and chilled out over a beer or two. Boards and sails covered the sand of the pits area like a flock of exotic butterflies and with little pomp or ceremony their riders took up their steeds and dragged them down into the water in regular small groups for their 12 minutes to impress the judges as they sliced through the Atlantic.
Impressed with the skills but lacking in basic knowledge I sought guidance from a veteran of the circuit. Former world champion Scott McKercher is from Western Australia where they know a thing or two about waves. Although officially retired at 41 he still has the salt in his veins and grabbed the chance to compete again. I test boards over here now but one of the guys got injured in the last round so I applied to fill the space and was thrilled to get back out there again.
So why the 15 year wait for the PWA to return? During my 17 years I have competed here many times but the gap came because there was nobody to take a lead, now Danny Bruch has helped to pull it all together and the sponsors and local council have been wonderful and made it happen.
Last week’s round was in Pozo, Gran Canaria and Scott’s view of the Tenerife event will be music to many ears. This is miles better, the infrastructure is all in place, there’s a real buzz about El Medano and the conditions are just about perfect. So what are the riders all looking for? It’s about getting the timing right, finding that special wave and milking it. Each competitor gets marked on their two best wave rides and one jump, that’s all about building speed and then moving at the right time.
Scott made an early exit but tipped Philip Koster, Danny Bruch, and Victor Fernandez as the ones to catch in the men’s competition and the Moreno twins Iballa and Daida from Gran Canaria to continue to dominate the women’s. Entrants had come from all over the world but Spain had plenty of action heroes like Marcos Perez (below) and Brits found plenty to cheer with Robby Swift (above) taking off in fine style.
There’s a big social side to the competition with a large chill out area just above the beach. Music was pumping gently out as the competition went on but a string of late night parties until 3 am would ensure the party atmosphere didn’t stop. The whole of El Medano embraced the World Cup, local businesses reaping a dividend of increased visitors were giving customers raffle tickets for a draw to win a Renault Clio. During the first afternoon a large party of school children eagerly joined the throng and when I walked back along the other beaches everyone seemed to be trying to ride the surf.
Even the elements were adding their own rhythm, the banners flapping in the wind, the spray of the sea, and the drag of the shingle at the water’s edge. Across the sea of discarded and expectant boards the judges ran a tight ship with a series of coloured flags and horn blasts providing the prompting for the exhilarating antics on the waves. Keen amateurs were skirting by the competitors, well you can’t fence off the ocean, but they couldn’t distract the grand masters from their aquatic artistry. El Medano and wind surfing are a perfect fit. The 30,000 euros split between the top men and the 15,000 euros between the women may not be a fortune but the visit of the tour has enriched Tenerife with a high tide of fun and excellence.
The World Cup continues in El Medano until 20 July.