Donegal - Top Windsurfing Week - Are You In?

Windsurfing in Aruba

Son of Bin Laden in Maui

Some Local Sailing

Neglected Local Windsurfing Spot


Donegal Magic


Not just waves!



You've heard me going on about the Donegal week and the wise amongst you have booked. The rest have either said it's far too early to be thinking about October now or surely it's only for wave sailors. Well, wrong on both counts!

We're now at the point where we need people to commit or the courses won't happen. We've got quite a few already, but the rest of you need to do the business or get off the pot. And as for the 'it's only for wave sailors' bit, well - simply not true. This year it's dual tuition - both waves and for normal sailors. So each day we'll split in two and those who don't want to do waves will go to a quieter spot and work on gybes, tacks and anything else you want to learn. The standard of tuition is top notch and with the video feedback, you will improve massively!

Here's a reminder of the details :

  • Windsurfing Freeride Course with Waves
  • Week commencing 15th October
  • 6 days again, Mon - Sat most likely
  • Instructors Phil Richards and Danielle Lucas
  • One instructor for waves, one for flat water
  • Expert video feedback every evening
  • Professional quality photographs and videos, available for low extra cost
  • Instruction cost £170 pp
  • Good quality accommodation available at the Loch Altan Hotel

We're particularly keen to see many of those relatively new to windsurfing joining up. If you've done an RYA course at the club and practised a bit, then you can do the non-wave course. And you'll improve soooo much! You don't need to be waterstarting (although that is something you can learn on the course).

And for the wave-heads, well just look at the photos of last September's wave course in Donegal on the windsurfcraic site and see what you could be missing. It was epic. So if you're an improver or an intermediate, sign up and improve your flat water skills. You will also have the opportunity to cross over and enjoy some early wave coaching if you wish.

The price has been held low this year to encourage numbers. £170 per person for this level of coaching is fantastic. So sign up and get your mates to do the same, this is a numbers game and the more people the better it will be for everyone.

To be totally clear, this course is open to everyone. It's not just NSC members and of course it's now open to a much wider range of abilities. And of course we'll welcome windsurfers from anywhere including Ireland and the UK - indeed quite few non-locals have already signed up.

To join in, let me know and I will provide you with bank details to transfer your £50 deposit. This is returnable up until we have sufficient numbers to ensure the course will run. After that it's non-returnable so if you have to drop out you'll need to find a mate to take your place.

6 days of expert tuition suited to all levels, video coaching in a fabulous location. It just doesn't get any better. Sign up now - or Andy will be paying you a visit...




As some of you know, I'm lucky enough to get to Aruba most years to enjoy some of the best flat water sailing in the world. I thought you might be interested to know more about it, especially as some others have now sampled it too, like Gary.


Aruba is a small Caribbean island which is actually close to Venezuela. It's former Dutch colony and a massive destination for Americans. It's seen as a very up market and desirable place to go, so cheap and cheerful it isn't. However if you're looking for one of those rare spots which combines great windsurfing with luxury holidaying for the family, then it might be for you. Flights are expensive, but it's quite easy to combine Aruba with a stop over in the USA so at little extra flight cost you can also do Orlando, New York or Boston. In fact we spent a few days in Boston and even got on the water - although this was on a Duck Tour. There is windsurfing on the Charles River BTW, but it's pretty tame. One oddity - they have a specially adapted windsurfer (actually 2 strapped together) so that they can take out disabled windsurfers and sail. Nice facility.

Ducking on the Charles


As I've said, Aruba is flat water. All the local kids go out all the time and if you can't flat water loop by the age of 12 you're a failure there.


And you never know who you will be sailing with - Sarah Quita is the current world freestyle champion and I've seen her sailing here since she was 12.



There is excellent kit hire available including Isonics and lots of full carbon boards. The best time is end of June as the wind is at its best and the big High Winds event is on - normally a number of the big names turn up for this.


You can take a chair out onto the reef and sit in 1 foot of water and watch the action really close up. A cool beer in the hand helps too....


The temperature and weather don't change much. Expect 27 degrees and windy almost always. Even in the hurricane season, they don't hit Aruba, but they do affect its weather and can induce windless or mad windy days.

Cool drinks out at sea

One nice thing about Aruba is that all of the water comes from a desalination plant so you can drink water safely from anywhere - even a standpipe at the side of the road. It's all great, even ice cubes and no need for bottles.


Fisherman's Huts is the main windsurfing area and it has a massive area of waist deep water for beginners. There is a reef which runs out perpendicular to the shore which is your get out of jail card. It's off shore wind, so if you find that your next destination is Venezuela,  then you can always walk upwind on the reef. The big issue here is the new Ritz Carlton hotel which is now up but not open. As the photographs show its upwind of the current hire shop and it has badly affected the wind here.

That bloody hotel


However in practice, windsurfing has moved to the other side of the reef (the hire shops are moving there shortly) and the wind here is actually more consistent.

Seeing double

We went a little late this year in August. Despite this, I still got 11 out of 13 days planing on a mixture from 5.7m to 7.2m. Mostly I was on 6.7m on 111 ltrs and I'm a heavier sailor. The big problem with Aruba is that the water is so flat that you can learn any move - there's excellent coaching available. Then you come back to NI and you just can't do the moves in our chop! It was years after I duck gybed in Aruba that my 'friends' at home believed that I could actually do this.


There's an excellent blast available, about 3 miles straight up the coast to the northerly tip, the Californian Lighthouse. All along here you get a succession of gin palaces going past - catamarans and pirate ships loaded with tourists who cruise up the coast (drinking), swim and splash (drinking) and then cruise home - for a drink. It's a matter of noblesse oblige that all (good) windsurfers have to buzz these ships and show them how cool we are. Naturally I did this quite a lot and of course if you sail close enough they'll occasionally hold out a glass for you to grab in passing. The only thing is that you have to fly past them on the windward side otherwise it's all going to end in tears!


I noticed in sailing there that there were 2 windsurfers who sailed up to the Lighthouse and back everyday but always close together and somewhat slowly. It turned out that this was a blind windsurfer! He'd become blind in his teens and has since learned to windsurf. One of the instructors sailed with him each day and gave him directions. Talking to this guy and watching him sail was pretty inspirational. Literally he'd get off the water and then pick up his white stick.


I hope this gives you a fair picture of Aruba. If you're reading this on the e-mail, do go to the website and see the photos to get a better picture. And if anyone wants to know more, just get in touch.




You all know Robbie Bin Laden, well known terrorist look alike and all round good egg windsurfer. Some of you will know his son Thomas who is an annoyingly good gyber - real text book-looking stuff. We stopped speaking to him when he got the Porche, started speaking to him again when he sold it - and now he's started taking his holidays in Maui I think we're going to have to cut him off again.

Anyway, here's his report :

Hi Alan

I was in Maui again (yawn, yawn) and I thought I'd write a few words as may be of interest to some readers.
I'm still in the office and very busy! The downside of working for a strategy consultancy is antisocial work at times - the upside is being able to go away and tell people about windsurfing in Maui!

Anyway, I was in Maui for a couple of weeks back in April. It is awesome! It was my second time, having been the previous year also in April. Both times I went with Ant Baker and a crowd (similar crowd this year to last year) - he organises a coaching trip but from my point of view it's not really about the coaching - it's also about camaraderie, having someone who knows the turf out there (having lived there), organising it all, being man behind the camera (so plenty of footage) and importantly being there to act as lifeguard if required. Both years he's gone out and towed people in with bust masts from offshore (reef break). Plus he is mates with a few of the pros so we actually get to hang out and chat with a few of them - particularly JP and some of the Fanatic team (since he works with them) who we go out with in the evenings. Anyway, just some context.

So I went for just over 2 weeks - 15days on Maui I think. I sailed 12 days from memory, with a rest day and then 2 days at the end to do other stuff like exploring. Conditions were typically 5.3m 85l weather for me, and waves vary depending on where you sail but head to logo high and mast high in big sets in certain spots.

We mostly sailed Sprecks (jumping ramps, some down the line wave riding - but the swell and wind direction played a little havoc there so was not great waveriding) and Kanaha (offshore reefbreak which can get pretty big and is super nice, flat/bump and jump inside) Towards the end when most of the guys had gone (I went the back 2 weeks of Ant's 3 week trip, whereas most of the guys went the front 2 weeks) we sailed Hookipa which is more gnarly - fall in at the wrong point and you can easily get spat out on the rocks, plus having camera men in the water and many other sailors adds a bit of spice to watch out for!

It wasn't super big by any means, but had mast high in sets on one or two days. We did have one or two lighter wind days - one day we got out SUP'ing in the morning and then wind-SUP'ed in the afternoon - awesome fun on some head-logo sets coming through.

Apart from windsurfing, the scenery is awesome and there's nice beaches, cool jungle, golf courses and mountains to explore and a volcano to go see sunrise from up 10000ft - which you drive to - quite a steep drive! Plus you can go see the other islands e.g. active volcano and lava on the Big Island. The general vibe of the place is pretty chilled - especially on the North shore where windsurfing is, but more touristy on the South side.

Important to caveat slightly - I came back from this trip having had an awesome time... but it partly comes down to weather, and last time we weren't as lucky - I think we got 8 days sailing out of 14 and the swell wasn't amazing. Also, whilst it is pretty awesome, it isn't as idyllic as say the Caribbean - it is America, with roads, cars and town layouts to match, for the most part. Anyway, I'd recommend it. Downside is that it is expensive, and a very long way to fly! And there are closer places to go find wind and waves e.g. Ireland! perhaps not in amazing warm waters though, or being able to sail and wave at JP. For those couple of reasons I have told myself I shouldn't go again next year due to cost and because I want to explore other countries, not just windsurfing but generally.

I made a movie from my new Gopro footage - check it out!




Yes - no doubt, we'll have to stop speaking to him again!



There hasn't been a lot of sailing this Summer, the conditions haven't been that good as you'll know only too well. Such good sessions as there have been have been well covered on the Facebook groups, but here's a couple of local snippets to keep you going.

From Mark Adams on Facebook -

Great session at Kearney, sunny 21 degrees, 18 degrees water temp, nice waves....big crowd. Silly encounter with the shore reef, board wrecked, sail ripped & boom shredded....expensive day at the office :)

And the Downings event ran in July - only their 30th anniversary event! The Saturday was light wind and in the end they ran all the kids races. Some of us went out for a blast since the kit was rigged, but planing was pretty rare.



Sunday however was very different and they ran 9 races. Starts were from Tramore, then downwind in a series of legs into Downings. The serious racers like Maurice and Wookie were flying, but for the also rans like me it was tough work as you wouldn't believe how chopped up the water is when you're behind all the flying machines. I struggled on my 122 slalom board (7.5m) as the wind and water state grew. The real racers were on around 90 ltrs. Even changing down to 110 ltrs later, I was still knackered.

However racing in those conditions is great fun. There's always someone else to race with, even if it's at the back of the field, and carnage at the gybe markers. Maurice won but Wookie came in a really good third place after Maurice and Hannes. I was 20th, which I was very pleased with.

Last year to my embarrassment I won the Grand Masters Section (due to so few people entering) but they wouldn't let me enter to defend my dodgy title, it seems I'm now a Senior. So I was only third on the really old gits section....

There's an excellent video available at - although I must issue a health warning here as it does include shots of Wookie. In 5 minutes it gives you the whole spirit of the event. Next year - just go and bring the family.




And finally on the local scene I want to mention an often forgotten spot - Oxford Island. Many of you will have been there with the family, doing the bird spotting walks and no doubt eating buns in the coffee shop. However did you know you can windsurf there?


There's no signage, you just rock up to the visitor centre and then park where the signs say no entry - service vehicles only. The hidden knowledge here is that before the centre was built, there was a sailing club here. A deal was done which allowed the centre to appear, but preserved the right of way for windsurfers. So you can march in, you can park in the staff carpark and you can windsurf. In fact you can also obtain a key to the main gates apparently if you wish - in case you wish to windsurf in the dark I guess!

As a spot it works well in northerlies. I went out yesterday when no doubt some of you were wallowing about in Ballyturd. The forecast was 8 knots, but when I arrived Paddy (no, not that Paddy) was out on 6.2m and going well. I had a good sail on 7.5m with no holes in the wind until later on.

There's a good rigging area and an easy launch, although it's stoney underfoot. One or two shallow bits you'll soon learn about (watch those fins), but otherwise safe and clear.

Since it's Lough Neagh, that means non-salt water. So your kit feels a bit different (less float) and the water certainly tastes different. It also means that it gets seriously cold in the winter. It can work in other directions, although not south, but north is best as you get clean wind from the lough. There's a long inlet beside the launch which runs down to the marina. This can also serve as a safer location for less experienced windsurfers.

There's a small crowd of regulars at the spot, mostly living locally (as I do) so it's rare to sail there alone.

Next time there's a northerly, why not give it a try. You can at least make the day for the ladies doing lunch in the cafe as they watch you getting changed....