Finally it was time, We waited for months for this; our annual windsurf trip. The trip is becoming a great tradition and perfect way to close off the (warm) windsurf season (not that we’ll stop windsurfing in winter, it’s just a lot colder). It’s also a great way to get a group of friends and new friends together to have a good time. Basically the trip is 100% fun and 100% being active in and on the water (yes, you can have both at the same time). A trip for the true waterman.

Let me tell you about the first half of our trip. Enjoy!

Tuesday 16.10 – First gear
The official day to deliver all the gear was October 18th. Two participants had to work that day so they came and delivered their gear two days earlier. Rein and Hans dropped their gear of at Peter’s house. We had been waiting for this trip for more then 6 months and now it really was about to get started. It’s always nice to see new faces join the group (in this case Hans) for a  great windsurf trip and wasn’t the only one.

Thursday 18.10 – Birthday and packing up
Time to really get started. Everyone tried to finish work early and head over to Almere or Scheveningen. I was about to collect the biggest part of the gear and Jeroen was kind enough to let us use the Essential Store in Scheveningen as the second drop off point. We rented the biggest van we could get our hands on at Blue Rent (great rates and no kilometer limits). Myself and Renee went to get the van in Amsterdam and quickly drove back to Almere. The first participants were already there when we got back. It happened to be my birthday so not only did we celebrate the trip but also my 40th birthday. The BBQ was lit and gifts were exchanged.

Time to prepare the van. Jan was there to help (even though he couldn’t join us on the trip this year). We couldn’t have done it without him. Jan quickly got started on installing a frame in the van. This way the gear would be organized in the van and wouldn’t move and get damaged. In the mean time the last fins and footstraps were removed from the boards. You have to do so in order to get all the gear in the van. Especially if you try to move 30 boards, 75 sails, 45 masts, 30 booms and a lot of small gear and wetsuits (still can’t believe it fit).

A few hours later everything was packed and Renee and myself tried to get a few hours sleep before we would start the van up and head to France to catch the ferry in the morning.

Friday 19.10 – Away we go
Friday morning 5 o’clock. Time to get up and head out. It was still dark and quiet outside. We hit the highway for Scheveningen and arrived in front of the Essential Store at 6 pm (almost a record time in a van this big). We woke Jeroen up from his sweet dreams (probably about big waves and lots of wind) so that he could open the store. We were greeted by a huge pile of additional gear. This was when we started to worry whether we could fit all gear in the van. Almost all boards still had fins and footstraps, so we spend an hour removing these from the boards. It started raining during the process which didn’t really help. With a lot of luck we managed to fit everything in the van, but only just. Any additional gear and we would have had to leave gear behind. We wiped to sweat from our face and jumped back in the van. Jeroen wished us a save journey and went back to his warm bed.

We started our 1000+ kilometer trip to Roscoff, France. Here we would catch the ferry straight to Cork, Ireland. The ferry was set to leave at 21:30 so we had about 13 hours. Any major traffic jam and we would be in trouble. Fortunately the only delay we encountered were all the toll booths we had to go through in France. We arrived at 7:30 in time to be one of the first to go aboard. Customs didn’t really check the van and I’m happy about that since I didn’t feel like unpacking. We had to open the side door and when they saw the van was completely packed with gear they probably didn’t feel like checking either.

The ferry left a little ahead of schedule. I guess they decided to do so after everyone was on board and they didn’t expect any additional passengers.

Time to relax aboard the Pont-Aven. Two restaurants, four bars, two (small) movie theaters and a shop. Not bad. The ship looked really nice and clean. The cabin we booked was small but served it’s purpose very well. We even had our own shower which worked fine. I can suggest any one who wants to take this trip to use the Pont-Aven. We do have one remark though. Bring your own food as the food aboard the ferry was bordering on uneatable. Really, I’ve never had food that tasted so bad. If you keep that in mind then you will be fine.

The ferry was nearly empty. We travelled with mostly elderly people and a few truck drivers. Not the kind of people we expected to have a lot of fun with. As a result we headed to our cabin and went to bed early. The boat was rocking a lot so we both took a pill against sea sickness and turned in for the night. Maybe the swell was a prediction for things to come(?).

Saturday 20.10 – Cork
We arrived in Cork at 9:30 the next morning. I guess the pills worked as we both had an excellent night. We hopped in the van and made the final 2,5 hour drive to Brandon Bay. It isn’t very hard to drive on the left side of the road and using a TomTom you will get to Brandon Bay without a problem.

First on our list was a visit to Jamie Knox’s shop. Jeremy, the shop manager, welcomed us and gave us our first pointers and tips. Always good to have some local help. We then went on our way to check out the houses we rented for the week.

In the mean time the rest of the group was on their way from Holland to Ireland. We were unaware of what had happened but found out later that the group had managed to almost miss their flight and two guys actually had to take another flight. The gate had already closed once they arrived. Not a good start. Aer Lingus was kind enough to book them on the next flight at no additional cost. Big thanks for that!

We got settled in our house and had a look around the area. It was also time to meet the man who would be our windsurfing guru for the week; Jem Hall. Jem was kind enough to offer us a clinic during the week. We were ready to learn. We agreed to meet again later once the group was there and get started with a short introduction and some on land training/tuning.

We brought at lot of gear expecting anything between light and gale force winds. The forecast was light winds for the first few days so we unloaded all the small gear from the bus to give us some space to move around and get our gear out of the van if needed. Meanwhile the rest of the group showed up from the airport. We had made reservations for four cars in the Ford Focus group but they gave the guys much bigger cars. Even a Volkswagen Transporter Van. Big thanks to Thrifty for the upgrades!

We knew we wouldn’t all be sailing at the same spots during this week so we brought four inflatable roofracks. Best idea ever! They work perfectly well. We put 2 or 3 boards on each car and suddenly the van was half empty. We were ready to start the week.

We all headed out to have a look around in the area. Jem was already waiting for our first clinic. We were supposed to start on Sunday but he gave us a free additional afternoon. Big thanks! We spend a lot of time learning the fundamentals, discussing our posture during sailing, sailing technique and gear tuning. We spend at least 2,5 hours together. The rest of the group went to the beach and found some small waves for waveriding. There was no wind unfortunately. We were happy the air and water temperatures were ok for the time of year. No one was freezing (yet). Most of us then went to the Spar in Castlegregory to do some shopping and get food for the next days.

At 19:00 we all got together to share some general information about the trip and the houses. We were very lucky to have some excellent sponsors who donated stuff to put in the goody bag all participants received. This also included (our now famous) trip t-shirt designed by Boardking Bart. We then followed Jem for a walk to the local pub The Green Room were we all had a drink. We then hurried further down the road to a restaurant called Spillanes (and we would be there a lot more often during the week). Excellent food and lots of customers. Our group fitted right in and we had a very enjoyable evening together.

We walked back after diner in total darkness. It’s really weird to walk between the fields and houses and not see anything. Time to get some sleep. The forecast indicated a nice swell from the west and light to moderate winds for Sunday. During the night the last two members of our group arrived. Jacco was kind enough to meet them along the way as we’re sure they would have never found the houses. The group was now complete.

Sunday 21.10 – First swell
In the morning we could see, from our lovely holiday home, that the swell had arrived. What a way to start your day! We finished our breakfast and Jem came around to pick us up and discuss possible spot options. Wind predictions for the whole week where bad with wind coming from all kinds of easterly directions. Today was SE. We decided to jump in the cars and head for Inch, about a half an hours drive across the hills towards the south. Maybe the wind would be a few knots stronger there.

We were greeted by huge swell as far as the eye could see along the beach. Man what a beautiful spot! The swell looked intimidating but we were preparing ourselves mentally to go out in case the wind would increase. The sun was shining and Jem didn’t waste any time and continued his fundamentals training on the beach.

We realized around noon that wind probably wouldn’t get any stronger and Jem got word from Jamie that there was a little more wind back at Brandon Bay. We all got back into our cars and went back. We stopped at Dumps to check the conditions. Beautiful sets came rolling in but there was no wind as the dunes blocked the wind from coming in. We had to decide what to do. Part of the group decided to stay at Dumps to try and float out to catch some waves, another part went to Blue Flag beach to try and do some bump and jump sailing. The remaining group (mostly Jem’s students) went back to Scraggane Bay to get their flat water basics in. We all had a good time. Brandon Bay offers so much variety. Once we all got back everyone had stories about waves, supping, windsupping, surfing, flat water sailing and all the new stuff they learned (especially tacking).

We ended the day with diner at Pisces. Their two main courses for one offer was too good to pass with a group our size. We went to bed in anticipation of what the next day would bring.

Update: Part2 is now online.

We’re proud and thankful to get the support of the following brands during the 2012 trip.

UnifiberSeverne Sails
Motion SurfmagazineRoberto Ricci DesignsQuatro boards
Essential StoreEzzy SailsGoya Windsurfing

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