Now we are talking about WAVES. While other spots on the East and South coasts can get some pretty big waves, they are still safe. But when the swell comes in from the North West, these spots on the West coast can be dangerous.
Even when everything looks small and safe, you can always expect a bigger and more powerful set of waves. Don’t go there until you are confident and you know what you are doing. That’s definitely not a place to learn windsurfing. You need to be particularly careful the first day of the swell when the waves have the biggest period: some very big sets can come from nowhere at anytime.
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Fontona is a small bay, very safe and a good starting point. This is the only place around where you can actually start from a beach. It is also a very hollow right at the North point of the bay. Although it is a great point break, you will probably not drive all the way there just to sail this one spot. But it is a great starting point for the next spot, Cural Joul, which is just downwind.
When it is big, Cural Joul is unquestionably the scariest windsurfing spot on the island. Nobody really goes here if it is not for shooting video or a photo shoot and without a jet-ski just in case… Josh often compares a big Cural Joul with Jaws – no escape. But when it’s small (up to logo high) it is a little bit safer and it’s the first place where you get waves when the swell in from the North West. In fact, you can get some pretty good waves here when it’s flat everywhere else. If you want to ride here, you can either come upwind from Ali Baba or downwind from the safe bay of Fontona. If the wind drops while you are here and if the waves are too big, you will have to go downwind until you reach the safety of the next bay at Ali Baba.
Anyway, if you decide to sail here, you need to be very confident…. And have some spare equipment in your board bag!
Along with Ponta Preta, Ali Baba is one of the best waves in Cabo Verde. It requires a medium to large swell to work but if you are lucky enough to windsurf one day here, it will be the best day of your windsurfing life! The wave is so long that you can improve your riding between the beginning and the end of the wave! In the ‘Windsurfing Cabo Verde’ DVD you can see Josh riding one wave at full speed for 90 seconds! It is not a good idea to sail here if you re not in your best shape as you may need to swim for a while in the strong current to reach the shore.
Tras Leão (aka Secret Spot)
Like Cural Joul, this spot is one of the first to get some waves when the swell is from the North-West. But, unlike Cural Joul, this one is really safe! This spot is so likely to have some waves that it was the backup plan for the PWA competition in case Ponta Preta didn’t work. As Ponta Preta worked perfectly, this spot is still almost undiscovered. Tras Leão, which literally means ‘behind Monte Leão’ is one of the easiest spots on the West Coast. The wind is usually side to side-off and the waves are generally small to medium sized. You just need to be more careful at low tide with the reef on the right of the spot as there is very little water and the floor is paved with coral and sea urchins.
Monte Leao is usually a surf spot but when the wind comes from the north-west it becomes a nice windsurfing spot. The wind is a little gusty because of the mountain but it’s the only spot where the waves are not spoiled by the wind, which is onshore everywhere else on the coast. The spot can get busy with surfers and you will have to share the waves with them. The bay is also a great spot for free-riding, with flat transparent water. And if you have any non-windsurfers in your party, this beach is beautiful, empty and protected from the wind and a good place for snorkelling.
A few years ago the Itoma catamaran discovered this spot. Since then it has become more and more crowded as the various centres send their more experienced clients here. There are a lot of advantages to this spot. Firstly, the wind is often stronger here than at any other spot. Also there is a small beach to launch from. But most of all, the waves are not too powerful here – even when they are logo to mast high. There is a long, large wave on the left, not too powerful and breaking in different sections. There is also a clean, shorter wave on the right of the spot which can break very nicely.
Calheta Funda (aka Rife)
This spot used to be the one where the centres go for their ‘windsurfaris’ on the west coast until everyone switched to Canoa which has easier access. So while everyone else is riding at Canoa, you can catch some really good waves here, just you and your friends. You launch from a good sandy beach a few hundred metres from the waves. The wave is fast and ends with a nice hollow bowl, perfect to improve your aerial skills. Also, as you have plenty of flat water to accelerate, it’s a very good place for jumping.
With all these great spots for different levels of experience and different skills, you have probably already chosen a few you definitely want to check but one other cool thing to do is a mini-trip between Calheta Funda and Ponta Preta. It’s done downwind, so you can surf waves without even caring about the need to go back o your starting point!
Downwind Calheta Funda – Mini Trip
If you decide to go for this mini-trip, remember that you need to double check your kit, bring some additional ropes and drink a lot of water. And of course, never do this on your own. We often organise group mini-trips when the conditions are right so keep an eye on the board at the centre.
La Esquerda, literally ‘The Left’, is one of the world’s most powerful waves. Although it doesn’t have the consistency of some other top surfing waves, it is generally considered the Banzaï Pipeline of the Atlantic. In order to windsurf La Esquerda, you need a big swell with a south-east wind, which is rare. In the movie ‘Windsurfing Cabo Verde’ (available from us at the centre or online before you travel) you can see Josh riding this wave with side-shore southerly winds, which makes the wave face ugly. Anyway, with the trade winds, it is possible to ride the other side of La Esquerda, it’s right, and conditions for this are far more common. The tide has a very important impact on the way the wave breaks, so take your time to observe the wave before going on to the water. In many cases the wave ends on the rocks, which can be dangerous – especially for your kit!
To windsurf this wave you need to start from Ponta Preta and go upwind.
OK – ta da!!! Here we are! Ponta Preta is indisputably the star of the Cabo Verdian waves and for several reasons: First of all, the wave is perfect: big, powerful, glassy and nicely curved by the light offshore trade winds. And, in contrast to other waves like Ali Baba or Cural Joul, the wave is a walking distance from Santa Maria and breaks just a few metres in front of your audience and photographers!
That’s the good points. Unfortunately there are also a few bad points. First of all you have to get through the shore break, which is risky because the wind near the beach is often light and gusty. You need to be very patient and wait for a quiet period – sometimes up to 20 minutes! Then, the wind is quite offshore which makes it difficult to catch the wave and the wave breaks just in front of the big black rocks which give the spot its name – literally, ‘The Black Point’.
And, last but not least, you will have to share the waves with other windsurfers, kiters and surfers and even the occasional SUP. Surf rules apply here which means that the rider closest to the wave’s peak has priority. If a rider with priority in already riding the wave, do not attempt to catch the wave if it will place you in his path. This is the number one rule and breaking this rule is the biggest cause of altercations and accidents among riders in the water.
Everyone breaks his gear the first time he sails here. It will cost you your mast and probably your sail, and may even damage your board. Jason Polakow broke 6 complete sets of kit in one day here and several windsurfers even break their stuff in the shore break so never even make it to the wave! So – think carefully before windsurfing here. Even if there are a lot of people on the water, that doesn’t mean it is easy as they a mainly professionals of local experts.