The Isle of Wight is a popular destination for water sports, in particular windsurfing. You may wish to take some lessons or simply sit back on a beach and watch the experts entertain you.
If you are keen to bring your own equipment, there are plenty of venues to keep you entertained - and being an Island - everywhere is accessible within a short drive.
So really it doesn't matter on wind direction you will find somewhere to sail (but always get a weather forecast first!) As most enthusiasts know - spring and autumn offer the best chance of getting good wind.
- Ryde - Sandy beach, if you catch the tide wrong - you maybe walking your kit quite a way out before it gets deep enough! But a good spot off season - generally summer months the beach is busy with holiday makers.
- Puckpool - Sandy beach, if you catch the tide wrong - you maybe walking your kit quite a way out before it gets deep enough! Great sailing if the conditions are right!
- Bembridge - Sandy beach, if you catch the tide wrong - you maybe walking your kit quite a way out before it gets deep enough! Great sailing if the conditions are right!
- Gurnard - Great venue for bump and jump. Very tidal, so only sail in this location if you are a good ability sailor.
- Thorness - a private beach - but if you are staying at the Thorness Holiday park you have access to this beach. It is a good location for mixed abilities - and is great for beginners / intermediates. Not so good for kitesurfing, as the launching area is small.
- Yaverland / Sandown - great location - can be a wave sailing location, but can also offer flat water. This is where the White Air Extreme sports festival is held in August/September.
- Compton - Great wave sailing location. Can be difficult to walk your kit down the Cliff steps - but once you get down there, excellent location.
Water sports enthusiast and former windsurfing champion, Aaran Williams talks to us about his passion for all things on the water. His expertise also encompasses his own personal achievements having competed in windsurfing championships since the age of eight. Oh yes, and his younger brother Ross was just crowned European Champion last year. Aaran now runs Earth Wind Water a family run water-sports shop based in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight.
“You can’t beat being on the water and gliding across feeling the wind of your face. I absolutely love watching other people cruising around or blasting about, with smiles on their faces, feeling that same buzz. There’s just no better place to be and the Isle of Wight is brilliant for all things water based. You can get what you want, when you want being surrounded by water and the Island is so diverse, it’s a fantastic training ground.
I was born on the Isle of Wight and grew up around St Lawrence and Ventnor on the southern side of the Island. My childhood was very much spent being active in the water with my three brothers. Even today everyone in our family happens to do something water related – my brother Lorne is in the Navy, Scott runs Wight Water Adventure Sports and Ross is still a professional windsurfer. Both my father and my grandfather started the retail water sports shop Earth Wind Water in Shanklin over twenty-five years ago. My dad, Ceri, and his brother, Uncle Ian have been an enormous inspiration. As a child I watched them get heavily involved in developing the surf scene on the Isle of Wight.
Ever since the age of five, we lived practically on the beach and every day after school we used to hang out mucking about on the water. As kids we tried all things water sports related starting with using old classic surfboards. There were no kits for children, so Ross and I used to cut down the adult kit and customise everything – we’d even tie ourselves to buoys or anchor lines so we wouldn’t get swept out to sea. By watching the adults do it, we self-taught ourselves to a point where we knew what we were doing.
My first competitive race was on the Island at eight years old. By ten I was competing in races on the mainland and for a while I was more successful than my younger brother Ross. We’ve always been hugely competitive (there is only one year age gap between us) but in a good way because we collaborated, shared our knowledge and expertise. We pushed each other in the right way because we both wanted to be better than each other. We then progressed together competing in the same competitions. One amazing highlight for me was winning the silver medal in the Junior World Championships aged 12 in Italy, which was my first time abroad. Then I went on to win the UK Championship for Formula Windsurfing. Although I describe myself as a natural in the water, Ross was something else – an uber natural. He’s also a good three inches taller than me, so has longer leverage, which for wind surf racing, is a very useful tool!
When one of my sponsor’s Tushingham Sails invited me to work alongside the renowned Island based sail designer Ken Black, I jumped at the chance to broaden my knowledge. My job was to develop Race, Slalom, Freeride and Wave sails. Ken taught me everything about why sails work the way they do, which helped me build up expertise and insight on some of the best brands in the industry by testing new kits all the time. Now anyone coming into our shop will get my expert advice regardless of their ability, whether a beginner or expert. We tailor make specific packages using the best equipment on the market and actively research new products by talking to designers and industry experts. I’ve also really enjoyed informally coaching the British Armed Forces windsurfing teams, passing on my racing clout to help grow windsurfing within the Forces.
But my enjoyment doesn’t stop at windsurfing. At the shop we sell all sorts of water sports from kayaks and surfboards to Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP), kite surfing and all related accessories. When there is no wind at all, you can find me in the water paddle boarding. After a busy day at work I grab my paddleboard and head to Steep Hill Cove, a beautiful unspoilt beach hidden away on the outskirts of Ventnor. If there is wind and wave, I’ll blast out windsurfing, hit the water and feel the adrenalin pumping. It’s just the best way to unwind and relax. Any anxieties or stresses just vanish. If I’m out with a group of mates, we’ll have a fantastic laugh –it’s a great community to be a part of.
My wife Jasmine and I have recently become parents for the first time, so I’m hoping to pass on my experiences. So far it’s definitely been a family affair. My parents often help out in the shop when they can and when Ross is back home he rolls up like a rock star. He’s such a professional he’s taken windsurfing to another level winning European Championship last year. But he has been living out of a rucksack for almost a decade. Even now he is currently on a professional world tour. Today Ross is the Top 10 in the world for slalom and wave racing – so we are all, very proud of him. Although I stopped competing professionally, Ross who is now aged 32 has easily another five to eight years left competing. Afterwards he can impart his knowledge to everyone else and with the rest of our family we can continue to encourage people of all ages, from all over to try watersports.”