Saturday, June 27, 2009
Windsurfing in Egypt (and other Water Sports)
Readers of my blog have recently seen my general overview of our trip to Egypt (“Relaxing with the Pharaohs”), our trip to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, and our trip to Cairo and the Pyramids. All these things were awesome, once in a lifetime experiences. However, my main reason for going to Egypt, and the main reason why we will certainly be back, is the incredible water sports, and in particular windsurfing, that is to be had there.
In fact, we didn’t go to Egypt with a specific location or hotel in mind at all. Instead, I first searched for a good windsurfing station, and then picked a hotel nearby. The one station that looked best to me was Surfmotion, owned by German transplant Peter Mueller. The Station features tons of Neil Pryde, JP, and Fanatic equipment. None older than 6 months, and plenty of equipment on hand at all times. In hindsight, this is exactly the station I’d pick again (although I just went to look up their web site, and the site seems to be gone… I hope they are still there). Surfmotion is actually right on the grounds of the Abu Soma Intercontinental hotel, which is a very nice, albeit somewhat pricey hotel. Nice rooms, OK food, and the usual hard Egyptian beds.
From a windsurfing point of view, it doesn’t get much better than Soma Bay, assuming you like flat water. The sea is incredible. No matter how far out you go, you will look down into turquoise, unthreatening water everywhere. A little further out you get a bit of chop, but close in, especially at low tide, you will sail like in a flying carpet, with the biggest bumps being an inch or two at most. Perfect to practice your jibes and tricks. The wind generally starts around 10 o’clock in the morning and picks up more and more, and it dies down again between 3pm and 5pm, sometimes going a little later. This makes it pretty easy to schedule things for experts and beginners alike. High-wind times turn Soma Bay into a great playground for advanced sailors, while the flat water and the shape of the bay combined with wind direction make it an ideal location for first-timers.
Surfmotion provides both windsurfing and kiteboarding. “Kiters” are in the area a little upwind in some very shallow water (especially during low tide), while windsurfers sail out right from the surf station. This is a very convenient separation since it avoids the usual problems when kite boarders (with their kites on long strings) and windwurfers (with long masts) get tangled up.
Here are a few photos taken right from Surfmotion:
We spent most of our time windsurfing. We slept till about 9 or 9:30, then walked over to the surf station, started out picking our gear (you have an assigned board, although you can change any time if you want… but this assures nobody runs of with your board. Sails you pick as needed), and often, Ellen would take some lessons as long as the wind wasn’t too strong. (Note: They have a competent staff or instructors for both windsurfing and kite surfing). Then, the wind would start picking up and I would sail myself, generally switching down to at least one smaller sail size as the day went on. (Switching gear is exceedingly painless, as the Surfmotion staff will already wait for you at the beach and pick up your sail and hand you whatever you need, without you even having to leave the water… awesome! :-)). In the late afternoon, we would return to the hotel’s beach on the other side of the small peninsula it is on, and do some relaxing or ride the camel on the beach (the hotel has their own camel).
Note: Surfmotion doesn’t serve any actual food they make there, but you can order sandwiches ahead of time. Tell them the evening before and they will bring whatever you order from Hurghada. This is generally a good idea as the hotel didn’t offer much in terms of quick snacks. And who wants to go to a sit-down restaurant in a 15 minute windsurfing break?
The Surfmotion station photographed from the Abu Soma hotel. The water is just to the right out of the frame…
The equipment provided by Surfmotion is excellent. I am always worried when I rent gear, because it can make or break your vacation. However, here, everything is brand new. Yes, it is rental gear and gets a lot of use, but you get excellent sails, boards, and even the fins are very good (usually, rental equipment has awful fins!). I ended up with Neil Pryde sails and Fanatic boards. JP is a little more expensive to rent and I considered upgrading, but once I sailed the Fanatic board, I was highly satisfied and didn’t bother to change.
Note that there is tons of other water sport to be had at the same location. In fact, there is even a second windsurfing station right on the property of the Abu Soma hotel. Surfmotion is German run (clientele being international) and the other one (can’t recall the name) is British operated with mainly British clients and seemingly catering more towards beginners. Also right on the premises is a German operated diving school. You can take a scuba diving course right there and get licensed (the German operated business providing excellent lessons and international licenses like anywhere else). Of course, you can also take scuba trips right from there if you are already an experienced scuba diver.
We considered taking the scuba lessons. However, windsurfing conditions were so good, we just didn’t have time. Maybe next time. We did however go on snorkeling trips, and frankly, this was by far the best snorkeling experience I ever had. (For comparison, I have snorkeled in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Brazil, and Egypt was better by an order of magnitude!). From what I understand, it is also one of the world’s best locations for scuba-diving.
I did end up taking kite surfing lessons. There wasn’t all that much time for that either, but I spend 2 hours and was lucky enough to pass all the tests at the end to get an international kite surfing license. This was fun, and I am glad I did it. I even ended up buying a kite afterwards. However, I have to admit I still like windsurfing a lot better.
As far as as wind conditions go: It doesn’t get much better than Egypt. When it is hot, the wind blows and it blows very steady (especially in the summer… I hear it isn’t as consistent in the winter). And of course this being Egypt, it is always hot. You can look up the weather in Hurghada online. I am convinced they just put up a static page. It is always the same…
This post belongs to a series of post about our Egypt trip:
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