30 Jul 2016

Can you kitesurf in Gibraltar?

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kiteboarding in gibraltar

 

I moved to Gibraltar six months ago. It was a means to an end as I wanted to get more kitesurfing into my daily life while still keeping my day job. Gibraltar hosts numerous online betting and gambling companies, so finding work isn’t that hard. Gibraltar is also a British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain, meaning that you get paid in GBP, everyone speaks English and you have an airport minutes away. And the sun is shining, right, so all in all it’s a pretty convenient and pleasant place to live in.

Cross the border and you have all of Spain waiting for you to be explored. This is when the fun begins. The most obvious destination for a kiteboarder is Tarifa, roughly 35 minutes away. Everyone raves about Tarifa. It’s the Mecca of European kitesurfing. Now lo and behold, I don’t value the kitesurf around Tarifa that highly. There are way better spots both in the UK and in Sweden, but what you don’t get there is wind consistency. It is windy over here. That’s for sure. And sunny. So choppy spots aside, it’s still a great place and the vibe is unbeatable. Everything oozes surf culture.

 

 

 

It’s hard to find a well paid design job in Tarifa though, so that’s why I compromised and moved to Gibraltar. But 35 minutes drive isn’t too bad for a cheeky after-work kite fix, right? This is where it gets tricker. First off, I need to mention the border queues. If you’re driving, you might have to wait a staggering hour simply to get out. Weekends are fine, but don’t attempt an escape after work, between five and half six. This is why those sessions after work have been far less than I initially hoped for. Ok, so why not stay in Gib then? Here’s Gibraltar for you – it’s a massive rock and very little level ground surrounding it, of which 90% is developed. There’s only two beaches in the whole country (if I may call it that)! Sandy bay and Catalan bay. These beaches are on the far side of the rock and the reason I’ve never seen anyone kite there on a strong Levante is most likely because of the turbulence caused by the steep rock that sits right in front of them.

Can you kite surf in Gibraltar? No. Maybe it’s allowed, I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t recommend it anyway. What you can do however, is to go across the border into La Linea, the neighbouring Spanish town and use one of the two beaches, either side. Because they’ve got two beaches, one on each side, you can ride both on Levante and Poniente. Playa Levante and Playa Poniente they are conveniently called.

kitesurfing around gibraltar
la linea playa levante

Playa Poniente

 

These beaches are accessible after work but they’re not great. Poniente is better, although fairly small with a bit of chop. It’s sheltered by the bay and harbour though, so it definitely works. And I’ve never seen more than five, six kites there. Levante provides a much much bigger area, both water and beach, but you have to deal with bang on-shore wind and a nasty shore break. To enjoy this spot you need a howling Levante simply to get past the speed killing waves.

Palmones is a good middle-ground for Levante, halfway towards Algeciras. And past Algeciras, but not as far as Tarifa there’s Playa de Getares which is said to be decent as well. Mind you that the Spaniards favourite pastime is lounging on the beach, so any of these beaches will be full of people in the weekends between June and September.

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17 May 2014

Tarifa kitesurf spot guide for Levante wind

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Dates: May 3 – 11, 2014

Tarifa is one of those spots everyone knows about. It’s the kite Mecca of Europe famous for always being windy. On top of that it’s also located at the most southern part of Spain which means sunny and dry weather from May to October. I was looking for a week of consistent wind and sun in May without having to go too far away from England and Tarifa seemed to be my best choice. Egypt and Canaries were on the list too but having heard so much about it I though it was time to check Tarifa out first person. It is indeed kite Mecca with surf shops everywhere, prevailing wind, a good food and party scene and beautiful beaches. There are many guides and reviews of Tarifa already but since this website is all about kite spots I might as well add mine and maybe help some holiday planners plan their kite trip. Especially if it’s due in May.

Around Tarifa there are 2 prevailing winds; Levante and Poniente. Levante is strong, gusty and comes from the East. Poniente is a consistent wind from the Atlantic ocean which means cross on shore 12 – 24 knots. We had Levante all week so this review will focus on spots that work on Levante mainly, even though a lot of them work on both.

Getting there

We flew from Luton to Gibraltar with Monarch. It’s a quick walk over to the Spanish side (don’t miss the tax free shop with 1L Jim Bean bottles for £6!). Grab a rental car on the Spanish side to avoid the customs cues and follow A-7 and E-5, 40 min to Tarifa. You can also fly to Malaga but that’s a longer drive.

Accommodation

We stayed at a small apartment hotel right outside Tarifa. It’s ok if you have a car, which you probably need anyway to get around, but ideally I would suggest staying somewhre close to old town for quick and easy access to the bars and restaurants. On the plus side there were plenty of space to spread out the gear to dry at our place. You can also stay in a hotel or camping closer to Valdevaqueros (the main beach) but then there’s not much to do in the evenings and you’ll have a longer way into town.

Plenty of space for the wet gear to dry and no sand inside.

Plenty of space for the wet gear to dry and no sand inside.

Weather

Levante, varied strength depending on spot (I could’ve used kites from 5m to 15m). Sunny enough for shorty in the water and shorts and sun screen on land, but a sweater needed when the sun goes down.

tarifamap

We visited different spots on different days – Day 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7.

Day 1 – Valdevaqueros

This beach is curved shaped so even on a Levante you’re not riding totally off shore. It’s still not great though and the wind was strong and gusty. Despite that there were quire a few kite, and wind surfers in the water. We paid €1 and parked at Club Mistral which seems to be the biggest centre in the area. You can park further up the road for free if you’re happy to walk. Mistral is a really nice place with restaurant, bar, music, rental, school… the works. I walked upwind a bit to avoid the jam closest to the centre, launched my 7m and went riding. The gusts made it pretty tough to do anything fancy but I could still enjoy some big jumps. It’s cool to see that there are way more girls riding here compared to the UK. I’d say every 4th rider here was female compared to about every 10th around London where I usually ride.

Valdevaqueros Club Mistral

The season has not quite started in May so it wasn’t that busy even on the good days. June to August is a different story…

Club Mistral

Club Mistral provides what you need. There are other centers too but this one is sweet!

Day 2 – Los Lances lagoon

Los Lances is the huge beach between Tarifa and Valdevaqueros. It’s off shore in Levante which makes it pretty much off-limits, but it also has a lagoon that we were told to check out. So first we drove down to the public parking and it’s a really nice big beach with a chill out cafe next to the parking. I’d love to try on a Poniente. No lagoon in sight though but I spotted some kites riding “on the beach” a few kilometres towards Tarifa so we got back into the car and drove towards it. First we tried the camping site but they told us to keep driving a bit and we would find a public parking with access. We then found the Best centre and further down some farm road with restricted access. We chose the Best parking and reckoned we could walk down to the beach and find the lagoon. That was the wrong way we later found out. We ended up walking through a meadow, getting a mud bath for our legs and finally ending up a few hundred meters wrong. After a short walk on the beach we finally reached the lagoon though. The lagoon is about 100×300 meters big, so not huge but there were only 2 kiters there so still plenty of space for me to get in and enjoy the butter flat water fun. I had heard that there are plenty of skilled riders in Tarifa so I wasn’t surprised when these 2 riders were throwing down some serious moves, but I didn’t expect it to be Liam Whaley’s kite I landed, shortly followed by Marc Jacobs. It’s pretty cool to meet the guys you see in the vids and photos all the time but judged from my Boracay experience this is not too rare since there are only so many great spots where the pros (and everyone else) go for good wind. I went out on my 9m for a very quick sesh only to realise that it was super gusty and you need to be a pro to handle those conditions so I came in to the shore where some police officers were waiting to tell me that I wasn’t allowed to ride in the lagoon. Ok. Good to know. Everybody still seems to be doing it. We walked up to the road, which turned out to be the restricted road at the farm house and went to Pachamama for some great BBQ to end the day.

Playa de los Lances

Playa de los Lances where we first were looking for the lagoon.

MJ and Liam

Finally found the lagoon, and some pro PKRA riders too!

Day 3 – Palmones

Palmones is located shortly after passing Algeciras towards Gibraltar and Malaga. About 25 min drive from Tarifa. It’s a small village with a nice beach with flat water and a view at Gibraltar and big cargo ships waiting to enter the port. People come here on strong Levante days when it’s too hairy around Tarifa. It’s a fairly small beach and a lot of schools and beginners so one have to be careful going out and coming in. It was borderline this day and I barely got out on my 11m but this would be a great freestyle spot with a bit more wind. In the evening we drove to Valdevaqueors to check the conditions. It was around 35 – 40 knots and people were out on 5m. I felt a bit too lazy to rig the kite so instead we had some crazy action with the trainer kite.

Palmones beach

On a windy day Palmones is a kite beach. On a windless day it’s full of ‘normal’ beach people.

Playa palmones

The water is really flat here but also dirty so the locals aren’t too keen on this spot.

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Love the big ships that circle around Palmones!

Day 4 – Los Canos de Meca

About 45 min drive from Tarifa you find Los Canos de Meca, close to Barbate. It’s great on strong Levante days as the wind is considerably weaker here. We arrived around noon and got in when it was just about enough for my 11m. The wind then gradually picked up until 6pm and gave us a great, sunny day in the water with cross on-shore winds. This spot has some small, nice rolling waves and at least half of the 20 kiters in the water were on surfboards making the most of the spot. Not great for freestyle due to the waves and some chop but you’ll still have a good time on a twin tip.

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Even on a day like this Los Canos de Meca provided small but rideable waves.

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Beautiful beach with pine trees which smell amazing surrounding it.

Day 5 – No wind day

It does happen that Tarifa sees more or less windless days. Even on this day, there were still enough wind to go out on big kites, but since 11m is my biggest we spent most of the day chilling in the sun and I only tried a short session in the afternoon but without any luck.

Day 6 – Valdevaqueros

Perfect 11m wind. Around 18 knots and hardly any gust at all. It was good to see that Levante can deliver other than super strong and gusty wind around Tarifa.

Day 7 – Punta Paloma

Punta Paloma is actually the same beach as Valdevaqueros, just a different access point a kilometre or so downwind. A lot of schools teach here so it gets quite busy close to the beach but other than that it’s very similar to riding around Club Mistral. Asia took a lesson with a guy from Kite Stick and I had 3 good hours in the water, well powered on my 11m. I came in exhausted but happy after improving my powered rolls and front roll transitions.

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A lot of schools go to Punta Paloma to teach.

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Asia going into the water with the kite despite she’s not a great swimmer. You’re so brave! 🙂

Day 8 – Punta Paloma / Valdevaqueros

Up and down wind on our last day in Tarifa. I was out on 2 short sessions on my 11m and had quite a bit of fun while Asia was body dragging on her 2nd day of her introduction to kitesurfing.

Plenty of cheap and delicious cocktail bars in Tarifa's old town.

Plenty of cheap and delicious cocktail bars in Tarifa’s old town.

Best tapas in Tarifa.

Hanging out with John, my local mate who was a great guide for the week.

You can also surf and kitesurf at the beach that is right in Tarifa. Great after surf in the beach cafe as well.

You can also surf and kitesurf at the beach that is right in Tarifa. Great after surf in the beach cafe as well.

The pathway that separates the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic ocean, and that LEN10 jumped back in the days.

The pathway over to the old fortress island that LEN10 jumped back in the days.

Probably the best located Lidl in the world. The sunset  seen from Lidl up on the hill is amazing!

Probably the best located Lidl in the world. The sunset seen from Lidl up on the hill is amazing!