They say “it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good” and while much of Tenerife broiled in the excessive calima heat and high winds that covered their world in a fine layer of Saharan sand and sent them running for the sanctuary of their air conditioning, the wind catchers of El Médano pumped up their kites and took to their boards.
It was a shaky start to the PKRA Kiteboarding World Tour when Sod’s Law reared its head dictating that the Tenerife venue whose default setting is breezy-to-windy, dawned on the first day of competition with a cloudless sky… and dead calm.
The world’s top kiteboarders who had travelled from all corners of the globe to compete, kicked their heels in the sand and took up the mantle of honorary vacationers for the day.
Wednesday came with a warning from the Cabildo (Island government) of expected searing temperatures in the wake of yet another calima, and a forecast change of wind direction and speed.
Shortly after 2pm the forecast kicked in; the wind shifted position and sent the weather vanes spinning from 10 to 20 knots in the space of 30 minutes.
Abandoning their lunch plates to a Marie Celeste fate, the kiteboarders rushed to the shoreline of Playa Machado to pump up their sails and launch their kites.
Switching tack from coy wallflower to rampant lover; the wind battered riders, spectators and organisers on Thursday and Friday, racing across the sands at speeds that averaged 37 knots and peaked at 52 knots. Anyone who stood still for more than five minutes joined the impromptu sand sculptures of sails that littered the beach.
The conditions pumped up the adrenalin levels for the competition, producing first class waves and testing competitors to their limits.
For those who adopted the go hard or go home attitude which was flying round the camp, new records were there for the taking and Frenchman Sebastien Garat broke his own previous record jump height by almost five feet to set a new world record of 52 feet for the greatest height recorded on the Shadow Box* on a PKRA World Tour Competition.
On the final day of the competition the wind settled into a beefy average 20 to 25 knots and I sacrificed my hair condition to join the ranks of wind-swept and interesting people who had gathered to watch the finals of the freestyle and wave eliminations.
In the morning the men’s freestylers Youri Zoon and Andy Yates wowed spectators with some breathtaking tricks while the petite Spanish Gisela Pulido pulled off some neat moves and spectacular crashes as the conditions continued to bring out the best and worst in the Playa Machado waves.
Retiring to the iconic surf dude Flashpoint bar restaurant (shame about the website) for lunch and a respite from the mad wind, we talked to local windsurfer Richard who described the wind as “Like a Swiss cheese ““ full of holes, but it’s creating some amazing waves!” If only the same could be said for the effect it was having on my hair.
Shortly after 2 pm the wave event reached its final stages at El Cabezo where the testing conditions took no prisoners and produced some incredible style and power from Brazil’s Guilly Brandao who sailed into first place.
As the last of the air was released from sails and boards were zipped into bags, the wind catchers wandered off into the El Médano sunset to meet again in Argentina at the beginning of November 2010.
*A Shadow Box is a neat little GPS gizmo which is attached to the board and records everything from speed and acceleration to jump height and degree of rotation.
Freestyle double elmination results
1. Youri Zoon (Slingshot, NED)
2. Andy Yates (Slingshot, AUS)
3. Sebastien Garat (RRD, FRA)
4. Ariel Corniel (Ozone, DOM)
1. Gisela Pulido (Airush, ESP)
2. Ania Grzelinska (North, POL)
3. Kristin Boese (Best, GER)
4. Kari Schibevaag (Ozone, NOR)
1. Guilly Brandao (Mormaii, BRA)
2. Sky Solbach (North, USA)
3. Bruno Bordorsky (RRD, BRA)
4. Tom Hebert (Airush, NCL)
1. Gisela Pulido (Airush, ESP)
2. Ainhoa Garcia (Airush, ESP)
3. Kari Schibevaag (Ozone, NOR)
4. Ania Grzelinska (North, POL)