Aruba offers warm, crystal-clear water that rarely drops below 75 degrees F and consistent winds that are a windsurfer's dream: the average wind speed, year-round, is more than 20 knots, though it can get up to 10 knots higher in June, the island's windiest month.
With winds like these-beloved of speed sailors-Aruba should be a destination for experts only. Not so. Although the northeastern flank of the long, narrow island is turned toward the prevailing trade winds, its sheltered, lee side to the southwest provides excellent flat-water sailing-made even better by the presence of a nearby reef that blocks the ocean swell.
My Windsurfing Log
I have started keeping a
log of my windsurfing so that you can gauge the windsurfing conditions. By way
of background, I am a decent windsurfer able to water start and jibe consistently.
The jibes are not always pretty, but they work. I weigh 165 pounds and am 5'10".
In New York I generally sail with about 1 sq. meter larger sail than most people
my size that I see on the water. In Aruba the same is true for the visitors,
but I tend to be 0.5 square meters smaller than the locals. I launch straight
from my house. It is about ½ mile from Fisherman's Hut's and a broad
reach to the Huts or West Point (WAVES) which is about 2 miles away on a broad
General Sailing Conditions
I tend to go out in the
afternoon and into the early evening to about ½ hour before the sun
goes down. You can sail all day in Aruba, but I only have about 4 good hours
in me and prefer to sail later. Most of the locals do as well. Less hot, fewer
people on the water and generally less gusty.
- Wind speed and direction
- generally offshore and a real 20 -25 knots. You can get skunked any place,
but Aruba is the most reliable place to find sailable conditions.
- Chop and Waves - At
Fisherman's Huts there is flat water close to shore and 1-2 foot chop about
a half mile out.
- Sometimes there is
a swell that produces a 3 - 4 foot rolling and gently breaking wave on a
reef on the outside and also in Malmok. Out past the light house there is
generally about a 6 ft. rolling swell on the moderate wind days and mast
high breaking waves when it is blowin' hard. There are three passes out
to this area through the rocks. Go with someone who knows where they are
and don't sail there alone.
- Reef - Launching at
Fisherman's huts and at my house is in shallow water. The reef gradually
slopes down for several hundred feet.
- Water Temperature -
about 82 degrees F
Rental Equipment and Lessons
There are several places to rent equipment ¼ mile from my house. My favorites are Windsurfing Aruba (going north from the Ritz Carlton it is the last shack on the beach past Fisherman's Huts - run by a great guy named Jeroen) and Vela Sports Aruba (located between the Marriott hotel and the Ritz Carlton - been there for 25 years). They both have great equipment, instructors, and lesson programs. You can't go wrong in Aruba so check both out and make up your mind when you get there.
Purchasing Windsurf Equipment
The best place to purchase windsurf or kitesurf equipment is FX Sports Co. They maintain a large stock and receive shipments weekly and are passionate about putting you in the right gear.
Places to Sail
- Fisherman's Huts for
- Eagle Beach - Flat water
with more chop. You can sail there from Fisherman's Huts going towards Oranjestad
but you need to sail out about one mile on the way back and there is a 2 foot
chop there. It is a long tack back so don't go alone.
- West Point for waves
is an expert only place but can be a lot of fun for the venturesome. If you
don't like it, you can easily sail back to Fisherman's Huts.
- Boca Grande for experienced
wave sailors (you need to drive there).
Blisters, the dreaded windsurfing
disease. I often see people with surgical or duct tape covering blisters on
their hands. It comes from holding the boom too tightly. Generally this comes
from not having harness lines the right length or in the right position. I can't
show you what to do about that on my web page, but there are several things
you can do to prevent them:
- Put waterproof surgical
tape on the places that tend to blister before you sail on the first day.
This will save a lot of aggravation.
- Have an instructor or
rental shop person set the harness lines for you.
- Don't sail in very light
winds where the sail can't hold you up instead of you holding the sail up.
- When you first start
to get a blister - STOP! Take a break and let the skin dry. It will form a
callous faster and be natural protection. If you wait too long and the blister
breaks it will take longer for the red meat to heal.
Before you go out, have
someone show you where the reef is. You don't want to hit it going 30 miles
an hour. When people do, they generally say that they broke their fin hitting
a large sea turtle that came out of nowhere. Sure...we know how fast they move.
Before you sail to West Point alone, go with someone who knows the paths through the underwater rocks.
It is pretty easy to get through all three wide paths, but you have to know
where they are.
No weed fins are necessary.