Isle of Wight by Sam Buckby

The Isle of Weight by Sam Buckby

Most south coast windsurfers look at the island but have never sailed it. Here's Sam's opinion of this wonderful place

The Isle of Wight by Sam Buckby

The Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is one of the UK’s best spots for any windsurfer of any ability. It has a range of conditions from down-the-line wave sailing, to flat water safety for beginners. There are many spots, some a bit of a mission to get to but well worth it. If the wind is not blowing, don’t worry, you will never get bored- there really is something for the whole family.

 

Wave Spot

The Spots (Starting North, Going Ant-Clockwise)

Thorness Bay: Thorness Bay is one of the first windsurfing spots you come to, as you travel from the top of the island. As the name suggests, it is a Bay, therefore safe and secluded. As the prevailing wind for the UK is a south westerly, it provides Thorness Bay with a nice cross shore direction. This direction is my favourite for this location as the wind is very clean and provides excellent bump and jump conditions on the way out, yet as you come in the water becomes exceedingly flat making it wonderful for Freestyle in front of the camera on the beach! The conditions are pretty much the same if the wind is coming from the west! The other direction that gives reasonable conditions is a Southerly. This is offshore, which is ok as long as you get out into open water away from the bay as it provides excellent flat water blasting in clean, uninterrupted wind. The only problem is it can be somewhat of a problem when it comes to getting back in (which can create issues with any offshore wind anywhere!!). Now, what about the beach? Its nothing special, with a line of sand probably 10 meters wide at the top which the slowly fades into shingle and then to rocks at low tide, and then at the lowest tide there is also some sort of sticky clay. Overall Thorness Bay is great whatever your windsurfing ability.

YarmouthNobody really windsurfs at this spot because of Tourists, Fisherman, and of course the Isle of Wight, Wight Link Ferry. It is also a traditional sailing community, with a sailing club and chandleries. If I were you I would stay clear unless you’re not windsurfing. It can be a nice place to take the family for a walk on the pier, and there are also a few traditional ‘seaside’ shops and picturesque buildings.

 

Totland: Again, nobody sails here because of the tourists, but like Yarmouth it is a good place to take the family. Colwell bay is a safe secluded bay, which again has some traditional shops and is great if you like to go for a ‘day at the beach’.

 

 

The Needles: Unless you are an Island Local and just happen to be a professional windsurfer, like Ross Williams, I wouldn’t windsurf here. With rocks sprouting out from just about everywhere, massive swell and one hell of a current it’s not the idyllic windsurfing location. BUT once again if you’re not windsurfing it is a great place to come. With the Needles Pleasure Park at Alum Bay, which is home to the spectacular cliffs of multi coloured sands, and exciting chair lift that takes you down to the beach, where you can admire nature’s spectacle, it really is a great day out. If you are feeling up for a walk you can stroll up to the Needles Old Battery, and admire the defence mechanisms of World War two. You can then go and have lunch looking over a 100foot cliff in the café that is situated, surprisingly on the cliff edge. If you’re not windsurfing this place comes highly recommended.

Compton: This is probably one of the most well known windsurfing locations on the Isle of Wight. It is also a well liked surfing location. The main problem for the windsurfers is getting your kit to the beach. You have to get your kit down a very steep set of steps that are only just wide enough for two normal people to cross paths. If you sail here the best thing you could do, would be to rig up on the beach. The beach here is a nice flat sandy beach until you walk along a little way, where it starts to become rocky. If you chose to sail here it’s always best to sail directly in front of the steps or right of the steps. Whatever you do, do not sail to the left. There are many rocks and even a small ship wreck that is submerged just beneath the surface. As for the sailing conditions they are great as long as you are a confident sailor and can water start. You can get some pretty hefty waves that roll in sometimes than can get up to mast high. A South Westerly at Compton is pretty much dead onshore, and in a southerly is cross-on. It’s very rare that you get a cross shore here, but it does happen occasionally. If you are a beginner, it’s really not worth sailing this location, head round to Thorness or Lake. It’s perhaps worth a mention that Compton Bay has a beautiful sandy beach and is a firm favourite with beach lovers and sun worshippers alike, and can get quite busy in the warmer months. It’s also worth mentioning that at low tide the non-windsurfers among you might like to walk out over the rocks and have a look at the dinosaur footprints that are imprinted in some of the rocks that are about 45 million years old. Needless to say it is also a great beach for fossil hunting!  

Niton: This location is many of the Islands wave sailors’ favourite location. But, if you are a beginner don’t even attempt it. For a start it is a mission to even get to let alone get out. I have never sailed there but I want to! From what I have heard there is a slipway sort of thing to the beach, and then there’s not really much of a beach. Apparently there is quite a large shore break with rocks surrounding you, but when you get out the conditions can be world class. You will quite often find your self on a logo high wave, in down-the-line conditions. Niton works best in a South Westerly or a Southerly. If you are a competent sailor then I would definitely recommend this location to you. I can’t wait to sail at Niton!!

Ventnor: Ventnor is, again, one the islands prime tourist locations, but depending on which part you go to, it can offer some great sailing conditions. The beach is mainly shingle but this gives the advantage that the water is crystal clear. Another great thing is that you can leave the family to go shopping or sunbathing, whilst you go sailing. Ventnor is accessible to most sailors, but more difficult conditions can be on hand if that’s what you are after. Again Ventnor is highly recommended.

Lake: This is another great location for any sailor of any ability. It is also home to Wight Water, which will teach you and your family to windsurf if you need it. It’s mainly flat water and has a nice beach. I have never sailed there but I have gone past. Lake is basically at the bottom of Shanklin, so again the family can go shopping or go to the attractions. Another top Location!

 

Yaverland: Now this is probably my favourite sailing location on the island, or in the UK for that matter! Here you can get a variety of conditions. It’s not rare to experience head to logo high waves breaking out the back, but on the same score you will often see the water reasonably flat with maybe chest to head high waves. It’s very easy to get to and has a large car park with a nice grassy area for rigging. The beach is just pure sand, and on the promenade there is an ice cream shop that also sells beach toys. Directly behind it there is the Isle of Wight Zoo and a short walk along you will find “Dinosaur Isle”, once again a good distraction for the family. Yaverland is where the infamous extreme sports festival, White Air, takes place. I have been to this festival for about five years running and never fails to amaze me. 2006 was my first year as a competitor at this festival, and that’s when you realise just how much planning has to go into something of this scale. Believe me at White Air you would never be bored. Yaverland works well in most directions and is always good fun.

Gran Canaria, Spain

Ryde: No one sails at Ryde because of the tourists and most of the time the wind is non existent and off shore. But once again if you’er looking for somewhere to come for a day out, it’s a good place to visit, although it can get a little busy. I am also led to believe that there is also quite a nasty set of currents and rips along the beach from Ryde as well, although the main beach which attracts the tourists is quite safe.

Cowes: This is not a windsurfing location, it’s a sailing location. In fact this is the sailing capital of the world and is home to the Royal Yacht Squadron. As you’re walking down the high street you can’t help but notice the sailing connection with many chandlery and deck wear shops. It’s a very nice place to visit with many good shops and lots of multi million pound sailing boats to look at!      

Accommodation: There are numerous caravan parks and plenty of campsites all over the Island. There are many Hotels and guest houses along with numerous Chalet Parks and you will also find a few hostels along the way.

Mistral Centre

Whatever your ideal holiday is or whatever your sailing ability is I would definitely recommend a visit to The Isle of Wight. It’s easy to get to with the Ferries running frequently from Southampton, Portsmouth and Lymington. It is one of my favourite places in the world. It just has a special “something” about it.

 

By Sam Buckby K-101
Sponsored By:
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Tushingham
Williams Windsurfing
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