How many workouts can you do for five hours straight as whales breach the water alongside you? Welcome to the world of windsurfing, where challenging sessions in the sun lead to the perfectly sculpted beach body.
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While kitesurfing might be the wind sport of the moment, it was born from windsurfing, a water sport that essentially combines the properties of a sailboat and a surfboard into one very cool contraption. To windsurf, you have to ride downwind and steer the board by maneuvering both the mast and your body weight.
“It’s a flow,” says Matt Pritchard, a former windsurfing pro-turned-guru who’s chased wind all over the world. He touts the sport’s ability to improve balance and core stability, while the strength used to lift the board's sails and stay upright against the persistent force of the waves and wind will keep you strong and lean.
Though it’s clearly a weather-dependent activity, windsurfing goes hand in hand with several winter sports—for example, it’s a great way for snowboarders to crosstrain in the off-season. Plus, according to Pritchard it’s a pretty inclusive sport; people of all ages and fitness levels can pick it up with some practice. All you need is a flat body of water and some gentle breezes and you’re good to go.
Ready to catch some air? Book a trip to any of these breathtaking locations—we promise you won't regret it.
Former champion and Maui resident Matt Pritchard might be slightly biased when he names this Hawaiian hot spot as his favorite windsurfing destination. But he also has lots of supporting evidence on his side, like the high concentration of professional windsurfers on famous Ho’okipa Beach, the warm year-round temperatures, and the opportunity to windsurf right alongside playful whales. Trade winds are at their peak from May to October, while the winter months are best for spotting whales sharing the waters.
Want a pro by your side as you give windsurfing a shot? Pritchard is offering a six-day Aloha Windsurfing Clinic" this fall at the Four Seasons Resort Maui. From Nov. 10–15, 2013.
Mui Ne, Vietnam
Not long ago, the tiny town of Mui Ne was just another fishing village along Vietnam’s long coastline. Today, it’s Southeast Asia’s undisputed mecca for windsurfing and kitesurfing. With a low record for rainfall, strong and consistent crosswinds, and a laid-back, small-town beach vibe, it’s easy to see why beginners and pros alike are flocking to this locale. And if you need a break from the sea, there’s more adventure waiting for you on land: Mui Ne’s enormous sand dunes are the second biggest attraction. Tour them on all-terrain quad bikes, then go sand sliding down them.
With crystal waters, white sands, teeming offshore reefs, steady winds, and direct flights from many major cities in the U.S., Bonaire is a convenient water lover’s paradise. Lac Bay has a seemingly gravitational pull on windsurfers, where there are easy-to-access spots for beginners to find their footing and where more advanced windsurfers can tackle the powerful swells. One session through the turquoise water and you’ll understand why Bonaire is home to so many of the world-famous pros who have carved the sport into what it is today.
This popular member of the Canary Island chain is host to the Professional Windsurfing Associates World Championship—cementing it at the top of any windsurfer’s bucket list. The reliable winds of both Sotavento and Flag Beaches keep aficionados flocking back to the island year-round, even outside of the championship hoopla that descends each July.
Boracay consistently tops lists as one of the world’s best beaches. But surfers in the know are in on its other lesser-known designation as one of the world’s top wind-sport destinations. The turquoise waters, blinding white sands, and rows upon rows of perfect palm trees create a stunning backdrop for the lagoon where windsurfers take advantage of the steady, 30-mile-an-hour winds.
The Outer Banks hold the title for the most easily accessible East Coast windsurfing destination. For those dying to get a little air on a long weekend, that alone is enough reason to pack a bag and put those summer Fridays to good use. But there’s much more to the Outer Banks than proximity alone, like the killer combination of scenic lighthouses, ripping wind, and gentle waves at Cape Hatteras, or the beginner-friendly beaches of Nags Head. As a bonus, this family-friendly destination has plenty to keep any non-surfing members of your crew satisfied——that is, until you manage to pull them out to the waves.
Red Sea, Egypt
A Middle Eastern nucleus for water sports, the Red Sea is a haven for windsurfers, thanks in no small part to the wind tunnel created by the mountains flanking the Gulf of Suez. The powerful gusts that funnel through to the Red Sea every afternoon gives the area more than 300 days a year of windsurf-friendly weather. On average, the farther north you’re willing to go, the better the conditions you’ll find.
Baja is America’s crowd-free, chilled-out alternative to the U.S.’ other hot windsurfing destination: Maui. The warm water and strong sun are present year-round, however, November to March marks the peak season for wind sports when local thermals and storm winds stir up big breezes. La Ventana and Baja Sur are great choices for beginner locations, while those with more than a few notches on their board will want to head to Los Barriles.